Category Archives: wizard

Fantastic Beasts … Where DO You Find Them?

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By now you will have heard plenty of news about J.K. Rowling’s latest project – a movie version of her book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The book itself, written by the fictional Newt Scamander, features more than 80 fantastical beasts and beings. Some of them, such as the pixie, the kelpie, the unicorn, the mer-people and the dragon, are well-known to even the most half-hearted fantasy fans. But there are quite a few exceptions. Here are a few fun ones.

 

  1. Puffskein: A sphere of soft ur that is fond of eating leftovers and even the occasional spider. It emits a humming sound when it isfantastic beasts5 contented. Fred and George Weasley modified the Puffskein to make the Pygmy Puff.
  2. Jobberknoll: A speckled blue bird that never utters a peep until the moment before its death. And in that moment, it utters a long scream which consists of every sound it has ever heard – backward. Its feathers are used in Memory Charms and Truth Serums.
  3. Ashwinder: A thin, gray wisp with glowing red eyes that rises from embers to lay its eggs in a dark corner before it dies. It only lives about an hour.
  4. Bowtruckle: A twig-like creature, about the size of a person’s hand, which serves as the guardian for its home tree (which it looks very similar to!). A peaceful being, but can become violent when its tree is threatened.
  5. Chizpurfle: A crab-like, parasitic creature that is attracted to magic. It often attacks magical objects such as wands and cauldrons. When it can find no magic, it will resort to attacking Muggles’ electrical devices and wires.
  6. Glumbumble: This furry flying insect produces a treacle that induces melancholy, which can be used as an antidote to treat hysteria. It nests in dark places and feeds on nettles.
  7. Streeler: A giant snail which changes colors hourly. Streeler venom is one of the few things that can kill a Horklump.
  8. Diricawl: Muggles think of this plump, flightless bird as the extinct dodo bird. But the wizarding world knows it is not extinct – rather, it can disappear and reappear when needed as an escape method. Thus Muggles have not seen it for many years.

Many of the creatures in Rowling’s book (and upcoming movie) are ones she invented herself, although the classic fairytale beasts emerge here and there as well.  If you could create a magical beast, what would it be?

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Book Review: Which Witch? (by Eva Ibbotson)

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Which Witch? is for a younger audience than I generally read, but I loved it all the same. Nothing by Eva Ibbotson has ever disappointed me. She is entertaining, quirky, creative and witty. Which Witch? is no exception.

Arriman the Awful (the feared wizard of the North) has decided he needs to marry and produce an heir to take over as wizard for him when he is gone. And who else could a wizard possibly marry but a witch? But he doesn’t want just any witch, he wants a local one. And a powerful one. And a dark one.

There proceeds a contest between all the local witches to win his hand in marriage, wherein each witch must perform a piece of her darkest magic to be judged by Arriman himself and two others. There are witches with warts, a witch who can’t seem to stop turning herself into a coffee table, a white witch around whom flowers tend to spring up whenever she attempts black magic, and an evil enchantress. And each is determined she will be Arriman’s wife.

I read a review of this book before I read it myself, which showed some disappointment in Ibbotson’s lack of character depth and development. I myself find that it takes all kinds of books to make the world go ‘round. And with a children’s book that is meant, obviously, for pure entertainment (which it most definitely succeeds at!), I don’t honestly think character development is all that important. And while I agree that Ibbotson doesn’t delve far below the surface of any of her characters, it proves in the end to not be very important. This book is charming and hilarious (I frightened my husband several times by laughing out loud in bed one night) and thoroughly enjoyable to read. If for some reason you happen to have a rat phobia, I would steer clear of the chapter in which the enchantress works her spell – yikes!

The humor of the characters and their reactions to things and the situations they find themselves in is 80% of what charmed me. Ibbotson’s writing in this respect calls to mind some of Joan Aiken’s works for children, perhaps most especially what my sister and I grew up calling the “Dido Twite” books (in actuality I believe they are called The Wolves Chronicles). As an aside, let me say here that if you haven’t read Joan Aiken – you definitely need to! I can’t imagine my childhood without her books for children.

Conclusion: I couldn’t recommend Which Witch? more. I’ve had it on my reading list for so long … I only regret I didn’t read it sooner!  If you like Which Witch?, check out the list of other books you may like as well, below.

  1. The Castle in the Attic (Elizabeth Winthrop)
  2. Fairest (Gail Carson Levine)secret
  3. Pure Dead Magic (Debi Gliori)
  4. Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)
  5. The Secret of Platform 13 (Eva Ibbotson)
  6. Bewitching Season (Marissa Doyle)
  7. Twice Upon a Time (James Riley)
  8. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)
  9. No Such Thing as Dragons (Philip Reeve)
  10. The Shakespeare Stealer (Gary L. Blackwood)

 

 

Nathan Lumbatis

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