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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Harry Potter movies and books.]
Grab your wands and practice your Patronus —the magical Wizarding World is returning to the big screen.
With the release of the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them fast approaching Nov. 18, it’s time to pull a Hermione and study up on the beasts and beings we’ve met so far in the Harry Potter book series. HP diehards (and wannabes), enjoy this large dose of nostalgia as The Hollywood Reporter takes a look back at the magical creatures that have made their way through all preceding Harry Potter movies.
Disclaimer: There are some creatures on this list with debatable magical powers. We’ve deemed these members of the HP animal kingdom “Wild Cards.” Meanwhile, deadly plants are confidently included on this list; if it can kill you, it’s fair to call it a “creature,” so, trolls please remain in the dungeon.
It seems only fitting that the first magical creature introduced in the Harry Potter series is none other than an owl of the Wizarding World. The entire film franchise begins with a shot of an owl perched on the Privet Drive street sign, overlooking baby Harry Potter's arrival in the muggle village of Little Whinging. And within the first 30 minutes of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, we've met his loyal pet Hedwig, who (spoilers) dies saving him six years later.
Owls who live among the wizardkind posses the power of delivering mail to recipients without needing an address. A witch or wizard must use one of the following enchantments to avoid being found by owl: Repelling, Disguising or Masking spells.
Oh, Goblins. Love them or hate them — they serve a very important role in protecting Gringotts Wizarding Bank, one they do very well (if you don't count the break-ins performed by Professor Quirrell in Sorcerer's Stone and by Harry, Hermione and Ron in Deathly Hallows – Part 2).
Goblins are humanoids that coexist relatively peacefully with witches and wizards, despite their bad attitudes. They can perform magic without wands and have their own native language, humorously called Gobbledygook.
Harry meets his first Goblin when Hagrid escorts him to withdraw wizarding currency for his school supplies.
Boo! A community of ghosts lives within Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — one of the more popular ones being Nearly Headless Nick, who (to Ron's horror) demonstrates how he earned his nickname. But besides Nick's gruesome neck, ghosts of the Harry Potter universe are not meant to be frightening. They can fly through solid objects, are affected by spells, and can fall in love with the living (i.e. Moaning Myrtle's crush on Harry). Muggles, AKA nonmagical humans, are excluded from this limbo state, as only witches and wizards can roam the earth after death.
Wild Card: Cat
There are two major magical cats in the Harry Potter series: Argus Filch's Mrs. Norris and Hermione's Crookshanks. Both of their magical powers are a little questionable, but they certainly are no ordinary felines. Mrs. Norris is able to spot students misbehaving and communicate the latest dose of troublemakers to her owner Filch, the caretaker of Hogwarts. Meanwhile, Crookshanks comes along in Prisoner of Azkaban and has a special power when it comes to animagi (witches or wizards who can transform into animals). When Harry's godfather Sirius Black transforms into a dog, Hermione's pet can communicate with him. Crookshanks also knew that Ron's rat Scabbers was not a rodent, but a man named Peter Pettigrew in disguise.
Who would have guessed a pet named Fluffy could be so deadly? Best friends Harry, Hermione and Ron stumble upon a very scary version of man's best friend inside the castle. Fluffy, Hagrid's three-headed dog, was placed within Hogwarts to guard the sorcerer's stone, a powerful rock that can be used to extend one's lifespan and turn metal into gold. Our favorite trio later learn the secret to getting pass this rare creature: if you play the canine music, it will fall straight to sleep.
"Troll in the dungeon!" Professor Quirrell unleashes a massive mountain troll inside the school in an effort to create a diversion while stealing the sorcerer's stone (he failed to do so, FYI). Trolls are known for their violent nature, their incredible stupidity and their massive size; they can grow to be about 12 feet tall and can literally weigh a ton. Pretty miraculously, the 11-year-old first-year trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione took the troll down singlehandedly.
The very first dragon we meet is a baby Norwegian Ridgeback named Norbert, hatched inside of Hagrid's hut. Unfortunately for the animal-loving gamekeeper, Hagrid has to say goodbye to his winged, fire-breathing pet since dragons are forbidden on Hogwarts grounds. But Norbert is far from the last dragon we meet in the movies. Four new species are introduced in Goblet of Fire during the Triwizard Tournament: the Chinese Fireball, Swedish Short-Snout, Common Welsh Green and Hungarian Horntail. The movies save the greatest dragon for last: in Deathly Hallows — Part 2, a Ukrainian Ironbelly is shown guarding the safes of Gringotts Bank. Harry, Ron and Hermione fly on its back in an action-packed escape scene after stealing from one of the darkest wizards alive.
Unicorns are one of the most majestic creatures of J.K. Rowling's world. They are born the color gold, turn silver by age four and have a pure white coat by adulthood. The blood of these horned beings is silver and when drunk can keep a dying person alive, but with grave consequences. After consuming its blood, a person is doomed to live a cursed life. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Hagrid finds two slain unicorns that were killed by Professor Quirrell to revive a very weak Lord Voldemort (the most dangerous Dark wizard of all time).
Centaurs are humans from the waist up and horses from the waist down. A colony of the incredibly wise creatures lives inside the Forbidden Forest on the outskirts of Hogwarts. One named Firenze saves Harry from Lord Voldemort after a dangerous, chance encounter in the heart of the forest.
The Devil's Snare is a deadly plant that grows in dark and damp environments and can strangle living things to death. The more you move, the tighter its grasp. The trick to surviving its dangerous vines is to relax and move as little as possible.
Ron, Hermione and Harry fall into a large body of tendrils on their way to the sorcerer's stone and narrowly escape by Hermione's Lumos Solem charm, which illuminates the vine attacking Ron and sets him free. Smart move, Hermione.
House-elves are creatures who in the Wizarding World are typically treated as slaves. They remain loyal to their master until they are granted a piece of clothing, a symbol of freedom and dignity. Until then, they often wear pillow cases or similar, haphazard scraps of cloth and must punish themselves brutally if they act against the wishes of their master. House-elves have their own wandless use of magic, which includes apparating (disappearing on the spot and appearing elsewhere).
One major Harry Potter fan favorite happens to be a house-elf: Dobby! Dobby is originally property of the Malfoy family, until Harry Potter tricks Lucius Malfoy into giving Dobby a sock. During Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1, Dobby dies trying to save Harry's life.
Take some advice from Ron and Harry — never step foot near a Whomping Willow. This tree is relentless in defending itself from outsiders and will not hesitate to swing its thick branches straight into a person's head. The two young wizards get stuck in the one on Hogwarts grounds when the Weasley's flying car breaks down and dives straight into the Willow's clutch.
Warning: never approach a mature mandrake without ear muffs! The mandrake is a very lively root with a deadly cry. Yes, cry. These roots are more like little beings and they are very temperamental. Mandrakes even go through puberty, get acne and are not fully mature until they start hopping into the pots of other mandrakes. J.K. Rowling lets you ponder what that means on your own.
Mandrakes have special healing powers and can be used to make a Restorative Draught to revive someone who has been Petrified, or turned to stone.
To summarize pixies in one word: annoying. Professor Lockhart stupidly releases a cage-full of Cornish pixies upon his Defense Against the Dark Arts class in a poorly-planned attempt to provide them with a hands-on experience. Cornish pixies are blue mischief-makers who enjoy tormenting humans by destroying their belongings, lifting them by the ears and causing general mayhem. The always clever Hermione restores the classroom to order by performing a Freezing Charm that makes them sit still for once. (Lockhart had cowardly fled the scene and left his students to fend for themselves.)
Phoenixes are incredibly powerful creatures, and a special one named Fawkes saves Harry's life. Scarlet in color, the swan-sized creature possesses the following powers: it can disappear and reappear through a burst of flames, carry a tremendous amount of weight, survive a basilisk's deadly gaze (more on that below), produce tears with special healing powers and regenerate itself after death. On what is called a phoenix's Burning Day, the bird will burst into flames and rise from the ashes to begin a new life.
Dumbledore's phoenix Fawkes comes to rescue Harry inside the Chamber of Secrets and uses its tears to heal Harry's venom-filled wound.
The Acromantula is Ron's worst nightmare. Ron (who has a terrible fear of spiders) meets the king of all eight-legged creatures face to face inside the Forbidden Forest. Joined by Harry, the two meet Aragog, Hagrid's blind acromantula who fathers tens of thousands of spiders and secretly lives on the edge of the school grounds (until he dies in the Half-Blood Prince).
These hairy creatures produce deadly venom, feed on humans and have a legspan that can reach 15 feet. Most surprising is their ability to speak perfect English, which must come in handy to lure and torture their prey.
If you have a fear of snakes, consider yourself lucky to have never stumbled upon a basilisk. This giant monster can be 50 feet long, live hundreds of years, and kill anyone or anything who crosses its pass, simply by making eye contact. If a person, ghost or cat (it happened to Nearly Headless Nick and Mrs. Norris) looks a basilisk in the eye indirectly, be it through a reflection or camera lens, the victim will be Petrified and turned to stone. The giant serpent also has incredibly powerful venom, one of the only substances in the Wizarding World strong enough to destroy one of Voldemort's horcruxes (an object that possesses a part of the Dark Lord's soul).
A basilisk was living inside the Hogwarts Chamber of Secrets until Harry Potter stabbed it with the Sword of Gryffindor and Fawkes blinded it with its tongs.
A shrunken head is pretty gross: it has no body, its skull and fat have been removed — and it can still communicate with the living. Some of them are considered dark objects and can be purchased at Knockturn Alley, the creepy London shopping area devoted to selling goods and materials of the Dark Arts.
We first meet a friendly shrunken head named Dre Head, who serves as the mascot of the Knight Bus. Characterized by his Jamaican accent and dreadlocks, Dre Head helpfully guides the Knight Bus driver from obstacles on the road.
The Monster Book of Monsters
Careful! The Monster Book of Monsters shows no mercy (at least if you forget the secret to controlling it). This textbook, used for Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class, is very much alive and will attack anyone who opens it. The trick is to softly stroke its spine — then it will function like a normal, inanimate book.
Wild Card: Leaky Cauldron Monster
We don't really know what stood behind this door in the Leaky Cauldron inn, but it was likely occupied by a grumpy monster with a very bad temper. In a silly moment in the Prisoner of Azkaban, a young witch knocks on a door and politely says, "Housekeeping." She's met with a loud roar, a slammed door and a bad hair day.
Arguably the scariest magical creature of the Harry Potter universe, a dementor feeds upon human happiness and leaves its victim in a state of depression and despair. The Dark creature's ultimate weapon is called the Dementor's Kiss, which it gives when it removes its cloak, clamps its jaw around a victim's mouth, and sucks out his or her soul. This fate is often considered worse than death. The kiss leaves the person in a persistent vegetative state, and a witch or wizard in this condition does not have the option of becoming a ghost, since a person's soul must be in tact to roam the earth.
Dementors served as guards and torture mechanisms for the prisoners of Azkaban. They were later employed to defend Hogwarts' borders when Sirius Black escaped and ultimately join forces with Voldemort during the Second Wizarding War.
The defense against a Dementor is one of the most famous spells in Harry Potter lore — the Patronus Charm. This spell is incredibly difficult to produce, but when performed accurately, will release the witch or wizard's Patronus (AKA a spirit animal). To conjure a Patronus, one must concentrate on his or her happiest memory. Fun fact: Harry's Patronus is a stag, the same as his father's.
Wild Card: Singing Toad
Toads aren't necessarily considered magical creatures, but it's hard not to point out this curious scene when toads join students in song. The Frog Choir, led by Professor Flitwick, perform in the Great Hall after the Sorting Ceremony while carrying toads. It's possible the toads were enchanted to croak in tune and dance along to "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
Hippogriffs have the body, hind legs and tail of a horse, and the face, front legs and wings of an eagle. They are incredibly proud creatures, so one must bow to it and await the hippogriff's returning bow before attempting to approach it. If you want to avoid getting swiped in the face by its giant talons, it's crucial to maintain constant eye contact, without a single blink.
A hippogriff named Buckbeak forms a special bond with Harry after he flies on its back during Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class. Later, Harry helps save Buckbeak from execution, and together they rescue Sirius Black from receiving the Dementor's Kiss.
Boggarts are both terrifying and hysterical creatures to come across. When a witch or wizard meets a boggart, it takes the form of that person's greatest fear. For example, Neville Longbottom meets Professor Snape, Ron confronts a spider and Harry faces a dementor. No one knows what a boggart looks like when it is alone. They usually inhabit dark, confined spaces when they are not on the attack.
The trick to overcoming this shape-shifter is to perform the Riddikulus charm and concentrate on turning the figure into something fun. For Neville, that means dressing Snape in his grandmother's outlandish clothes — red handbag and all.
Hagrid's Mystery Pet
Blink and you'll miss it, but there is a mystery pet shown inside Hagrid's hut just before Dumbledore, the Minister of Magic and the executioner come for Buckbeak. The plant-like creature is likely dangerous or illegal, since Hagrid hides him underneath a tea towel to keep him out of sight from these three figures of authority.
Take a moment before you think the worst about werewolves: while some hunt humans, others can control their violent tendencies and live peacefully with the wizarding kind.
Werewolves live like normal human beings until the evening of a full moon. Under full moonlight, a werewolf will transform and will attempt to kill anything that crosses its path, even a best friend. If bitten by a werewolf, a witch or wizard will become a werewolf as well, while a muggle victim likely won't survive the attack.
There is a way to control these beastly transformations, however. Professor Lupin, a great friend of Harry's late father, is a werewolf. When the moon is full, he uses Wolfsbane Potion to relieve his symptoms and isolates himself to avoid accidental attacks.
Not every snake in Harry Potter is magical, but Voldemort's female snake Nagini certainly is. Part of her powers stem from being one of Voldemort's horcruxes, meaning part of the Dark Lord's soul lives inside of her. When Voldemort was in a very weak state, Nagini's venom was milked for a potion that restored his body temporarily. The 12-foot-long snake attacks several victims, most tragically killing Professor Snape in The Deathly Hallows — Part 2.
Abraxan Winged Horse
Of course J.K. Rowling doesn't imagine just one species of winged horse, but four. We meet the first breed during the Triwizard Tournament, when the students of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic arrive on a giant carriage pulled by Abraxan. Fun facts: they drink only single malt whiskey and are one of the species that can be a witch or wizard's Patronus.
A veela is a semi-human, known for being strikingly beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that their looks and dance captivate male humans so madly that they'll do just about anything to get closer. Veelas use wandless magic and have magical hair, which can be used for the core of a wand.
Fleur Delacour, one of the main characters in the Goblet of Fire, is part-veela, which explains why Ron was so enamored by her.
Technically, we don't see a real siren in the Harry Potter movies, but we do see a stained glass depicting one. Sirens are considered the most beautiful subspecies of merpeople. They typically live in bodies of warm water and are characterized by their beautiful singing voices.
Harry stumbles upon this siren portrait inside a Hogwarts bathroom, which helps him figure out a clue for the Triwizard Tournament.
Beware of the selkies! A colony of this Scottish merpeople subspecies lives in the Black Lake of Hogwarts. They are considered less beautiful than sirens and can be extremely dangerous.
Harry and his fellow Triwizard Tournament champions must surpass the underwater selkie community during their second task, which is no easy feat, thanks to their sharp tridents and frightening cries.
A grindylow is literally a water demon. Using its strong tentacles, the small creature can fatally strangle its prey.
The grindylow community in the Hogwarts Black Lake attack Harry Potter during the Triwizard Tournament. Luckily, he performs the Revulsion Jinx, which forces them to free their grip on his ankle and repels them away.
Don't be fooled: the Triwizard Maze may appear like an ordinary hedge, but its roots and vines can be fatal. In the film adaptation of the Goblet of Fire, Cedric Diggory and Fleur Delacour almost die in the maze when the plant attempts to consume them.
Thestrals are a particularly mysterious breed of winged horses; they can only be seen by those who have witnessed death (and fully processed it). These creatures have skeletal bodies, bat-like wings and white eyes that lack pupils. They are lured by the smell of blood, but when treated kindly allow humans to ride them.
Harry couldn't see thestrals until he witnessed the murder of Cedric Diggory during the Goblet of Fire. Harry's parents died in his presence when he was a baby, but since he was shielded in his crib, he was unable to see thestrals before Cedric's death.
How's the weather up there? Giants can grow to be 25 feet tall! They tend to be less intelligent than witches and wizards but aren't nearly as dimwitted as trolls. Giants can learn English (and also have their own language), but good luck simply talking your way through a dispute. They have a history of being violent and are difficult to detain since spells don't have much effect on them.
Disclaimer: not all giants are bad! While most take Voldemort's side during the First and Second Wizarding Wars, we have the pleasure of meeting Hagrid's brother Grawp (AKA Grawpy). Grawpy is kind to Harry and his friends, protects the centaurs of the Forbidden Forrest, and goes after the evil Professor Umbridge when she crosses the line. Fun fact: he has quite the crush on our heroine Hermione.
A pygmy puff is a miniature Puffskein, a fluffy pet that feeds on scraps of food and tiny insects. Fred and George Weasley breed the pygmy puffs to sell at their Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes shop. Their fluffy fur ranges in shades of pink and purple.
There's a very brief moment in the Half-Blood Prince when we meet Ginny's pet pygmy puff named Arnold. It oddly never makes a second appearance in the movies. Sorry, Arnold.
There's a debate about whether or not Wrackspurts exist (or any of the creatures Luna Lovegood believes in for that matter), but real or not Luna's perception of them helps save Harry. They are supposedly invisible, tiny creatures that float into a person's ears and can be seen by wearing Spectrespecs lenses.
During the Half-Blood Prince, Harry was eavesdropping on Malfoy while wearing his invisibility cloak. Sensing his presence, Malfoy attacks Harry with the Full Body-Bind Curse and leaves him there to suffer. Luckily for him, Luna was wearing a pair of Spectrespecs lenses and spots him passed out on the floor.
Creepiest creatures of Harry Potter? Probably inferi. An inferius is basically a zombie, but slightly different. It's a dead body that has been reanimated by a Dark Wizard. The one feature they all have in common is their eyes: they are cloudy white, having lost all traces of life. Inferi don't feel pain, which makes it very difficult to attack them, and they can be cursed to attack intruders senselessly. Keep in mind though, no spell can bring back the dead; inferi are not living humans revived from the grave. Think of them as bewitched, dead corpse puppets.
Harry and Dumbledore are attacked by a community of inferi while stealing one of Voldemort's horcruxes.
Wild Card: Insect
It's a stretch, but there's a chance we see a magical creature in Severus Snape and Lily Potter's flashback scene. Insects with what appear to be leaves for wings fly overhead as the young witch and wizard share a special moment.
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