Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them builds upon J.K. Rowling‘s Wizarding World, and uses many of the familiar magical spells that we know and love. From stunning spells, to apparation, wizards and witches employ the full range of magical abilities at their command.
But like any good fictional world, the Wizarding World expands and grows with the addition of new spells and abilities. We take a look at some of the new magic making its debut in Fantastic Beasts.
As ever, this article comes with spoilers for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Seriously! Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
The Obscurus is an intense force that is created by a child repressing their magical talent. These children are refered to as Obscurials. Before Wizardkind retreated into secrecy from the Muggle world, young witches and wizards would sometimes suppress their magical talents to avoid persecution. Rather than learning to control their burgeoning abilities, the young wizards and witches developed an Obscurus, a dark, parasitical magical force.
An Obscurus is an invisible (or near-invisible) destructive force that can wreck havoc. They burst out of the Obscurial and attack, before quickly vanishing. By the early twentieth century, Obscurials were rare, but they still existed. An Obscurial had an extremely short lifespan. Up until 1926, there was no recorded case of any living past the age of ten.
Credence Barebone is the most well known example of an Obscurial. He had suppressed his magical abilities for a long time, due to the psychological and physical abuse he received at the hands of his magic-hating adoptive mother. However, Credence is also potentially an extremely powerful wizard – he managed to survive longer than any known Obscurial, at least into his twenties. As a result, Credence’s Obscurus is destructively powerful – Credence himself physically transforms into the Obscurus and causes destruction across New York City
The Death Cell
The Death Cell is a method of execution employed by the Magical Congress of the United States of America. It is a pure white room, with a large pool of death potion covering much of the floor. Above the pool, a chair is suspended by magic. Wizards sentenced to death are led into the room, where executioners extract the condemned’s happiest memories and cast them into the potion. This also has the effect of calming the wizard about to be executed
Full of the condemned’s happiest memories, the potion then starts to replay the events of their life. The wizard or witch is entranced by the memories, and are made to sit in the chair which then slowly lowers into the death potion. All throughout the process, the condemned witch or wizard views their happiest recollections. The process is said to be painless.
Both Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein are sentenced to death by Percival Graves (actually Gellert Grindelwald in disguise). During their execution, Newt manages to free himself while Tina is being lowered into the potion, and then saves the pair of them with the help of a Swooping Evil. The introduction of a rogue element into the potion – the wand of one of the executioners for example – can disrupt the potion and cause it to serve up unhappy memories which instantly breaks the condemned out of their trance-like state.
While the magic behind Newt’s suitcase isn’t exactly new, it is possibly the most advanced case we’ve seen. The Undetectable Extension Charm can be used to increase the internal dimensions of an object without affecting the external dimensions. In effect, it becomes bigger on the inside (like a certain borrowed blue box).
This spell has been used a lot in the Harry Potter universe. The Weasley’s tent utilizes the spell, being able to comfortably fit a half dozen people in comparative luxury despite looking no bigger than an average tent. But Newt’s suitcase is something grander. Not only is it large enough to accommodate over a dozen magical species, but it maintains differing ecosystems to keep them all comfortable. It can also safely accommodate multiple humans and not be affected by the case being moved from place to place.
Swooping Evil Venom
A Swooping Evil is a magical creature that was first introduced in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It shows amazing resilience to spells, and likes to feed on people’s brains. However, Newt proved they can be trained to respond to commands. However, its most interesting feature is the venom it secretes. As part of his study of the Swooping Evil, Newt came to believe that the venom could be used to erase bad memories if properly diluted.
During the film’s climax, Newt proposes to use the venom to erase the memories of the Obscurus rampage from the minds of New York City’s population. But to dilute it properly he employs the Thunderbird called Frank. By using the bird’s rain-generating abilities to dilute a vial of the venom, Newt succeeds in wiping the event from the memories of an entire city.
One of the basic laws of magic is that wizards cannot create food out of thin air. But that does not stop them from using magic to take the basic ingredients and make a tasty meal. As Queenie Goldstein proved, making a strudel with magic is apparently very easy. The spell to make the strudel apparently incorporates preparing the ingredients, making intricate pastry decorations, and even cooking it in a short amount of time. Time-saving magic at its finest!
Honory Mention: Revelio
The Revelio Charm is used to reveal hidden or concealed objects. It is used at the climax of the film to reveal that Percival Graves is, in fact, Gellert Grindelwald. But up until Fantastic Beasts, the Revelio Charm has never been used in a mainstream Harry Potter story. It originated in the LEGO video games, rather than any of books or film adaptations. But the use of the spell here helps to cement the Wizarding World’s disparate spin-offs into a wider, grander whole.