Tarsier Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=597165
We were delighted to see the New York Times report from behind the scenes of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It was especially interesting to hear how actor Eddie Redmayne describes some of the fantastic creatures in the upcoming feature film, based on J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spinoff. Mr. Redmayne plays the lead character Newt Scamander. This is the magician/zoologist who wrote the text book on magical creatures used by students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (where Harry Potter studied in the seven-volume saga).
We could never let a teachable moment pass, so here we share some similarities from J. K. Rowling’s “Wizarding World” with the real natural world—which sometimes can be just as magical as fiction. The wonders of nature, which inspire so much human endeavor, illustrate why we need to save Earth’s literally “fantastic” biodiversity.
Real World With Wizarding World Comparison 1
Wizarding World Creature: The Demiguise
This beast has large eyes like an owl but otherwise moves like and resembles a primate, hairy and agile. “It has this capacity to go from being visible to invisible, so their pelts can be used to make invisibility cloaks,” Mr. Redmayne said. That’s why the Demiguise is often hunted and remains very rare.
Real World Animal: Tarsier
These tiny primates have huge eyes like an owl. Their eyes are the largest eyes of any mammal in proportion to body size! And while they can’t become invisible, they are known to be among the most elusive primates on the planet—they know how not to be seen by humans! In the real world, over-hunting commonly results in animals being very rare.
Real World With Wizarding World Comparison 2
Wizarding World Creature: The Bowtruckle
While Newt knows he shouldn’t have favorites among the beasts, there is one he’s quite fond of, and it’s Mr. Redmayne’s favorite as well: the skinny, plantlike Bowtruckle, which is difficult to spot thanks to its ability to blend into foliage.
Real World Animal: Stick and leaf insects
Similar to Newt’s Bowtruckle companion, stick insects are able to almost perfectly blend into the vegetation that surrounds them. Some of these bugs even seem to sprout leaves, just like the bowtruckles, such as the New Guinea walking stick (Heteropteryx dilatata).
Real World With Wizarding World Comparison 3
Wizarding World Creature: The Niffler
The Niffler is a small furry creature with a platypus-like snout and an appetite for shiny things. Newt’s interactions with him are based on Mr. Redmayne’s observations of a zoologist working with a baby anteater. “It would curl up into a little ball, and in order to make it relax, she would tickle his little belly,” he said.
Real World Animal: Southern Three-banded Armadillo
While the Niffler can hoard shiny objects by folding up its body, some animals are capable of protecting themselves by rolling themselves into a ball. The Southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus) is capable of rolling itself into a ball when it feels threatened—a ball so round you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a basketball. Its conservation status is near threatened, so we need to help provide more protection, too.
We thank Newt Scamander (and Eddie Redmayne, of course) for helping us see the real magic of our natural world!