The world of Harry Potter is expanding like never before.
It has been just four months since the eighth installment of the series, a play — Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — was released, and we already have a film from the same wizarding world set to hit the theatres this Friday.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does not have Harry Potter in it. It has Newt Scamander, a magizoologist set about half a century before Potter’s time. Then why is the world so excited about it? Why are there talks of developing a mere spin-off of the original series into five major feature films? After all, what do we really know about Scamander? Why should we care? We love Harry Potter because we know him, because we have grown up with him year by year. Or have we?
Because I haven’t.
Though it is often said that the books have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, I sat with my first Harry Potter book only this June. No, I did not live under a rock all this while and yes, I am one of those many, many people who got to reading the story of The Chosen One long after they’d outgrown their teens.
There are several among us who have watched the Potter films multiple times in several languages and can mouth their dialogues in their sleep, but haven’t read any of the books. Then there are others who do not belong to the Potter generation. They were either too old or not born when he happened. To all such people, what can only be said is that certain joys are better experienced than described. Try reading all the seven books from cover to cover one after the other and you’ll know what I mean.
Though the film releases in three days, which is too less a time to go beyond the second book, here’s why you should embark on the Hogwarts Express without further ado:
1. Fantastic Beasts borrows heavily from the Potter world
It’s a spin-off after all. So while you may enjoy watching the grand effects and the brilliant performances of the actors in an IMAX theatre, you’d miss out on the history of a few characters (the backstories of Dumbledore and Grindelwald will be explored, we hear).
And it would not be as easy for you to appreciate the vocabulary and the finer nuances of the wizarding world as it would be for a Potterhead. You’d not want that. Would you? Start now and you shall be well-equipped by the time the next Fantastic Beasts film releases.
2. The older you are, the better it is
When I finished reading the first Potter book, I was mad as to not have read it in my teens like everybody else. But as I neared the end of the last, I couldn’t have been happier at my timing of it. For imagine returning home after a long day at work to reading a story of selflessness, friendship, faith and love. A story telling you that no matter how long it takes or how difficult it gets, but good does triumph over evil. Always. Imagine reading about wizards at a time when you no longer believe in magic. Imagine a story restoring your faith in all that you believed as a child.
3. You’d make rare, lifelong friends
A house-elf. A snow-white owl. A half-giant. A hippogriff. A werewolf. A centaur. And a host of young wizards and witches. And here you were thinking that unicorns didn’t exist.
4. Because there is no escaping it
Seven novels, one play, three spin-offs, eight films, one movie about to release and four others in the pipeline — it is impossible to look the other way. To make sense of Rowling’s vast wizarding world, you’ve got to start from where it all began — the night of October 31, 1981, when one-year-old Harry Potter’s parents get killed, in an attempt to protect him from the darkest wizard of their age.
We care about Newt Scamander and his fantastic beasts because he holds the key to a world we are magically drawn to and cannot do without. Also because he reminds us of The Boy Who Lived despite it all and gave the world hope.
The author tweets @sneha_bengani
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