Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them introduces us to the newest hero of the Wizarding World: Newt Scamander. But how does he compare to the hero that Harry Potter fans have come to know and love over the years – namely, Harry Potter himself?
Both are heroes in their own right. Newt is the Reluctant Hero, caught up in an adventure that he stumbled into. Harry is the Chosen One, destined from birth to fulfill a prophecy to defeat Lord Voldemort. We take a look at their stories and examine why both Newt and Harry are the heroes they are.
There will be spoilers from this point out! Beware!
From Humble Beginnings
Newt and Harry have very different beginnings to life. Newt was born into the Wizarding World, raised by his own family. He attended Hogwarts and was Sorted into Hufflepuff, generally regarded as the house of hard workers. Newt’s greatest passion, born from his own mother’s interest in raising hippogriffs, is the research and care of magical creatures.
Harry, on the other hand, had no idea of the existence of the Wizarding World until his 11th birthday, when Hagrid revealed his heritage. He was Sorted into Gryffindor, home of the brave and courageous when he attended Hogwarts. Suffice to say, when it came to school, Harry was an average student who excelled in several areas as long as he was properly stimulated.
But despite these differences, both Newt and Harry gained the favor of Albus Dumbledore. At the time of Newt’s attendance, Dumbledore was a professor of Transfiguration. He had risen to the post of Headmaster by Harry’s years at Hogwarts. Neither formally finished their Hogwarts education. Newt because he was expelled due to endangering other students with a beast. Harry because Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters pretty much destroyed the school.
Adventure and Excitement
At the most basic storytelling level, the Harry Potter series and Fantastic Beasts are adventure stories. But how the two heroes approach the adventure is quite different. Harry actively seeks out the adventure, especially in the early years; the quest to secure the Philosopher’s Stone, discovering the Chamber of Secrets, even trying to find Sirius Black during the short time he believed he was responsible for the death of his parents. His first instinct is to hurtle headlong into danger.
Newt, on the other hand, does not charge into adventure. This is not to say he is not adventurous. Traveling across the world and dealing with dangerous magical creatures is not an occupation for the faint of heart. But even when faced with the knowledge that an Obscurus was most likely responsible for terrorizing New York City, Newt did not immediately set out to confront it. He was more concerned with finding his escaped beasts before they could be hurt or blamed for the Obscurus’ attacks. Newt only involves himself in the fight against the Obscurus when it begins to rampage across New York City. At that point, it would be unconscionable to ignore the threat.
Their methods for dealing with the problem differ vastly. Harry usually charges in and tries to use force to deal with the situation. Newt, while more than capable of using force, looks to find an alternative solution. When recapturing his magical creatures, Newt used his expertise and knowledge so as not to cause undue distress or harm to them. Even when facing Credence Barebone in his Obscurus form, Newt sought to talk him down rather than use force to subdue him.
Different Eras, Same Problems
Of course, a lot of the difference between the two heroes can be easily explained by their disparate ages. We meet Harry at the age of 11 and follow his story until he is almost 18. The mistakes he makes, the choices he opts for are all born out of a youthful impetuousness to prove himself, and show his worth. Newt, on the other hand, we meet at the age of 29 as he edges towards being 30. Newt has travelled the world, experienced wonders beyond imagining. And he is also a veteran of the Great War, working with Ukrainian Ironbellies on the Eastern Front. Newt’s teenage years are behind him, and he appears to not care what people think about him.
If there is one emotion that could be used to describe Harry’s main emotional state, it would be anger. Anger at Voldemort for killing his parents. Anger at the Dursleys for the way he was brought up. Anger at the world in general for seeing him more as a symbol rather than a person, and expecting him to be a great person when all he is at that moment is a teenager still trying to find his place in the world.
Newt is more reserved, almost withdrawn from the world. He prefers the company of his creatures, and we can only speculate at this point what has led to that outlook. Is he a natural loner? Or is a result of his experiences in the war?
The Bonds of Friendship
One area in which both Newt and Harry are very similar is their friendships. When we meet them, both are alone in the world. Before Hogwarts, Harry has gone through life with no friends and being constantly bullied. Newt freely admits he knows he annoys people and seems to have no real friendships. During the course of their adventures, they forge friendships that will last a lifetime. We know that Harry, Ron, and Hermione remain friends over the years. And with Newt, we know that at least Tina Goldstein will remain with him for the rest of his life since she will marry him in later years. It remains to be seen if Jacob Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein remain constant in Newt’s life.
Our heroes are both destined to play a vital role in the war against the dark wizard. Harry’s story against Voldemort is already told, but now we are embarking on a new adventure with Newt presumably involved in the war against Gellert Grindelwald. But where one – Harry – was always fated to end up in the conflict, the other – Newt – is swept up in events. But this in no way makes either any less of a hero. Newt and Harry both face the danger willingly and do not shy away from the conflict.
They are both heroes for one simple reason. They care. They care about their friends. They care about others. And most of all, the care about what is right.