Just in case you haven’t been on the internet, seen a magazine/newspaper, or watched television in the last year, I’m here to inform you that there is in fact a new Harry Potter movie coming out. The screenplay is written by J.K. Rowling herself (unlike a certain play that must not be named), and it’s set the Muggle world aflame.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based on the 128 page book of same title, a character from Rowling’s Harry Potter footnotes, and a chance to expand the Wizarding World across the pond. The book itself is a pseudo-encyclopedia of seventy-five fantastic beasts. It’s charming, enchanting and if you haven’t picked it up, it’s definitely worth the half hour or so of reading time.
“What is a beast? The definition of beast has caused controversy for centuries.”- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
One of the things I love about J.K. Rowling is the way she can twist and reinterpret our expectations of magical creatures. We think of fairies as sparkly, glittery wish-granters, but Rowling turns them on their head, making them common pests… that bite. Other magical beings she chose to include in the Harry Potter universe stick gloriously to their classical roots, like the centaurs that inhabit the Forbidden Forest, modeled after Chiron, mentor of Achilles and other Greek heroes. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite interpretations and reinterpretations of magical creatures/beings/beasts in other books.
The oldest recorded merpeople were known as sirens (Greece) and it is in warmer waters that we find the beautiful mermaids so frequently depicted in Muggle literature in painting. – Fantastic Beasts
Weaving sirens, mermaids and Greek mythology together basically makes Sirena my book version of click-bait. Sirena and her mermaid sisters are fated to a mortal life unless they win the love of a human man. Faced with mortality, she and her sisters sing to the men on passing ships, hoping to win their love and earn a place in the Greek pantheon.
When her first song lures a ship full of sailors their deaths, Sirena vows to sing no more. She drifts aimlessly until she finds herself off the coast of Lemnos and stumbles across a warrior in desperate need of saving. But can she save him? Or is she destined to doom him with her very nature? Written in the first person, Donna Jo Napoli perfectly voices a mermaid who longs for love and fears to embrace her true nature. Set during the Trojan War, Sirena beguiles and stands in sharp contrast to Rowling’s depiction of merpeople as warlike and uninterested in humanity.
The troll is a fearsome creature up to twelve feet tall and weighing over a tonne. – Fantastic Beasts
If you like dark, gritty novels that are macabre and a little gruesome, pick up Valiant. Betrayed by everyone she loves, Val heads to New York City to lose herself for a little while; what starts as a night to run from her problems turns into the surreal escapism of living on the streets with a band of misfits who claim they can see Faeries. Val, doubtful faeries exist, breaks into the home of a troll named Ravus who binds her into servitude.
Holly Black’s reimagining of faeries is complex and haunting. They are capricious and fickle, in pursuit of pleasure at all costs, and are barely eking out a living in a city of iron. Drawn into a world she knows nothing about, Val has to ask herself if she has what it takes to become valiant. Valiant is a standalone novel, but falls into the Black’s Modern Faerie Tale series which is brilliant. If you need a dose of vampires after all the faeries, Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is also an exceptional!
The unicorn is a beautiful beast found throughout the forests of Northern Europe.- Fantastic Beasts
Cara is appalled when her grandmother tells her to jump from the belfry to stop an amulet from falling into the wrong hands. Convinced by her grandmother’s sincerity, she takes a literal leap of faith and arrives in Luster, land of the unicorns. Greeted by a strange world with even stranger creatures, Cara befriends a rebellious unicorn named Lightfoot, and they begin the journey to return the amulet to Arabella Skydancer, Queen of the unicorns.
Cara, Lightfoot, and her other companions must journey across hostile delver country (who are a cross between goblins and dwarves) and through the territory of a mistrustful dragon. As Cara learns more about Luster and unicorns, she realizes that she has joined a battle that has been raging for centuries. Unicorns shine in Bruce Coville’s interpretation. More bold and capable than their Harry Potter counterparts, the unicorns and other beasts of Into the Land of the Unicorns will captivate you.
Why Magizoology matters? to ensure that future generations of witches and wizards enjoy their savage beauty and powers as we have been privileged to do. – Fantastic Beasts
Unlike the strange, wonderful and crazy creatures that inhabit our world (like the pangolin and coatimundi), mermaids, phoenixes, and nifflers only exist in our fantasies and on the page. The only thing needed to conserve and protect them is to read and keep your imagination alive. So hit the catalog search: dragon, selkie, unicorn, pixie and see what magical beast you’ll fall in love with. Because if you’re ever unsure what Fantastic Beasts are and Where to Find Them, they’re all at LPL.
-Lauren Taylor is a Youth Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.