For the past couple of months (according to The Daily Prophet in Pottermore) the 427th Quidditch World Cup took place in the Patagonia Desert in Argentina. Since April 12, 2014, J.K. Rowling has been progressively giving us the story of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup through the voices of ace Quidditch correspondent for the Daily Prophet Ginny Potter, and more recently, Gossip Columnist Rita Skeeter.
While Steve may take issue with the media calling this new batch of fake newspaper columns a “Short Story.” I personally have greatly enjoyed getting this view of the Wizarding World as it is today. I really like getting to know bits and pieces of the wizarding world, especially getting our first real glimpse of the Wizarding World outside of Great Britain since Goblet of Fire showed us the 422nd Quidditch World Cup in Dartmoor and of course introduced us to Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.
Unfortunately bringing up the QWC has revived an old debate concerning the number of Quidditch World Cups there have been. Quidditch Through the Ages tells that the cup was established in 1473 and has been held every 4 years since. There are 2 problems with this, one of which Rowling has answered for us on Pottermore, the other we still have no answer for.
1994 not 1993?
The first of which has to do with the fact that if the game was started in 1473 and held every 4 years, the world cup would have been held in 1993 and 2013, not 1994 and 2014. Thankfully Rowling answers this for us on Pottermore in her “History of the Quidditch World Cup” article. She explains that for reasons unknown nobody remembers anything about the 1877 Quidditch World Cup (though events undoubtedly did happen) and the International Confederation of Wizards’ Quidditch Committee (ICWQC) deemed it necessary to re-stage that tournament in 1878 and it has been held every 4 years since (making 1994 and 2014 actually make sense).
427 not 135?
Unfortunately, her descriptions don’t explain how we could possibly be up to the 427th QWC in 2014 (or the 422nd in 1994). If the first QWC happened in 1473 (which of course we must accept as true) and it has happened every 4 years, then we would be at the 135th Quidditch World Cup in 2014 which is considerably less than 427. This leads us to conclude that at some point in the past the QWC must have been held a lot more often than every 4 years.
On Pottermore, Rowling mentions that many purists choose to date the inception of the world cup in the 17th century when it was expanded beyond Europe to include the whole world. With that in mind we could theorize that before this point that the world cup was once held every year. Since we now know that in 1877 there was no intention on holding a cup in 1878 we must assume that if this were true, that whatever year this was must have been a year that would continue to be an increment of 4 years before 1877.
The 17th Century Theory
If we go with the assumption that the last possible year of the 17th century which could be an interval of 4 years before 1877 was the year that it opened up to the entire world and switched to an every 4 year tournament, that would be 1697. If the tournament was held every year from 1473 through 1697, then 1697 would be the 224th Quidditch World Cup. This would make this year’s cup the 303rd. Unfortunately, that is still woefully short of 427th, we still need to account for another 123 games so this theory simply doesn’t pan out.
The 1877 Theory
Going by another theory, let’s assume that until 1877 the game was held every year, and it was only after all the chaos of having to redo the 1877 world cup in 1878 that they switched to every 4 years. This would make this year’s cup the 438th cup, which is way too many, so that theory is also out.
The 2 Stage Change Theory
Perhaps a 2 step change in the Quidditch World Cup schedule. Perhaps at first the game was held every year, then moved up to every other year, and finally moved up to every 4 years. Of course there are multiple ways this could work mathematically, but the simplest I can come up with is to assume that up until 382nd cup in 1855 the game was held every year, at which point the logistics of preparing for the increasing attendance of the world class tournament became difficult, and then it became a bi-annual tournament.
When the 1877 game had to be re-staged in 1878 the ICWQC needed a break before the next cup, so following the 1878 redone cup (which would have been the 393rd Quidditch World Cup) the schedule was switched to happen every 4 years instead of every other year. Using this numbering system, we do arrive at 2014 being the 427th Quidditch World Cup which matches the numbering Rowling has given us.
The “I hate math” theory
Of course a simpler solution would assume that in the first couple centuries of the cup they didn’t bother numbering the cups. At some point they decided to start numbering the tournaments and rather than actually doing math (which doesn’t seem to be a skill that Wizards care much for, with no sign of any math being taught to kids after they turn 11) to figure out what number they should be on, some wizard just went “Quidditch has been going on forever, I’ll just pick a really big number” and that became the official number of that cup and we’ve been counting ever since.
Regardless of how we get to 2014 being the 427th Quidditch World Cup, if you haven’t read all of the coverage of the 91 day tournament from the perspective of Ginny Potter, especially the nearly 3 hour final from Friday which had live commentary from Ginny and Rita Skeeter, you really should. It was really exciting to see Harry’s world come to life in real time.