The next chapter of Philosopher’s Stone is in progress. In the meantime, have some decade-overdue attempts at worldbuilding. Continuing my new policy of avoiding the mess that Pottermore has become, you get Tor’s summary of it instead:
To summarise, Rowling has named four more of the eleven wizarding schools allegedly serving the entire planet.
Castelobruxo, in Brazil – according to the comments this is very dodgy linguistics and should more properly be Castelo dos Bruxos, though either way it just translates to ‘witch castle’ which is really boring. Looks like a ruin in the rainforest and has random magical creatures stopping Muggles trying to explore it. Serves the whole continent of South America (current population around 388 million, for reference). They’re good at herbology and magizoology.
Uagadoo, in Uganda. Presumably serves all of Africa (current population over a billion) but this isn’t explicitly stated. Seems to have its own magic system that doesn’t work along any Potterverse rules:
“Instead of owls, Dream Messengers leave tokens with chosen pupils; African witches and wizards practice wandless magic, opting instead for using fingers and hand gestures; and students have performed synchronized transformations into elephants and cheetahs, panicking other Animagi.”
Good at astronomy, alchemy and self-transfiguration. Apparently all magic originated in Africa too, which makes it even weirder that their magic doesn’t exist anywhere else. What the hell is a Dream Messenger?
Mahoutokoro, in Japan. More linguistic failure, apparently this collection of syllables simply isn’t possible in Japanese and should be spelled slightly differently according to someone in Tor’s comments, but I know precisely zip about it so I’m staying out of it (also, at best the name translates as ‘magic place’, which is perhaps even worse than ‘witch castle’). Random jade palace on an uninhabited island. They take children from 7 years old as day students who are flown back and forth on giant birds. Pupils wear colour-changing robes that show what they’re studying and how well they’re doing at it, so clearly they have a horrific bullying problem. No idea what they’re good at, but they have a Quidditch team, so probably ‘bugger all’.
Ilvermorny, in the USA. Why the American school has such a thoroughly Scottish name is not explained. Implausibly serves the entire continent of North America, population 528 million. Apparently Native American tribal magic was very important to the founding of it – hence the Scottish name, clearly… – and Rowling refuses to say where it is except ‘not in New York’. They don’t seem to be any good at anything either.
Mitchell is a masochist and chose to read the actual Pottermore articles, linked in the Tor summary, and he’ll throw some of the best/worst bits at you now.
Let’s have some fun with quotes. From here:
The wand is a European invention, and while African witches and wizards have adopted it as a useful tool in the last century, many spells are cast simply by pointing the finger or through hand gestures. This gives Uagadou students a sturdy line of defence when accused of breaking the International Statute of Secrecy (‘I was only waving, I never meant his chin to fall off’).
Silliness over consistency yet again, which I suppose is consistent with Rowling’s writing over the years but still disappointing. This is really not how ‘wandless magic’ has been depicted in the rest of her series.
There is also this:
Much (some would say all) magic originated in Africa, and Uagadou graduates are especially well versed in Astronomy, Alchemy and Self-Transfiguration.
I can’t decide whether or not I think this is horribly racist (it seems sketchy to me considering various Magical Negro tropes and/or Backwards Superstitious Africa tropes, but at the same time ‘humanity originated in Africa and therefore so did magic’ shouldn’t be objectionable…), but regardless there’s something very odd about the African school’s specialities being alchemy and astronomy when those are very thoroughly European/Western concepts.
the school offers very popular exchange programmes for European students* who wish to study the magical flora and fauna of South America
It would’ve been nice to have some indication in the actual stories that things like this existed (maybe this is what happened to the students like Sally-Anne Perks that Rowling forgot existed?). That asterisk indicates the following charming footnote:
* It was one of these trips that Bill Weasley’s parents could not afford, causing his disappointed penfriend at Castelobruxo to send him something nasty in the post.
As I said, charming. (Loten adds this is in fact canon, Ron mentions it at some point; I believe it was a cursed hat that made Bill’s ears shrivel up, or something.)
And whilst we are at least vaguely on the subject of quidditch, the article about the Japanese school tells us that they were taught the game
centuries ago by a band of foolhardy Hogwarts students who were blown off course during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe on wholly inadequate broomsticks
I’m too lazy to look it up, but the sport isn’t much more than a few centuries old according to Quidditch Through the Ages and she tried to depict a timeline of developments in the game in that book, so it could be interesting to see what she said the game would have been like at a time this could have happened. And then we get this gem
Every member of the Japanese Quidditch team and the current Champion’s League winners (the Toyohashi Tengu) attributes their prowess to the gruelling training they were given at Mahoutokoro, where they practise over a sometimes turbulent sea in stormy conditions, forced to keep an eye out not only for the Bludgers but also for planes from the Muggle airbase on a neighbouring island
We’re really returning to form here, this is the same stuff we got in the first book with Draco and Ron boasting about nearly encountering hang-gliders and helicopters and things. It’s still just as stupid; I understand what she’s trying to do to some degree, but if you want to maintain a hidden world you probably shouldn’t write its inhabitants as being so completely unconcerned about being seen, and imply that in essence the entire population of the world are unobservant idiots.
Relatively unrelated, but someone has already edited the Wikipedia article of the volcanic island Rowling chose as the location of the Japanese school to add that information. I looked it up because I wanted to see how old the island was and whether or not it would be completely uninhabitable; it looks like a pretty barren place, but it’s at least vaguely plausible I suppose.
Wasn’t that entertaining, boys and girls. The phrase ‘quit while you’re ahead’ has never been so apt. Tor implies we’ll eventually see details of the last four schools; presumably one in Australia or New Zealand, one in China, maybe one around the southern Mediterranean (Italy, Greece or Turkey perhaps) and one out in the Pacific somewhere? This all just makes it even more ridiculous that Britain gets a school to itself, with our population of 64 million.
And why does the entire wizarding world just plain suck at naming things? [Well, it’s a natural consequence of the fact that Rowling does, at least most of the time.]
Have fun discussing this latest mess, the next chapter of our adventure will be done… sometime next week, I should think. See you all then.