JK Rowling just published 5,336 words about Ilvermorny, the North American wizarding school, on Pottermore.
For those not in the know, Ilvermorny is the American counterpart to Hogwarts. It was founded by a descendant of Salazar Slytherin, one of Hogwarts’ founders. Like Hogwarts, Ilvermorny has four houses: Horned Serpent, Pukwudgie, Thunderbird, and Wampus. Rowling’s update tells the story of Ilvermorny’s founder and how she met the creatures that gave Ilvermorny’s houses their names.
The background information is presumably important to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Finding,” JK Rowling’s new movie, to be released November 18.
Here are the most important things we learned, and how they fit into the story.
1. Isolt Sayre founded Ilvermorny.
Isolt was witch who came to America from Europe in 1620 disguised as a muggle (or “no-maj” in the American parlance) boy named Elias Story on the Mayflower. Isolt was fleeing her aunt, Gormlaith Gaunt, who kept Isolt under a dark curse and refused to let her attend Hogwarts.
2. Isolt befriended an intelligent magical creature called a Pukwudgie.
Isolt met two magical creatures in America: The Hidebehind, a nocturnal creature that preys on humans and is able to disguise itself, and the Pukwudgie, a tricky “short, grey-faced, large-eared creature distantly related to the European goblin.” Isolt named her new Pukwudgie friend “William.”
3. A “great horned river serpent” is also essential to the story.
Since Isolt was a descendent of Salazar Slytherin, she was also a parseltongue, which means she could talk to snakes. She met a “great horned river serpent with a jewel set into its forehead” living in a nearby creek, Rowling writes. Behind William’s back, the two become friends.
4. Isolt marries a no-maj.
In the next part of the story, Isolt ditches William and meets Chadwick and Webster, two wizard boys whom she saves from a Hidebehind. She also falls in love with and marries a no-maj named James Steward.
Over the years, the four become a family. They found a school and call it “Ilvermorny,” after the cottage where Isolt was born.
5. Ilvermorny is modelled after Hogwarts, which Isolt wasn’t able to attend.
Isolt and the crew give Ilvermorny four houses. Each person decided to model their house on an American magical creature:
“For Chadwick, an intelligent but often temperamental boy, it was the Thunderbird that can create storms as it flies. For argumentative but fiercely loyal Webster, it was the Wampus, a magical panther-like creature that was fast, strong and almost impossible to kill. For Isolt, it was, of course, the Horned Serpent that she still visited and with which she felt a strange sense of kinship.
When asked what his favourite creature was, James was at a loss. The only No-Maj in the family was unable to consort with the magical creatures the others had begun to know well. Finally, he named the Pukwudgie, because the stories his wife told of curmudgeonly William always made him laugh.”
6. Isolt’s evil, pure-blood-obsessed aunt tries to kill her.
By 1634, the America magical community grows substantially. Gormlaith — Isolt’s evil aunt — hears news of Ilvermorny from across the ocean. She comes to America to kill everyone and steal Isolt’s children.
7. William saves the day.
After Gormlaith corners Isolt — in a scene that’s remarkably similar to when Voldemort killed Harry Potter’s parents and tried to kill Harry himself — William, the Pukwudgie, appears. He shoots an arrow at Gormlaith and kills her. Then he becomes a security guard for Ilvermorny.
8. Isolt and James live happily ever after.
By the nineteenth century, the school gains international renown. Isolt and James were joint Headmaster and Headmistress. The woman who wasn’t able to attend Hogwarts started her own school of witchcraft and wizardry.
9. The house-sorting process at Ilvermorny is nothing like it is at Hogwarts.
At Hogwarts, a magical sorting hat decides everyone’s houses, taking the individual student’s desires into account. At Ilvermorny, it works like this:
“While the rest of the school watches from the circular balcony overhead, new students file into the round entrance hall. They stand around the walls and, one by one, are called to stand on the symbol of the Gordian Knot set into the middle of the stone floor. In silence the school then waits for the enchanted carvings to react. If the Horned Serpent wants the student, the crystal set into its forehead will light up. If the Wampus wants the student, it roars. The Thunderbird signifies its approval by beating its wings, and the Pukwudgie will raise its arrow into the air.
Should more than one carving signify its wish to include the student in its house, the choice rests with the student. Very rarely — perhaps once a decade — a student is offered a place in all four houses. Seraphina Picquery, President of MACUSA 1920 – 1928, was the only witch of her generation so honoured, and she chose Horned Serpent.”
10. There’s also a mysterious magical creature who might be centuries old.
He responds to “William,” but he may not be the story’s original William (he probably is): “He laughs at the idea that he is the original William who saved Isolt and James’s lives, rightly pointing out that the first William would be over 300 years old had he survived. However, nobody has ever found out exactly how long Pukwudgies live. William refuses to let anybody else polish the marble statue of Isolt at the entrance of the school, and on the anniversary of her death every year he may be seen laying mayflowers on her tomb.”
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