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Harry Potter author JK Rowling has published her first expansion of the magical universe she created in the bestselling fantasy book series she began 20 years ago: History of Magic in North America, a series of short stories telling the magical history of America.
The first part that launched today, titled Fourteenth Century – Seventeenth Century, reads like an extract from an academic tome and tells the story of how wizards communicated with North America before it was colonised by non-magical humans, or ‘No-Maj’, a term revealed by Rowling recently as an American slang equivalent to the British term ‘Muggle’ used in the Harry Potter books.
Rowling writes that “the Native American magical community and those of Europe and Africa had known about each other long before the immigration of European No-Majs in the seventeenth century” and that the proportion of magic folk in the population is consistent all over the world. Rowling then focuses on Native American magic, writing that wizards in Native American tribes were “accepted and even lauded” by their people, for their skills in healing and hunting.
The author weaves in some of her existing lore into the new story, using her term from the Harry Potter books, ‘Animagi’ – wizards and witches who can turn into animals at will – to explain the use of magic amongst Native American tribes. Rowling refers to ‘skin walkers’, an actual myth of the Navajo people, where individuals gain the ability to transform into animals at night, usually after killing a family member. Rowling writes that these individuals were usually Animagi who did not use sacrifices to gain their powers, but “assumed animal forms to escape persecution or to hunt for the tribe. Such derogatory rumours often originated with No-Maj medicine men, who were sometimes faking magical powers themselves, and fearful of exposure.”
Rowling also explains that Native American wizards are better at making potions than European wizards, but do not use wands like their counterparts across the world.
“The magic wand originated in Europe. Wands channel magic so as to make its effects both more precise and more powerful, although it is generally held to be a mark of the very greatest witches and wizards that they have also been able to produce wandless magic of a very high quality,” Rowling writes, “As the Native American Animagi and potion-makers demonstrated, wandless magic can attain great complexity, but Charms and Transfiguration are very difficult without one.”
The series of stories coming this week are connected to the upcoming cinematic expansion of the Harry Potter universe: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a trilogy of films set in 1920s New York, 70 years before the Harry Potter books begin. The films will tell the story of Newt Scamander, a expert in magical animals – or ‘magizoologist’ – and author of a textbook Potter himself finds on his recommended reading list in his first year at Hogwarts. The first film, which stars Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as Scamander and was written by Rowling herself, will be released worldwide in November 2016.
Despite a spate of announcements putting Rowling back in the Harry Potter universe – the author recently announced she was helping with the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, an “eighth Harry Potter story” that will continue Potter’s story when he is middle-aged, and the film Fantastic Beasts, which she wrote the screenplay for – History of Magic in North America is the first expansion of the canon and her first depiction of the magical community in North America.
Today’s 400-word story is the first of four new stories building the history magical America published on Pottermore each day this week. Rowling has previously dabbled in building on the existing Harry Potter universe with short stories, starting the website Pottermore as a home to tidbits of information about what happened to the characters before and after the series was set, including Quidditch – a magical sport – match reports penned by Harry’s wife Ginny Weasley. In 2014, Pottermore crashed when fans flooded to the site to read a new story about Harry and his friends, written in the style of a tabloid news article.
Source: The Guardian
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