J.K. Rowling’s Final American Magic History Lesson Gets You All Caught Up for Fantastic Beasts

J.K Rowling - In Conversation
Because Rowling knows you’re confused. Photo: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them isn’t out until November, but even J.K. Rowling knows you’ll need some time to prepare. Her four-part North American magic history lesson is not just about making Americans feel special, but also offering more context so that Fantastic Beasts doesn’t run over five hours. Her final story in this Pottermore series skips from the literal witch hunts of 1790 and earlier to the 1920s, a calmer time for wizards, which is also where the film will pick up.

Even after wizards secretly fought alongside the No-Maj in WWI, Rowling says they remained segregated from the non-magical world. Despite being largely cut off from both the international wizarding community and Muggles, American wizards thrived. Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (the American equivalent of Hogwarts) trained wizards and witches on how to properly use wands, which they had to register like modern-day gun permits so the magical government could track any wizard who violated their laws. In America, these wands came from four different wandmakers — Shikoba Wolfe, Johannes Jonker, Thiago Quintana, and Violetta Beauvais — rather than one wand superstore like Ollivanders.

But here’s the most crucial detail you’ll need to know for Fantastic Beasts: Unlike in the Harry Potter universe, American wizards were so paranoid about being discovered that they became deeply “intolerant” of any other mythical creature “because of the risk such beasts and spirits posed of alerting No-Majs to the existence of magic.” The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) even had to move its headquarters from Washington to New York (where Beasts is set) after a Sasquatch rebellion — the MACUSA is led both in this story and in Beasts by Madam Seraphina Picquery (played by Selma’s Carmen Ejogo in the film).

Wizards’ fear of having their magic outed to the No-Maj by these other mythical creatures comes to a head in Fantastic Beasts, which, like every English lit class, requires entirely too much supplemental reading to semi-understand. If you’ve made it this far, then you probably need a drink. A round of Gigglewater on us!

Rowling Gives More Context for Fantastic Beasts