Fantastic Beasts and "Why" You Find Them

A presentation by Dr. Alan Rauch, professor; Department of English
Wednesday, February 22nd, 4:00 PM, Halton Reading Room

J.K. Rowling’s book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, delves into the realm of “fabulous creatures” which are found throughout Harry Potter’s world. The beasts in Harry Potter always have a tinge of familiarity given that Rowling borrows from legend, mythology, and, of course, actual zoological sources both modern and ancient.  Our own world is filled with fantastic beasts which often come to symbolize elusive qualities such as power, vice or virtue. Fantastic creatures are, in fact, often familiar. The Star Wars film series, for example, gave us a wonderfully photogenic and friendly version of Sasquatch in Chewbacca the Wookie…a “fantastic beast” of the future.

When we study the origins of mythical creatures, it becomes clear that “fantastic beasts” are shaped by culture, religion, historical factors, and the state of zoological knowledge. For instance, in European tales the dragon was usually a fearful and malevolent creature, while in China dragons  are a symbol of strength and vitality.  The unicorns of Harry Potter owe their history to rhinos, narwhals, and, if truth be told, to Sigmund Freud.

The form these creatures take over the centuries may vary, but they seem to be embedded into our consciousness. But, why bother creating them? Are they are born from the need to explain the universe around us, to bring order and meaning to our existence? Perhaps they serve a need for mystery and enchantment, especially  in our age of science and technology.

Dr. Alan Rauch, professor in the Department of English, will discuss “Fantastic Beasts and Why You Find Them,” on February 22nd at 4:00 PM in the Halton Reading Room. He’ll look at the presence of mythical creatures in history, culture, literature, and art, and more importantly, humans’ need to create them in the first place. There is no cost or registration required.