The Harry Potter Universe: A Guide to Expanding Canon

Getting confused about all the new additions to the Harry Potter universe? Here's a guide to help...

Recently, it seems like the Harry Potter canon universe is expanding faster than an occamy in a Quidditch stadium. Every time you turn your head, there’s a new movie, story, or digital adventure from J.K. Rowling that expands her wizarding world. Frankly, it can be hard to keep track, so we’ve created this handy guide to explain all the different directions the Harry Potter universe is currently heading in… 

The Movie Prequels

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

You’re probably already well aware of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Themfranchise and its place in the Harry Potter universe. The Fantastic Beastsfranchise will include five films (as of right now) and will tell the story of Gellert Grindelwald’s slow, scary rise to power between 1926 and 1945.

With Dumbledore coming in as a character, Fantastic Beastsis firmly situated as a prequel/spinoff within the Harry Potter universe. And as the first film is set 70 years prior to the events of Harry Potter, it presumably won’t catch up with the boy wizard, but still informs the world he is born into.

On Stage

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

This past summer, Harry Potter and the Cursed Childpremiered on the West End stage to rave reviews. The story, written by Jack Thorne, is set 19 years following Harry’s seventh year at Hogwarts, and tells the story of adult Harry Potter and his school-age son, Albus Potter. 

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The Cursed Childis very much a sequel to the Harry Potter books, catching up with most of the characters we know and love from the orignal series (but, seriously, where is Neville?). It was released in script form for worldwide audiences, and will be making its Broadway debut in New York with much of the original West End cast in April.

Digital Content

Pottermore Articles

Though many of the items on this list are newer additions to Harry Potter canon, Pottermore articles have been a thing since 2011 when the website was first launched. Though the site is perhaps best known for its fun digital experiences like Discover Your Patronus and the Sorting Hat, the self-described “digitial heart of the Wizarding World” also publishes previously unreleased details about the Potter-verse from J.K. Rowling herself. These have included: “The Original Forty,” “History of Magic in North America,” and “Dumbledore’s Army Reunites at Quidditch World Cup Final.”

Pottermore Presents

Pottermore recently released three ebooks called Pottermore Presents that give a glimpse into the “dark side” of the wizarding world: Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists;Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies; and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide. The ebooks are ostensibly a compilation of articles that are already on the Pottermore site, but in a perhaps easier-to-access, more manageable form. Topics discussed include the history of Azkaban, McGonagall’s role in the second wizarding war, and Hogwarts ghosts.

Harry Potter In-Universe Books

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the book)

The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Thembook was originally published in 2001 as an in-universe guide to magical creatures written by famed magizoologist Newt Scamander. Fantastic Beastsis actually one of Harry Potter’s schoolbooks for his first year at Hogwarts and the published version is meant to be Harry’s own copy, with notes from Harry and Ron included in the margins.

Quidditch Through the Ages

Qudditch Through the Ageswas released at the same time as Fantastic Beastsas part of a fundraiser for the British charity Comic Relief. The book is a history of the wizarding game and is first mentioned as a Hogwarts library book in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.It is written by Quidditch expert Kennilworthy Whisp (but, really, by Rownling).

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle Bardis another in-universe Potter book that plays a notable role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallowswhen Dumbledore leaves it for Hermione in his will. A collection of wizarding children’s stories, The Tales of Beedle the Bardincluded “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump,” and “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” It’s that last one, and its connection to the deathly hallows, that is so important. The book was originally handwritten by Rowling in only seven copies. After Amazon purchased it for $3 million in auction in 2007, it was released to the general public in 2008.

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What’s next?

Well, we know that we will be getting four more prequel films in the Fantastic Beastsseries and Pottermore doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The most pertinent piece of information when it comes to the future of the Harry Potter universe might not be J.K. Rowling herself (though she still does wield a huge amount of power over the Potterverse), but the relatively new Harry Potter Global Franchise Development Team.

Warner Bros has appointed Polly Cochrane as Chief Marketing Officer for the Harry Potter Global Franchise Development Team. The corporate group seems to be marketing focused, but will cover future films, the Warner Bros Studio Tour in London, theme parks, and “Harry Potter digital products” such as the Pottermore website, working on “strategy, marketing and business development for the franchises.” That phrase really takes the magic out of it, doesn’t it?

Does the appointment of a Harry Potter Global Franchise Development Team symbolize a continued turn away from the single-vision mode of the original series? Or is it simply in place to pester Rowling to create more stuff and promote anything that does come out of the author’s mind? We’ll have to wait and see.

For many, the extension of the Fantastic Beastsfranchise to five versus the originally-planned three films, as well as the recent explosion in new content within the Potterverse, is a money grab. Personally, I don’t think a longer story is inherently a weaker story — though of course this decision has to do with money. Whether because Warner Bros. finally wore Rowling down or the author herself is simply interested in returning to the Potterverse, we do seem to be heading into a canon-extending period (and a period that may test our definition of the word “canon”) for the Harry Potter universe. Whether that is a good or a bad thing, remains to be seen.