Here at the Lexicon, we do our best to organize the information that has been presented to us by or with the express approval of J.K. Rowling. It’s an important job, because this fictional world of hers is an escape for many people, and in order to escape to that world, we need it to feel grounded in consistent ideas. Occasionally, because the world is actually fictional and no one is perfect, we do see some inconsistencies crop up, and in a fandom like Harry Potter, the popular fan choices are to complain or speculate. The wonderful thing about the Wizarding World is that, as it contains magic and is fictional, there aren’t many inconsistencies that can’t be manipulated into consistencies with a little creativity. Whether that creativity cheapens the story or enriches it is kind of up to the individual fan.
My larger point here, though, is to say that canon is not meant to be an assessment of value. Fans often produce highly compelling “head canons,” and no one has the power to take those away–not even the creator. Fan fiction is not truly less real than the fiction of the original author–both are equally fictional. But in order to share in and escape to the fictional world that the original author created, it is valuable to track these timelines and concepts.
Children who are growing up right now don’t have the experience that many of us had–of waiting years for the next installment and spending those years speculating and crafting theories, reading and writing fanfiction, and creating and interacting with other forms of fan art. For them, Harry’s Hogwarts years are pretty much set in stone. True, there are periods of time that are skipped, often brushed over with a scenic seasonal transition sentence, and we seldom see anyone use the bathroom except to brew illicit potions or listen to mermaid sounds, but we are supposed to believe as fans that the important details have been provided to us.
And that can be a little upsetting. When a character dies, and that’s not in our headcanon, we feel bereft on multiple levels–for the character and for the plotlines they can’t have anymore.
But the beauty of a fictional magical world is that we can all imagine how things would be if they went differently. We don’t have to abandon our headcanons. They can exist in a parallel fictional universe. We can share them together, as long as we acknowledge that Jo’s ideas and characters belong to her. Back in 2015, Jo tweeted, “All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter: you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together.”
We were and we weren’t, but it feels like we were, right? We all know what happened, and we know how it felt. We will always share that, and I will always be grateful for that world.
In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License