Since I’m currently unable to read Big Foot’s Last Stand by Ortiz O’Flaherty in its entirety, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on what J.K. Rowling has accomplished with the four short stories released under the title History of Magic in North America.
Any time Rowling dips her toe back into the wizarding world — and I say this as someone who has been a fan for most of his life — my reaction is mixture of embarrassing glee levels and the question of “why?” Why after seven universally beloved novels does Rowling want to return to this universe?
Cynics will have their answer, but one explanation that shouldn’t be ignored is ’cause she wants to. Rowling is an unfathomably creative person, and the fictional world she’s created really has no bounds. It can become this bin for fun, charming, and funny ideas, an outlet for someone’s whose mind is always creating answers to questions like “Who did Luna Lovegood marry?” (Rolf Scamander, Newt’s grandson.) Why not indulge in that?
What has been interesting about The History of Magic in North America is that there’s another motivation behind the stories. Yes, it’s a good primer for the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie, which opens in November, but the histories serve a more practical purpose than that.
The first film in the planned trilogy marks Rowling’s debut foray into screenwriting. These short stories, with their idiosyncratic details and playful asides, are filled with the kind of details that don’t easily fit into the strict format of a screenplay and slow down a film, but these are facts that Rowling has always relished in her prose. She is simultaneously acclimating her fans to a portion of the wizarding world that is inherently different from the one we’ve known — and one that reflects real American history in interesting ways — and showing the work she undoubtedly did in writing the screenplay, minutiae that could get lost in the filmmaking.
What The History of Magic has done is shown that Rowling has put just as much thought and love into her screenplay as she would a novel, making me feel very lucky to be a fan of hers living in this moment in time.
And remember, don’t be a Dorcus.