THE DAILY PROPHET SPECIAL REPORT: HARRY POTTER AND THE MUGGLE BIOGRAPHY
By Katie Park
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time fairly recently when magic was kept secret from Muggles. Wizardry was thought by them to be the domain of liars and charlatans. This attitude rapidly changed, but it was not solely because of the groundbreaking and controversial repeal of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy in 2002. Rather, it was the publishing of the wildly popular biographical series about Harry Potter by Muggle historian, J.K. Rowling, that changed Muggle attitudes about witchcraft and wizardry. As we come up to the 10th anniversary of their first publication in 2007, The Daily Prophet takes a look back on how both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds have changed since the publication of these influential works.
“Honestly, I think those books gave me the wrong impression,” admits Muggleborn Hufflepuff Jacinda Maysle, “I was prepared to give up using pencils.” Luckily for Ms. Maysle, Hogwarts has adopted a more lax attitude to Muggle technologies since the school days of Harry Potter. Although Ms. Rowling did thorough research and described Hogwarts life fairly accurately for the timeframe, the repealing and the appointment of Minerva McGonagall, a half-blood herself, has allowed for small but significant changes. Although quills are still mandatory for all official examinations, enchanted pens and pencils are now allowed for note-taking and small assignments. “Bless the Muggles who invented these pen sills [sic],” says Arithmancy Professor, Naomi Okino. “They’ve become critical to my numerological work.”
Nowadays, Half-bloods and Muggleborns of all houses grumble about the lack of internet connectivity, and beg the administration to be allowed laptops and mobile devices. On this point, the Headmistress has not budged. As the modern pencil was invented in the 16th century, perhaps in another 500 years Hogwarts will be connected to the Internet.
IN MAGICAL BRITAIN
For the rest of the country, however, Internet connectivity is a novelty and being adopted widely. “Have you heard of this thing they call ‘Googol Translate’?” asks former Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, when asked for comment. “It’s simply marvelous! You simply have to type in your message– I hate typing, but magic doesn’t work with these things– and it translates English into any language you give it.” He is more reticent when I ask him about a translation incident during the 1994 Quidditch World Cup, recounted in the fourth book of J.K. Rowling’s series. “Oh no, that didn’t happen,” he blusters. “That entire book series is just rubbish. I’ll have you know that I employed every resource to support of Harry Potter that entire time!” Fudge is insistent, but witness reports do not corroborate his claims.
Other prominent figures do not share Fudge’s enthusiasm for the Internet however. Although the Malfoy family historically had good relationships with Muggle highborns– a fact accepted by historians but disputed by the family– Draco Malfoy has a contentious relationship with Muggles and the Internet. “Everything written in that thing is completely false,” he says, rolling his eyes at me, “it’s worse than the rag you work for.” (Ed: the Daily Prophet would like to note it now employs an extensive fact checking team.)
Mr. Malfoy is no doubt referring to the rumours linking him and Mr. Potter in a romantic relationship, which did not die down when Mr. Malfoy wed Astoria Greenglass. The Wizarding internet is full of such rumours, partially flamed by gossip columnist like the Daily Prophet’s Rita Skeeter, who supplements her columns with online gossip.
IN MUGGLE BRITAIN
Despite how the Harry Potter biographies were widely read, nonwizarding Britain has not substantially been changed by the influence of magic. Although magic is no longer a secret from them, the Wizarding world is still separate; Muggles are not allowed at Hogwarts or Diagon Alley without explicit permission from the Ministry of Magic. Consequentially, most Muggles do not see or experience magic in their day to day lives, nor are wizards generally employed by Muggles or vice versa, with a few exceptions. Muggles working in IT and telecommunications, for instance, are routinely welcomed in wizarding homes to install ADSL and cable connections; however, as soon as the job is done and a payment of gold and conjured food is secured, they are usually not welcome for much more than that.
Wizards are occasionally employed in the visual effects and movie making industry for special effects too difficult to convincingly create using computer technologies. Few wizards would admit to the fact, though, as such work is typically seen as beneath their abilities and humiliating.
Wizarding communities around the globe have not changed as much as magical Britain since the publication of these books. “Magical America has long adopted many of the conveniences created by non-magical Americans,” asserts a spokesperson for the US’s Department of Magic, Christopher Delaney. “We pride ourselves in being on top of the latest technologies.” He frowns, though, at the lack of representation of other cultures and inaccuracies laid out in J.K. Rowling’s books. “These books were also wildly popular here, but the Department denounces their inaccuracies.” In particular, he objects to the portrayal of the worldwide wizarding community’s reaction to the Second Wizarding War. “It reads as if we all stood by as the UK went up in flames. We didn’t do that. Our help was largely rejected.”
Japan’s Minister of Magic, Makoto Ueda, has similar objections. “Japan sent many healers and peacekeepers over to the UK during the Second Wizarding War. We are proud of our heritage of protecting people from the Dark Arts.” He does not bring it up, but Ueda seems miffed when I ask him about Rowling’s recent blog posts about worldwide wizardry. “Although Ms. Rowling is a capable researcher of Magical Britain, she does not do thorough work on the rest of the Wizarding world.”
Indeed, she asserts that there are only eleven major wizarding schools, with the remaining witches and wizards studying at home or at less prestigious schools. Many countries would dispute this, with China alone accounting for 15 major schools of its own. “Frankly, Ms. Rowling should leave the subject to local researchers,” says Hinata Okomoto, a Japanese historian. “I believe she was mislead by mischievous exchange students to Hogwarts, who told her falsehoods.”
This assertion is corroborated by her writings on Mahoutokoro, the supposed wizarding school of Japan. In reality, Japan is home to two competing schools, neither of which are located on the island of Iwojima nor have Karate-belt-like colour-changing robes. This has led to many headaches for Ms. Okamoto. “Magical Japan has a rich and deep history of its own,” she says, “and in the past, I would get inquiries about that. Now, all I am ever asked are what houses ‘Mahoutokoro’ has, and what houses I would sort a person into. It’s very dispiriting.”
J.K. Rowling’s biographical series on Harry Potter has had many effects, such as making Muggles significantly more willing to work with the Wizarding World. However, it’s also flattened Muggle’s conception of magic, to the detriment of other magical communities. We will see in the years to come the full impact of her works, particularly as she has announced her biographies on famed adventurer, Newt Scamander. The Daily Prophet hopes she does her research and makes a positive impact on the Wizarding World.
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