Monday, July 31, 2017

I Can See Thestrals Now. A Celebration of a Life of Love.

Today we celebrate Harry Potter's and JK Rowling's birthday. But I'm remembering someone who had this day long before either of them. My father.


Hi. It’s July 31st and fandom is celebrating the birthday of Harry Potter and JK Rowling. But I’m remembering the birth and life of someone who had this day long before either of them. My father.

For those of you following my videos for fan theories to Fantastic Beasts, this is not one of them. I've been wanting to share this message for a long time, but it's taken me eight months until I could talk about it.

I used to tease my dad about sharing Harry Potter's birthday. I wish I still could. For me, my father was the original Harry Potter, even if not by name. Because he was a man who always knew the power of love and always spread that magic freely.

In Order of the Phoenix we read how Harry could see Thestrals following the death of Cedric from the last book. When Rowling explained this delay due to it taking time for death to sink in, my initial reaction was skeptical. But having experienced it close hand, I understand much better now.

However there’s an aspect within Cedric’s death that isn't talked about much, and in reflection of my own father’s passing, I’d like to speak to it here.

Harry was right by Cedric’s side when he was killed. Harry touched his body. Harry claimed his body. He took his body home to his parents for burial.

I had experienced death before my father. But not as personally. Although I was in the hospital with my grandparents when each one died, I was in a waiting room far away while doctors and nurses in the ICU cared for them in their final moments.

With my father, we were fortunate enough to do things differently. We knew death was approaching, and as it was my father's wish to go home from the hospital, we honored that request. My father spent the last four months of his life at home, surrounded by friends and family, cared for by those he loved most. Until the very last breath.

We would not have been able to do this without the excellent care and support provided to us by Palliative Care and Hospice. Hospice staff are loving, caring professionals and volunteers who face Thestrals every single day. They do this so that your loved one can make their final journey from a comforting place of love and safety.

Death is perhaps the greatest binder of humanity. We all face it. We all experience it of those we love. Seeing Thestrals is a beautiful metaphor for the change in life that death brings. Although not always possible, how fortunate are those who can meet it by the side of those we hold most dear.

So I dedicate this video to the man who taught me throughout his life, even unto death, the magic of love, and to the people who helped me and my family give him the love and support he needed into his next great adventure.

Jo once said that Harry’s story would not have been the same if she’d not experienced her mother’s death. So I think it fitting on her and Harry’s birthday, as well as my dad’s, to remember those who ride fearlessly upon Thestrals, guiding others into the beauty of love’s final gift.

Monday, July 24, 2017

What the Magical Circus Acts Might Look Like in Fantastic Beasts 2

I've got a really long video for you today. But I think it will be of interest to more than just Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Fans. Writers of especially historical stories could find some inspiration in seeing these vintage images of circus and freak show performers and hearing their amazing or often tragic life stories. So I hope you will enjoy this peek into what I think we might see as both performers and characters in JK Rowling's upcoming Fantastic Beasts 2. Also, please check out the rest of my videos on fan theories for the films!

Video Transcript:

Hello. Welcome back to Fantastic Secrets Behind Fantastic Beasts. I’m Susan Şipal.

Today we’re continuing our in-depth look at the magical circus coming in Fantastic Beasts 2. A circus is always an intriguing subject, and one of the main reasons is because of the fascinating people who work there. How much more so, then, in a magical one?

I covered many theories like this in my book, Fantastic Secrets Behind Fantastic Beasts, and hope you’ll check it out.

Before we get started, there’s cast news to report. Actor Derek Riddell will appear in Fantastic Beasts 2 as a character named Torquil Travers. As Travers is the last name of one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, might we expect Torquil to be a younger version or a relative? And, if so, might he be one of Grindelwald’s new followers? We should definitely expect to see some of Grindy’s cohorts announced. And thanks to Mr. Scamander on Twitter, link below, for also giving me a heads-up about this announcement.

But new cast members are the subject for another day. Today, I thought it would be fun to try to catch a glimpse under the big tent that was teased at the end of FB1.

As presented in my prior video on the Circus Arcanus, I fully expect this troupe to be comprised of magical people performing for Muggles. In a series that, far more than Harry Potter, is set to critique the separation of two very different populations – the No-Maj and the Magical – what better way to explore the fringe where these two worlds collide than in a circus freak show of the day?

Any time you have a group of people who are marginalized and subordinated from another population, there are always some communities where the two groups interact. Usually on the fringe. A magical troupe performing for and possibly hoodwinking the No-Maj would defy MACUSA law and exist on the outskirts of either society. What a perfect place for Rowling to explore critical themes of tolerance and coexistence. Thus, I believe this magical circus will perform a starring role in not only Fantastic Beasts 2, but the whole series to come.

However, the only guide we have to this furtive look under the big top is the graphic arts team of MinaLima…a thoroughly unreliable narrator at best. Because, as they have stated in an interview, they would not reveal any clues even if they knew them. So we’ll have to rely solely on the publicity poster they designed for FB1 for any clues there may be.

Of course, we also have to consider how much information Rowling would have given to MinaLima in designing this poster. The artists have said in interviews that not only did Rowling provide key headlines for the newspapers featured in FB1, but they met with her a couple of times to ensure they had accurate information for creating the rest of their graphic work. Also, everything they created had to pass her approval. As to whether that included any hidden clues, they did not know and would not say even if they did. I’ve linked to the interview in the description below. So, much of what is in this poster could be just their own research about circus performers at the time. But a clue or two could be hidden…if you know where to look.

In the days before movies reached every town and TV every household, traveling shows were a primary source of entertainment for many people, especially those living outside big cities. And this was not limited to the United States. Many countries had traveling shows or circuses, and many of these shows traveled outside of their nation’s borders.

Nor were traveling shows limited to the circus. They could consist of acrobats and jugglers, magicians and wizards, freak shows and sideshows, zoos and rodeos…and any combination of any of these. Shows often combined or expanded and traveled together to draw larger crowds.

What I see in Circus Arcanus is a multinational troupe that combines elements of several of these shows. Thus it perfectly plays on the international movement of the films.

You'll see in the MinaLima poster that they incorporate various popular circus and freak show performers. We’re going to look at them one by one.

Because I have a ton of images to show you, none of them my own, I’ve created a Pinterest page to give credit where credit is due. Not only to the sources where I obtained these vintage images, but also to the original performers who inspired them. I’ve linked to biographies where I could find them because I don’t want us to forget that these were real people, with often tragic stories to tell.

As with any circus, there are acrobats and animals.

And a fearless lion tamer…

With the images to come, I want you to notice how closely some of the MinaLima drawings resemble their vintage counterparts. Here's an image of one of the most famous fat women, Lucy Moore, of mixed race heritage.

MinaLima also included the famous half lady Mademoiselle Gabrielle, who was born without legs.

Bearded Lady Annie Jones, who campaigned to have the word “freaks” abolished from the business.

One of the most famous two-headed girls, Millie and Christine McKoy, were born slaves in North Carolina. Once freed, Millie and Christine learned to speak five languages, dance, and sing, and even performed for Queen Victoria.

Then there are the so-called “giraffe neck” ladies from Burma, who are the Kayan of Myanmar.

And for the final lady in the circus, we also have a sword swallower.

For the men, we start off with tattooed strong man Rasmus Nielsen of Denmark.

A giant beard man, such as J. Bullesbach…

Lionel the Lion Man, whose real name was Stephan Bibrowski, and who had rare condition that covered his body in hair.

One of the most famous strong men was Eugen Sandow, a German man who is credited as the father of modern body building.

And then there is General Tom Thumb. Charles Stratton was perhaps one of the most famous circus performers P.T. Barnum ever promoted.

I’ll talk more about this mystery man in a bit, but it’s possible he represents albino performers who were quite popular, such as Tom Jack, the Ice King.

And then we come to the man who, to me, seems to be the ringmaster. But he’s not styled like any of the other ringmasters I’ve found, which we’ll also talk about in a bit.

Next we move on to the Freak Show side of the circus, starting with Infant Demonic. Grady Stiles, who went by the name of Lobster Boy, had a condition where his fingers and toes were fused together. As an adult, Stiles became an abusive alcoholic and was convicted of murdering his daughter’s fiancé. He was then later killed himself by a murderer hired by his family.

Although called Borys the Brute, this hypnotist looks similar to a man named Albani, a Swiss mentalist who was especially popular in Paris and Berlin, until World War II closed the clubs.

We also see a two-headed baby…

And Nigelle le Narcissique, known as “Homo Amphibia,” who “freakishly devours own tail whilst singing popular Gaelic folk songs.” This one, I think, may be one of Jo’s own creations.

And finally, Snake Girl, always one of the most popular attractions of any freak show. Here is Nala Damajanti, one of the more famous snake charmers from France. In my last video, we looked for clues in support of a theory developed with Suvi Holm that the Snake Girl represented here may be Merope Gaunt Riddle. What I’d like to do now is go back to certain of these characters in the MinaLima poster to seek out other possible clues.

Where I think we will find these clues, are in the deviations. As so many of MinaLima’s representations look remarkably similar to their real-life counterparts, often down to the exact same pose, then it’s possible that in the few places that are strikingly different, Rowling may, and I repeat may, be twisting them to match a character in her story.

The first curiosity I want you to notice is with the lion tamer. First off, look closely at that lion. It’s got two heads. Count them, only four legs. Now, I know we had a two-headed girl and a two-headed baby, but usually, in most Muggle circuses, you don’t get a two-headed lion. I think this is our first clue that Circus Arcanus must be magical. Then, notice how the lion tamer is speaking, the jagged green lines, no whip like other tamers. Is that an indication of a spell?

Next up is the mystery man. I labeled him as a possible albino act earlier, but it doesn’t really fit. What at first appears to be hair seems to have spokes in it, like feathers or a fan…as some acrobats used. But, it doesn’t look like he’s holding a fan. I think it may be a headdress. In fact, his forehead looks like it may be covered in a mask. To be honest, I’m completely mystified with this character and would love your input in figuring him out.

I could also find no similar match to our exotic ringmaster. It’s possible he represents a magician, as these traveling shows were also quite popular and tended to play on the exotic allure. Notice Carter the Great is The World’s Weird Wonderful Wizard!

He also has a hint of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, The Mikado, about him. I only mention this very slim possibility because The Mikado was also a story that used a foreign fantasy locale to hide current political satire. Finally, I wonder if this character could represent Skender, the owner of the wizarding circus, whom Ólafur Darri Ólafsson will play. I won’t say much about this character in this video as I intend to cover him more in the next.

Borys the Brute Hypnotist, with that name and that green stare, definitely hints to me that he’s using the Imperius Curse on unsuspecting No-Majs. Which, if so, would emphasize the outlaw nature of a magical show that performs for Muggles. And what to make of Homo Amphibia…especially that devouring its own tail bit? Is this Rowling’s twist on the ouroboros…which is a snake, worm, dragon, or even sometimes a phoenix eating its tail. Shown in either a circle or infinity loop, the ouroboros symbolizes many things, including rebirth, the eternal cycle of time, and even, get this, to alchemists, the Philosopher’s Stone. I find the possible hint of the ouroboros especially intriguing because of the shape that large snake is taking around Snake Girl. Infinity. But, as all this relates to another video I’m working on, I’ll hold off going too deep for now.

But the ouroboros brings us back to Snake Girl, who is our last and still most compelling mystery character. When Claudia Kim’s casting was first revealed as a “featured attraction” in the magical circus, most everyone, including myself, jumped to the conclusion that she would be Snake Girl, and justifiably so. But perhaps that theory was just a bit too…convenient.

If we assume for a moment, and that's a big assumption, that Suvi and I are correct in my last video about Merope Gaunt being the Snake Girl, she would still be dead before the main action of Fantastic Beasts 2 takes place. So, either a new Snake Girl would need to be found, as the act generally is a very popular one, or a different act brought in to replace hers.

Perhaps Kim is simply the new Snake Girl. Or, perhaps her character’s name was left unrevealed not because it would tell us that she was the Snake Girl, but because it would hint that she was not.

Before discussing another possible act for Kim, I’d like to connect you with a tidbit David Yates tossed out months ago, even before the official release of FB1. The Leaky Cauldron reported from an interview that Yates said FB 2 would “feature” a new creature, one from China. Of course, that got all fandom scurrying to locate this new beast, and the most likely candidate is a phoenix. Fans have long wanted to see how Dumbledore obtained Fawkes, and others have theorized quite well that Fawkes must have come from Newt.

But…why have a magical circus if you cannot introduce a new magical beast? So, I believe the new beast could very well be a phoenix, but it will come by way of Claudia Kim’s character in the magical circus.

In searching over many of these vintage images of circus performers, one I saw quite frequently was the Bird Girl. There were various acts like this across the US and Europe. You already know where I’m going, don’t you? Don't you think a phoenix would make quite an impressive circus act? He could appear and disappear as if by magic. He could sing a beautiful haunting tune that would leave the audience feeling healed…and then rush to tell all their friends to come and lay down their own money to see it.

However, if Kim did have a phoenix act, it would not be with Fawkes. Rowling stated in a 2005 interview that Fawkes never belonged to another human before Dumbledore. So I’m proposing that this would be a different phoenix, one more fitting with Chinese tradition, the fenghuang. The fenghuang’s mythology is quite complicated, but the points I’d like to highlight are that it nests among the highest mountaintops, that it symbolizes peace and harmony, and yin and yang, that it’s only loyal to those who are “without darkness and corruption,” and that its feathers are of the five primary colors which are said to represent many things, including Confucius’ five virtues.

As five is such a key theme for Fantastic Beasts, which I’ve got another series of videos on, I was especially fascinated to see all the symbolism of five related to this bird. If I’m right about this theory, I believe Kim’s role will be a pivotal one in the series. I do think that Dumbledore’s Fawkes will be introduced by way of this character and her phoenix, but exactly how will have to also be the subject of a future video.

One last little note about circus acts…I also came across lots of fortune tellers and psychics while hunting out these images. Wouldn’t you love to see Rowling give another spin to divinations?

What do you think? Is it possible that a phoenix would allow itself to be used in a bird act if it were very loyal to the witch? Please share your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss my next and, I think, last video of this series, which will explore what life might be like for Credence inside one of these traveling shows (if it occurs, of course), and the character of Skender. Remember to check out my Pinterest page, link below, for credits and more details on the images shown. Also, don’t forget to check out my Fantastic Secrets Behind Fantastic Beasts at Amazon or your local bookseller.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Is Merope Gaunt Riddle the Snake Girl Featured in the Magical Circus Arcanus in Fantastic Beasts 2?

Pottermore recently announced that a magical circus is coming in Fantastic Beasts 2. As I had a theory stating exactly this back in February, I was extremely exited with this news.

So, I've been thinking more on what this circus might look like, and who might be in it, in a new series of videos. Here's one with Suvi Holm of Finland on who that Enchanting Snake Girl might be.

The transcript is below the video, in case it gets removed again. Hope you like it!


Hello. Welcome back to Fantastic Secrets Behind Fantastic Beasts. I’m Susan Şipal. In the recent announcements regarding Fantastic Beasts 2, the filmmakers stated that there would be some “surprising nods” toward Harry Potter. Suvi Holm and I have a theory as to what one of these nods might be, and we'd like to see what you think.

I covered many theories like this in my book, Fantastic Secrets Behind Fantastic Beasts, and hope you’ll check it out.

In my last video on certain time elements that may link Fantastic Beasts 1 to future films, I pointed out an intriguing date on the Circus Arcanus publicity poster. It noted that the circus was leaving for Europe after their final performance on December 13th. With the 5-day crossing possible in the 1920s, that’s just enough time for them to reach England, if that’s their destination, before New Year’s Eve…the night of Voldemort’s birth. A link that provides a lot of tantalizing possibilities, and we’re going to explore one of them now.

First, I’d like to point out that it’s not too far a stretch to imagine that the circus either originated in Europe or has been there before as the owner, Skender, may not be American. The publicity poster shows that the circus has been on tour in New York, not that they are based there.

I also said yesterday in the first part of this series exploring the mysteries of the Circus Arcanus, that I planned on three videos. But the material is growing, and thus I now expect this will be the second of four.

The focus on today’s video is thanks to Suvi Holm of Finland, who shared the key clue and beginning ideas with me. Suvi, if you’ll remember, was also the mastermind behind Dumbledore as a possible Demiguise Animagus theory.

Suvi found a very curious link between Merope Gaunt Riddle, Voldemort’s mother, and a circus. In Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore and Harry took a dip into Dumbledore's memory of visiting Tom Riddle's orphanage. Mrs. Cole, the matron, says that when Merope came to them on the night she gave birth to Voldemort, they wondered if Merope had come from a circus. This was purely because of the unusual name, Marvolo, that she gave her son. However, it still provides a link from Merope to a circus.

Suvi thinks that the Snake Girl pictured in the Circus Arcanus poster could be Merope. Together, she and I have pieced together the following evidence to support this theory, and why I think it not only possible, but likely.

We first see Merope in the scene where Harry and Dumbledore dip into a Ministry Official’s memories of visiting the Gaunt home. As part of this scene, Marvolo and Morfin speak to each other, and Merope, in Parseltongue. Though Merope is too cowed to respond, she clearly understands everything they say. If she weren’t being threatened by her father and brother, she would probably speak it. So, she should possess the ability to call snakes to her.

If you look at the image of the Enchanting Snake Girl in the Circus Arcanus poster, you’ll see that the snakes are wrapped around her rather than her transforming into one like an Animagus. This could be the mark of a Parseltongue. And who is the one known female Parseltongue of this time? Merope Gaunt Riddle.

Dumbledore believed that after Tom Riddle left his wife, Merope lost the use of her powers to take care of herself. But Dumbledore also admitted he was speculating. It is not specified exactly when Tom Riddle abandoned his pregnant wife. She may have been alone several months. What was she doing to support herself? Dumbledore also assumed she was staying in London, but is it possible that she used her unusual abilities to join a circus and traveled with them even to New York and back? And that something that happened in that circus injured her health or made her lose the will to live?

Now let’s jump across the pond to Credence. Many have theorized that Credence could be descended from Isolt Sayre, including several of this vlog’s followers, whom I’ve credited in the description below. The key clue seems to be the use of the word Squib. Grindelwald said he could smell Squib on Credence when they first met. Why was this important to have in the script, besides showing Grindelwald’s true colors? Because it could be a possible link to Credence’s heritage.

The most famous Squib established by Rowling in American wizarding history is Martha Steward, Squib daughter of Isolt Sayre and James Steward. Isolt’s mother and aunt were Gaunts. I don’t think Rowling would have made this connection if she didn’t somehow expect to use it in the story, not just the backstory. Through Isolt, Credence would thus be of Slytherin blood. If so, it’s very possible he speaks Parseltongue.

Marvolo Gaunt also called his daughter Merope a Squib. Though we saw through Dumbledore’s guesses about her use of a powerful love potion to bind and hold Tom Riddle that she most definitely was not.

Credence and Merope sure have a few things in common. What if they met during those last two weeks of her life? With her background of abuse and repressed magical power, she would clearly sympathize with Credence. In fact, I think it entirely possible that Merope would be the point of entry for Credence into the circus.

And what if, in witnessing her snake act, Credence discovered he could talk with snakes? Might Merope have recognized him as a distant Slytherin kin and taken him under her wing…or scale?

And might she have entrusted him with the one heirloom she still possessed?

The only thing we know that Merope did to support herself during this time was to sell her Slytherin locket just before Christmas. For a mere 10 galleons. Caractacus Burke said he performed numerous spells on it to ensure it was legitimate. But, remember, the locket had been faked somewhat before, though admittedly only with a substitute. Regulus Black switched Voldemort’s Horcrux locket out with a similar one when he visited Voldemort’s cave with Kreacher. Could the real Slytherin locket have been faked even earlier as an exact duplicate?

A curious thing about the Caractacus Burke Pensieve scene is that it’s the only one of the Voldemort-related memories that’s not presented from within. Harry and Dumbledore do not dip into Burke’s memory of that night Merope came into his shop, or even of Dumbledore interviewing him. No, it’s just of Burke taking shape in the Pensieve and talking about a night long past. It’s possible, therefore, that Rowling is hiding something important here that she could not from within a Pensieve scene that is supposed to reveal the complete truth. Like that Merope slipped Burke a fake locket after he’d examined the real one.

Merope was fully aware of what that locket was worth. She was present when her father talked about its value in front of the Ministry official. Perhaps she’d hoped to pass it on to her child, but, knowing her life was short, determined it would be too risky to leave an article of such extreme value with an infant in an orphanage.

We saw how Merope was careful to give her child a name that she’d obviously thought about in advance. One that someone else might recognize. Maybe she entrusted the real Slytherin locket to someone close to pass on to her child when he left the orphanage. A task that the new owner was unable to complete due to his own death.

Hepzibah Smith, the elderly collector Tom Riddle stole the locket from, said it had special powers. It’s unclear whether we ever saw any of these hidden powers as those that were displayed in Deathly Hallows could have stemmed from its power as Voldy’s Horcrux. But having worn it during a crucial time in her life, maybe Merope discovered some of its original magic.

What would happen if Slytherin’s locket found its way to another of his descendants with unusual powers, Credence Barebone? In Credence’s hands, might Slytherin’s ancient magic find new life? Think about it: how incredible Credence would be if he not only has the massive powers of the only Obscurial known to live past age ten, but is also in command of hidden gifts from Salazar Slytherin.

Remember, it was when Tom Riddle discovered his heritage that he really grew in power.

I freely admit I’ve slipped from fan theory into fan fiction as I have little evidence to back up the possibility of Merope passing off a fake locket and then entrusting the real one to Credence, just conjecture. (And don’t blame Suvi for this part of the theory!) However, if Rowling includes Merope in the story, it will be for a specific purpose. Merope may be just the person uniquely qualified to pass on special knowledge to Credence; whether it comes with a locket is just bonus.

The biggest negative against Merope’s inclusion in Fantastic Beasts 2 is that the recently released details says the film will take place months after the ending of FB1, when she is already dead. However, I could envision a brief prelude to the second film that shows Merope meeting Credence, and perhaps her entrusting him with something hidden, before the main part of the film takes place months later.

This Merope as the Snake Girl theory would definitely fulfill the statement that FB2 would connect with Harry Potter in surprising ways. While many people have anticipated a link to Voldemort, it would be just like Rowling to twist it and instead provide the link to his mother.

I’m not fond of Fantastic Beasts as a Voldemort origin theory, and I don't think that’s where it's going. But, because of the dates of the first film, I do think there must be some sort of connection. I do not think we will see the birth of Voldemort. I believe the connection is going to be more on what Merope might have left that will find its way to Credence rather than explaining more about Voldemort to us. Whose story we already know.

But for my theory to hang together, the timing is crucial. So I circle back to my last video and the dating of Circus Arcanus’ trip to Europe. Rowling knows her timeline. Why construct a timeline that has this magical circus arrive in Europe, probably England, right on the eve of Voldemort’s birth unless there was a connection somehow? To me, Merope seems to be the critical link to explain that purpose.

Yes, Rowling would have to fudge her canon a bit to make this work, but she does have an out. Dumbledore admitted that he was conjecturing about Merope’s whereabouts and magical abilities after Tom left her. He had no way of knowing if she’d gone abroad since she was in London for the birth. That's why the date of the return trip to Europe for Circus Arcanus is so important.

And to those of you who may think it’s ridiculous to look at this level of detail from a book published in 2005 for clues to a film coming out in 2018, think about this:

  1. The original text book for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was published in 2001. Rowling has said in an interview that ever since writing that book, Newt’s story has been playing in her mind. So ideas for Newt were jostling around in that very crowded brain when Rowling penned these Pensieve scenes.
  2. Beyond mere ideas, writers can have books in various stages of completion for many, many years. I have one that’s been in progress for over 15.
  3. And retroactively making something fit is always a possibility. It’s easy enough for Rowling to go back to a prior published manuscript and look for clues that she can now tie into a new story.

Speaking as a writer, if Suvi and I are right about this, it's frightening to think how far out and how much in detail Rowling plots her stories. I just can’t wait to see if any of this is true, and if not, what she has in store for us instead!

What do you think? Could the Snake Girl be Merope Gaunt? Please share your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss my next video in this series, which will further explore the mysteries of the magical circus.

Be sure to check the description box below for links to the prior videos I mentioned. Also, don’t forget to check out my Fantastic Secrets Behind Fantastic Beasts at Amazon or your local bookseller.