J.K. Rowling has apparently broken her own continuity with the decision to cast Fiona Glascott as the young Professor McGonagall in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but could that decision have been made for important story purposes involving Queenie, rather than just for fan-service?
Rowling is considered one of the master storytellers of the modern age, and her Harry Potter franchise is estimated to be worth over $25 billion. She’s particularly noted for her attention to detail, carefully weaving together a complex tapestry of myriad plot threads she’s developed over the course of years. That made the recent reports that McGonagall would appear in Fantastic Beasts 2 all the more surprising; Rowling had already fleshed out enough of McGonagall’s backstory for fans to be able to work out she shouldn’t be born until 1935, a full eight years after the film’s 1927 setting. It’s a remarkable Harry Potter continuity problem.
It’s generally been assumed that this is just fan-service, with Rowling wanting to include another recognizable character when the film visits Hogwarts. But, while the Fantastic Beasts films are indeed filled with fan-service, Rowling is too good a writer to break her own canon for the sake of it. Surprisingly, though, there’s another possible reason; McGonagall could be tied to one of the most important themes in the franchise.
- This Page: Romance Is Important In Fantastic Beasts
- Next Page: McGonagall’s Backstory & What It Means For Fantastic Beasts 2
Romance Is A Central Theme In Fantastic Beasts
Romance was never a major element of the Harry Potter plots; it wasn’t really until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that the characters were really old (and aware) enough to even start noticing members of the opposite sex. In contrast, however, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them established that love and romance will be an important part of this franchise. There was real chemistry between Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein. Meanwhile, the attraction between Alison Sudol’s Queenie Goldstein and Dan Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski was touching as well and drove home the heart of the first Fantastic Beasts movie.
But that second love story is undoubtedly the most interesting. Wizardkind in America had grown remarkably isolationist by the early 20th century, to the extent that it was illegal for a wizard and a No-Maj to have a relationship – let alone marry. (There’s a certain sense of irony to this, of course, given that the North American school of magic had been founded in the 17th century by a witch and her No-Maj husband – and he’d even been joint-headmaster.) Evidently, relations between the wizards and the No-Majs had declined quite dramatically over the centuries. And that means Queenie’s love for Jacob is most definitely forbidden.
For Queenie and Jacob, it was love at first sight. While it’s currently unknown how much of his magical adventures Jacob remembers, the end of Fantastic Beasts makes it abundantly clear that Queenie intended to break the law. She consciously chose to flirt with temptation by entering Jacob’s shop, and stayed long enough to catch his eye. It’s not hard to deduce just where this is going to go – and, indeed, the (re-)budding romance between the two may explain just why the Goldsteins head to Europe in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. After all, if Queenie and Jacob’s relationship is illegal in the United States, they would be wise to head to a country that’s a little more enlightened.
The Backstory of Professor McGonagall
And this, surprisingly enough, is where Professor McGonagall comes in. Although the Harry Potter books don’t explore the Professor’s backstory, Rowling has explored it over on her Pottermore website. There, she published a 2,300-word essay that casts a completely different light upon the accomplished witch – and reveals that she’s seen the troubles and trials of a witch and Muggle marriage.
Minerva is a half-blood daughter of a Scottish Presbyterian minister and a Hogwarts-educated witch. Although Isobel Ross loved her husband Robert McGonagall deeply, she was afraid of revealing the truth about her own nature to him – even after they married. The birth of Minerva brought matters to a head, as it didn’t take long for Isobel to notice the first hints of magic within the child. Isobel was forced to reveal the truth. And, although Robert still loved her, the trust between the couple was broken. Worse still, Robert found himself drawn into keeping the secret of Wizardkind’s existence from the rest of the Muggle community; a forthright and honest man, Robert was unused to deception of any kind. Naturally empathetic, Minerva grew up with an intimate awareness of the tension in her family home. It was something of a relief for Minerva when she finally got an invitation to attend Hogwarts.
Minerva was an exceptional student, becoming Head Girl and graduating Hogwarts with flying colors. Ironically, though, when she returned home for one final summer she found herself repeating her mother’s mistakes. The young Minerva fell in love with a Muggle farmer, and one summer day she spontaneously accepted his proposal for marriage. That night, though, Minerva found herself remembering back to her childhood and all the problems with her parents’ marriage. She decided neither she nor the man she loved should suffer that, and the next morning returned the ring. Conscious of the International Statute of Secrecy, Minerva never explained her true reasons to him, thus breaking his heart.
What Would This Mean For The Fantastic Beasts Films?
Minerva McGonagall’s backstory may well explain why J.K. Rowling has chosen to rewrite her canon by having her already by a teacher at Hogwarts in 1927. There’s a strong thematic link between McGonagall and Queenie; they both know the pain and heartbreak of loving someone who is so very unlike them. In Minerva’s case, her childhood taught her the painful lesson of just how difficult being in love with a Muggle could be. In contrast, Queenie seems determined to press ahead with the relationship regardless. And for all she’s a powerful mind-reader, she has no true understanding of just what difficulties she will have to face.
It’s as yet unknown just how far Queenie will go in the cause of true love. The first synopsis for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald teases that their mission to France will test the loyalties of Newt and his friends. It would make sense for Grindelwald’s message to tempt Queenie; she has the most to gain if wizards can come out of the shadows. Minerva McGonagall, though, is uniquely positioned to reach her. She has the perfect blend of wisdom and experience.
Of course, it’s important to remember that J.K. Rowling plays the long game. All this may not happen in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Instead, this may be an idea the writer has in store for the third film, the fourth, or even the fifth and final one. But at least this does raise the possibility that Rowling hasn’t rewritten McGonagall’s history for pure fan-service.