3 Messages Hidden in Harry Potter (and Fantastic Beasts)

Watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them gave us an appreciation for an aspect of Harry Potter we’ve never really paid much attention to.

Let’s talk about allegory, and Rowling’s ingenius approach to it.

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Rowling’s Pulled the Wool Over Our Eyes and We Love Her For It

Welp, if you’re going to do a show about storytelling and fiction, seems pretty inevitable that you’ll get around to discussing Rowling’s work at some point. We’ve come to that bridge, and we’re crossing it in a haze of sparkly-eyed wonder.

If we’re being honest, it wasn’t actually any sense of obligation that drove us to start this series on Harry Potter. We’re doing this because we watched Fantastic Beasts, and as we did we felt ourselves being lulled back into the warmth and whimsy of Rowling’s world. And it was wonderful, and we wanted immediately to explore it.

Our first thought was just to do a series on how Rowling captures that feeling, but we quickly realized how much of that is in the nuance of the prose and—in the context of the films—the cinematography. It would certainly be interesting to talk about, but not necessarily conducive to the creation of new fiction. Easy to end up just copying Rowling’s style that way, which is something we like to avoid if we can. Always that mantra, “inspiration doesn’t have to mean imitation”.

Thankfully, Rowling is an incredibly capable writer, and imbues in her work far more than a veneer of fantastical intrigue. While watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we also picked up on something else:

Rowling presents an incredible allegorical structure that’s present throughout her wizarding world, but most apparent in the newest film.

Before we go any further, let’s be good little scholars and define some terms real quick: there’s an important difference between metaphor and allegory that you oughtta know:

Metaphor — A figurative reference to one object or concept as another (e.g., “she was the storm, and I the shuddering tree”); symbolism

Allegory — The use of multiple, interactive metaphors within the context of a larger narrative which itself conveys some figurative meaning

(http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms.html)

So what we were picking on wasn’t just that many of the fantastical elements of Rowling’s fiction can be interpreted as poignant symbols, but that the narrative structures themselves are highly symbolic.

Hopefully you weren’t too excited for us to tear through all the allegories in Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts though, because that simply isn’t a task we’re equal to. There are…  a great deal of them. A dragon’s hoard. And that’s because Rowling’s done something with her setting/presentation that allows all of them to coexist in the same context without making us feel as though we’re crawling through some ancient holy text.

She shows us very clearly the dichotomy between the magical and the mundane.

She presents her world with a profound emphasis on the fantasy elements, even going so far as to contrive the names of characters with pivotal roles like Severus Snape and Ron Weasley. And then she takes this overt whimsy and juxtaposes it against our world by moving Harry back and forth between the two, showing how wondrous and strange the wizarding world is compared to his grim, frankly depressing “muggle life”.

I’m sure you see where this is going.

While we’re wrapped up in the sheer magic of her fiction, the literal progression of events, the disclosure narrative of what her world is like—while the wool is pulled over our eyes—she takes the opportunity to assemble her narratives’ scaffolding in such a way so as to lead to us to a place of philosophical/moral/personal import. It’s like disembarking from a Disney ride to find that the whole thing was actually a rail system taking you to some unexpected destination.

Invisible allegories, layered into the most engaging part of the fiction.

Pretty incredible stuff. We want to replicate it with this month’s short story. So, if you have any suggestions about how we should approach it—what kind of allegory we should use, what our magic should be like, what you’d like to see in our fantasy—let us know. This’ll be a tough one, but it should also be a lot of fun.

Also, if you’ve picked up on any particularly poignant allegories hidden away in Rowling’s work, let us know. We could use your input for an upcoming video. Leave a comment. Tell us about what you’ve found.

We’ll be talking more about this over the course of the month, so stay tuned.

Looking for a starting place for this month’s story — any ideas?

harrypottermonth_anyideas_startingplaceThis month we’re talking about Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts, and how Rowling approaches allegory in both.

So, the plan is to write a short fantasy story that hides an allegory in the most important part of the fiction. Right now it’s just an idea, but we’d love any opinions on how we should begin our approach. What do you think? Everything is welcome. We’ll build on this as the month progresses.

How Fantastic Beasts Handles Allegory

Watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them gave us an appreciation for an aspect of Harry Potter we’ve never really paid much attention to.

Let’s talk about allegory, and Rowling’s ingenius approach to it.

Subscribe for more! ➤http://tinyurl.com/ho9cl6s
Facebook ➤ www.facebook.com/TaleFoundry
Twitter ➤ https://twitter.com/TheTaleFoundry

***View the video description on Youtube for sources/attributions/additional information***

The Creepy Renaissance

OR “We’re Doing a CreepyPasta Month, and Here’s Why”

We’ve been wanting to talk about creepypasta for a good looong while, now. Before we figured things out and started the show, actually. Long before that. And now that we finally have the opportunity… I mean, if anyone knows how to condense several internets’ worth of content into three 10-30 minute videos, please share your dark secrets with us, because sweet mechanical gods, there is a lot we want to talk about

So let’s all collapse into a fanatical mess and drool over it together here, shall we?

First, some context: creepypasta has been on my personal radar, formally,since I first encountered MrCreepyPasta’s youtube channel way back in… pfff… probably 2011? I say “formally” because I’d definitely seen the genre’s other, older incarnations before that. Smile.jpg. SCP (if you wanna call that creepypasta, which I guess you probably should). Slenderman. A lot of the classics. But MCP was my first real introduction to the concept of a broader creepypasta genre. Before then, I didn’t even know there was a specific term for it.

After this realization, I slowly became aware of the developing “creepypasta community”. I discovered the creepypasta wiki, the “official” website, and the dozens of other forthcoming creepypasta narrators (namely CreepsMcPastaand Lazy Maquerade, whom we’ve been discussing this month’s theme with). It was a strange experience, in large part because I’d always sort of expected fiction and literature to just be a niche thing on the internet. People talk about it on their specific forums and on their tumblr feeds and stuff, but it’s not the sort of thing that trends. In fact, the “best of the best” are mostly relegated to marginally-popular web magazines or (if they’re really lucky) forgotten behind the luster of the larger projects their work is being incorporated into.

But here, suddenly, was creepypasta, with its hundreds of thousands of contributors adding to a platform that actually had mass appeal on the internet. Discovering it was what I imagine it might feel like to emerge from a dark cellar which you’d spent your whole life in and find yourself surrounded by others like you. Surreal. A little confusing. Wildly exciting. Finally, evidence that the craft of prose-writing was actually evolving for the internet. No more are the writers and storytellers a disparate and estranged handful of rando’s sprinkled across the web.

Admittedly, like various fan fiction/general writing communities, creepypasta is a little specific in its scope, oriented toward the horror genre in particular. But the vast appeal of creepypasta to audiences outside its immediate circle is what—I believe—makes it unique. People who have no interesting in writing whatsoever are consuming and sharing this stuff like… delicious, delicious pasta. And for a lot of them, it’s their first real glimpse of what “publishing” looks like. A lot of people who are becoming involved with creepypasta don’t begin with a knowledge of the conventional publication process: the querying, the infinite rejections, the whole rigamarole of slogging your way through the slush pile in order to get something with your name on it printed and distributed, often with poor-to-marginal commercial success. What they see is people taking inspiration from one-another’s fiction and art, creating works of their own, and then simply sharing it, creating a sort of indy publishing cycle.

The “publishing houses” of this world are creators like @creepsmcpasta,@lazymasquerade, and MrCreepyPasta, who cast long shadows (each with over a million youtube subscribers) and can change a random writer into afamous storyteller with tens of thousands of fans overnight.

Neither I nor the humans I work with have any idea where this change in perception will lead future writers, but if this trend continues, it could cause a sea change for the industry, altering what it means to be a “successful” fiction writer on the web altogether. One of the biggest possible hurdles is likely to be broadening the format beyond horror, which is difficult because of the inherent virility of the genre.

So we don’t know what’s to come, but we’d be interested in youropinions and predictions.

What do you guys think of this sort of “short fiction renaissance” creepypasta seems to be guiding us toward? Do you think it’s just a fad that’ll fade with time? Or do you think we’re in for some real changes down the road?