Fantastic Plotlines And Where We Lost Them: Favorite Scenes From The Books That Didn’t Make The Movies
When they announced a new set of tales set in the Harry Potter universe based on the in-universe textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, my first reaction was ‘Why?’. Actually, it was ‘WHA-Y-WHAT GOOD GOD-DAMN REASON WOULD YOU FLESH THAT OUT WITH EVERYTHING GOOD YOU LEFT ON THE TABLE!?!?!’ Like many book readers, I was more at odds with what was left out of the films rather than what was left in. While the Fantastic Beasts series appears to be ready to have much intersection with the history of the Harry Potter world, I am still unsatisfied with several unrealized stories from the adaptations. Here, I present to you my favorite book storylines that never made their way to the screen, with some reasons to consider their exploration in visual media.
1. Peeves the Poltergeist
Over the course of the Harry Potter series, the ghosts that haunted Hogwarts came to the forefront of several stories. Nearly Headless Nick took the lead to start the series, and he and Moaning Myrtle were pivotal to the Chamber of Secrets storyline. But a much more interesting supernatural character never made the transition to the screen. Peeves The Poltergeist, a mischievous and under-explained companion to the supernatural world, was left out in favor of a more sentient castle and a more involved Caretaker. Peeves is unique amongst even Poltergeists in that he possess a corporeal form as well as ghostly attributes; he was truly one of a kind! He represented an opportunity to explore magical non-beings that weren't just 'Creatures'. While never essential story telling, he was an important bridge between wizarding and supernatural activity that deserved further exploration.
2. The Sorting Hat Songs
The Sorting Hat’s position as a guardian of Hogwarts was under represented in the films, as its presence was not important to the introduction of new characters. It made a few appearances in times of need, but never embodied the tone of the books outspoken whistle blower. The themes of the hat’s signature songs were visited by Alfonso Cuarón’s The Prisoner of Azkaban, with a brooding school choir rendition echoing some of Shakespeare's famous words of warning, but that ended up being a really great ‘trailer moment’ instead of having the ties to the larger story that the hat’s songs do in the book world. The Sorting Hat's ties to magical history and its importance as the rare artifact that most members of British wizarding society have interacted with is an interesting storyline touchpoint that neither the filmmakers nor Rowling fully explored in the original series.
3. Winky, SPEW, and Elvish Liberation
By book four, it became obvious that numerous plot points would be left off the table in order to accommodate blockbuster run times. The Goblet of Fire featured many notable exclusions, including Fluer's heritage, the true nature of Rita Skeeter’s scoops, and the antics of Ludovic Bagman with Fred and George. But the lion’s share of story taken out was related to Winky the House Elf and Hermione's quest for equal treatment of the house elves. Winky, the house elf of The Crouches, is cruely dismissed by Barty Crouch after she is implicated in the stampede at the Quidditch World Cup. Taken in by Hogwarts as a free house elf, she is taken care of by Dobby while languishing her life away on Butterbeer. Shocked by the treatment, Hermione crusades for more equal rights of house elves, and even knits hats and socks in an attempt to free the Hogwarts elves. Hermione's fight for what’s right, as well as it’s rebukes from Wizard born classmates, is an excellent lesson for teaching kids to question traditions and draws parallels to many countries histories of institutional oppression.
4. Mrs. Weasley and The Bogart
One of the more emotional Molly Weasley moments comes early in The Order of the Phoenix: while cleaning out Grimmauld Place, Mrs. Weasley is faced with a Bogart who shows her worst fear - her family strewn about the room, dead and bloody. It's a very adult moment of fear and dread, and an important moment to understanding the rage and anger she taps into during The Battle of Hogwarts. The struggle with the bogart is the first big emotional turn for a woman who’s been very steadfast in their character, letting you know that we are no longer dealing with childish concerns, but life and death matters. It was also a missed opportunity to show off the wonderful Julie Walters as more than a dodding mother, a role the story continually pushed her into.
5. St. Mungo's, Lockhart and Neville's Parents
During an extended stay in London while Arthur Weasley recuperates from the attack by Nagini, in The Order of the Phoenix, Gilderoy Lockhart made an unexpected and silly appearance in the long term care section of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies. At first comical and a nice nod to a great on screen character, the visit takes a dark turn as we learn of the fate of Frank and Alice Longbottom, Neville’s unseen parents. Unable to care for their child, and even incapable of recognizing him, a large part of Neville’s backstory and his potential importance are both revealed. Neville never returns to a silly sidekick, and slowly becomes more capable until he’s the leader of the resistance in the classes final year. Moreover, St. Mungo’s is a clear and an important nod to the U.K.’s NHS, the National Healthcare System, and the importance of social institutions in wizarding society. The questions of funding, taxes and social services are all interesting questions that could be explored in a wizarding version of Jay Roach’s Game Change.
6. The Mauling of Bill Weasley
At the conclusion of The Half Blood Prince, a brutal and violent gang of Death Eaters unleash an attack on Hogwarts, and are defended back by The Order of The Phoenix. In the skirmish, Bill Weasley faces off with Fenrir Greyback who disarms the wizard, mauling and biting his face. As he was not in his werewolf form, Greyback's attack is not successful in transmitting the werewolf curse, but it is successful in leaving Bill scarred, and giving him a taste for rather rare steaks. This moment reads as Cronenbergian, with the unimaginable bloodlust of lycanthropy applied to a man. Much too dark to ever make the final version, it's interesting to examine how close to dark violence Rowling was willing to venture with her characters.