new fantastic beasts story

Speaking as someone who is just as likely to read a history book as a fantasy novel, J.K. Rowling has managed to find my sweet spot in the lead-up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Although the trailers for director David Yates’ upcoming Harry Potter spin-off have certainly grabbed my attention, it’s been her stories about the history of the North American wizarding world that have really gotten me excited to return to this world. Blending existing mythology, history, and her own magic touches, Rowling has set a stage that couldn’t be more different than what we’ve seen before while also existing side-by-side with the lore established in the original Harry Potter novels and films.

Now, a new story detailing the history of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (or MACUSA) has debuted and man, I could read this kind of detailed fictional history forever.

Like most new material set in Rowling’s Wizarding World, this debuted over at Pottermore and it’s well worth your time if you’re already a fan of this world. If you need additional nudging, this well-produced teaser video may do the trick:

Although Rowling’s Harry Potter novels stand on their own as a truly magnificent and beautifully realized fantasy saga, they also act as a mirror that reflects our own world. This is why I enjoyed this new story so much – this wizarding community is so different from the one we know across the pond and its differences are uniquely American, tied to the complex and contradictory history of the United States. Sure, there’s a lot of fun magical stuff in the story (you had me at sasquatch uprising), but other details, like laws forbidding magical people from marrying a “No-Maj” (the American term for Muggle), may hit close to home for anyone who paid attention in history class.

But most of all, it’s just plain fun, like when Rowling describes how 18th-century witches and wizards decided whether or not they should participate in the Revolutionary War:

It was in Washington that President Elizabeth McGilliguddy presided over the infamous ‘Country or Kind?’ debate of 1777. Thousands of witches and wizards from all over America descended upon MACUSA to attend this extraordinary meeting, for which the Great Meeting Chamber had to be magically enlarged. The issue for discussion was: did the magical community owe their highest allegiance to the country in which they had made their homes, or to the global underground wizarding community? Were they morally obliged to join American No-Majs in their fight for liberation from the British Muggles? Or was this, simply put, not their fight?

The arguments for and against intervention were protracted and the fight became vicious. Pro-interventionists argued that they might be able to save lives; anti-interventionists that wizards risked their own security by revealing themselves in battle. Messengers were sent to the Ministry of Magic in London to ask whether they intended to fight. A four-word message returned: ‘Sitting this one out.’ McGilliguddy’s famous response was even shorter: ‘Mind you do.’ While officially the American witches and wizards did not engage in battle, unofficially there were many instances of intervention to protect No-Maj neighbours and the wizarding community celebrated Independence Day along with the rest of American society – although not necessarily alongside them.

If Rowling wanted to write an entire book detailing every corner of the wizarding world, I’d buy the hell out of it. My only concern now is that the world-building she’s doing now will outshine Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them itself, which is due in theaters on November 18, 2016. A fan event with the cast and crew of the film is set to stream online on October 13.

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