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13 Creatures that Could Show Up in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Principal photography hasn’t yet begun on 2016's Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will follow the adventures of wizard and magizoologist Newt Scamander as he encounters all manner of magical creatures 70 years before Harry's time at Hogwarts. (J.K. Rowling has penned the script, and Eddie Redmayne has signed on to star.) But thanks to a book version of Fantastic Beasts, first published in 2001 with Rowling writing as Scamander, we can get a glimpse at some of the creatures that might make cameos in the new film—as well as just how dangerous they are according to the Ministry of Magic. Here are a few that seem particularly cinematic.

1. ASHWINDER

Rating: XXX // Competent wizard should cope

Basilisks and Nagini aren’t the only horrifying snakes in the wizarding world. The Ashwinder is “a thin, pale-gray serpent with glowing red eyes” that is “created when a magical fire”—any flames to which a magical substance, like Flue powder, has been added—“is allowed to burn unchecked for too long.” The snake “will rise from the embers of an unsupervised fire and slither away into the shadows of the dwelling ... leaving an ashy trail behind it.”

The Ashwinder lives only an hour; after it lays its eggs in a dark spot, it collapses to ash. The eggs “are brilliant red and give off intense heat. They will ignite the dwelling within minutes if not found and frozen with a suitable charm.” Once frozen, the eggs are used in love potions and, when eaten whole, can cure ague.

2. BILLYWIG

Rating: XX // Harmless, may be domesticated

This Australian insect is “around half an inch long and a vivid sapphire blue,” with wings “attached to the top of its head ... rotated very fast so that is spins when it flies." The Billywig is so fast it’s rarely noticed by Muggles; its sting creates giddiness, then levitation: “Too many stings cause the victim to hover uncontrollably for days on end, and where there is a severe allergic reaction, permanent floating may ensue.”

3. DEMIGUISE

Rating: XXXX // Dangerous/Requires specialist knowledge/skilled wizard may handle

This docile, herbivorous animal is found in the Far East and resembles “a graceful ape in appearance, with large, black, doleful eyes” and a body “covered with long, fine, silky, silvery hair.” When threatened, the demiguise goes invisible. For this reason, its pelts are very valuable—the hair is used to make invisibility cloaks. (The Demiguise shouldn’t be confused with the Yeti, which also appears in the book.)

4. DIRICAWL

Rating: XX // Harmless, may be domesticated

This creature might sound familiar. The Diricawl hails from Mauritius, and is “a plump-bodied, fluffy-feathered, flightless bird” that, when threatened, vanishes “in a puff of feathers and reappear[s] elsewhere.” Muggles knew of this creature at one point, but obviously didn’t know it could vanish, and so they “believe they have hunted the species to extinction.” Yup, the Diricawl is the Dodo. The International Confederation of Wizards has decided never to reveal the dodo’s continued existence to Muggles, because the situation “seems to have raised Muggle awareness of the dangers of slaying their fellow creatures indiscriminately.”

5. DRAGON

Rating: XXXXX // Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate

It seems a fair bet that at least one dragon will pop up in Fantastic Beasts. It could be one we’ve seen before—perhaps the Hungarian Horntail, “supposedly the most dangerous of all dragon breeds,” which Harry faced off against in the Triwizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire—or it could be another of the 10 breeds listed in the book. Fingers crossed for the Ukranian Ironbelly, which, at 6 tons, is the biggest dragon of them all. Though the book notes that the animal is rotund and slower in flight than many other dragon breeds, “the Ironbelly is nevertheless extremely dangerous, capable of crushing dwellings on which it lands” with talons that are “particularly long and vicious.”

6. ERKLING

Rating: XXXX // Dangerous/Requires specialist knowledge/skilled wizard may handle

The Brothers Grimm might have written cautionary tales about Erklings if they hadn’t been mere Muggles. This creature, native to the Black Forest in Germany, is 3 feet high “with a pointed face and a high-pitched cackle that is particularly entrancing to children, whom it will attempt to lure away from their guardians and eat.”

7. FIRE CRAB

Rating: XXX // Competent wizard should cope

This animal, native to Fiji, looks more like a tortoise than a crab. It has a “heavily jeweled shell,” which “unscrupulous wizards” have turned into cauldrons. The crab does have a defense mechanism, though: When threatened, it shoots flames from its bum.

8. JOBBERKNOLL

Rating: XX // Harmless, may be domesticated

This “tiny blue, speckled bird” native to Northern Europe and America doesn’t make any sound at all during its life. But the moment it dies, “it lets out a long scream made up of every sound it has ever heard, regurgitated backwards.” Its feathers are used in memory potions and truth serums.

9. LETHIFOLD

Rating: XXXXX // Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate

Also known as The Living Shroud, this “mercifully rare creature” is found only in tropical climes, and “resembles a black cloak perhaps half an inch thick (thicker if it has killed an digested a victim), which glides along the ground at night.” It sounds like a Dementor—to which it may be related—and, as with Dementors, the only way to repel a Lethifold is to use a Patronus Charm.

But there are some key differences between the two: The Lethifold typically attacks the sleeping, giving its victims little chance to fight back. Dementors suck out the souls out of anyone unlucky enough to stumble upon them, eventually administering a kiss that leaves victims alive, but empty shells. A Lethifold, however, suffocates its prey, consuming and digesting the victim in his or her own bed. It leaves the house “slightly thicker and fatter than before, leaving no trace of itself or its victim behind.”

10. NUNDU

Rating: XXXXX // Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate

This beast, which hails from East Africa, is described as “a gigantic leopard” that moves silently and is “arguably the most dangerous [creature] in the world.” Its breath causes disease that can destroy entire villages; subduing it takes at least 100 exceptionally skilled wizards working together.

11. POGREBIN

Rating: XXX // Competent wizard should cope

This 12-inch-tall Russian demon has “a hairy body but a smooth, oversize gray head,” which helps it resemble a rock when crouching. The creatures enjoy following humans, “staying in their shadow and crouching quickly should the shadow’s owner turn around.” If this is allowed to continue for a number of hours, the victim will eventually be overcome with futility and despair: “When the victim stops walking and sinks to their knees to weep at the pointlessness of it all, the Pogrebin will leap upon them and attempt to devour them.” Repelling the demon is as easy as using a hex or a Stupefying Charm, and, if all else fails, “kicking has also been found effective.”

12. QUINTAPED

Rating: XXXXX // Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate

Muggles and wizards alike have much to fear from this “highly dangerous carnivorous beast,” which has a “particular taste for humans.” Its body is low to the ground and covered with reddish-brown hair; it has five legs, each ending in a clubfoot. The creatures were created when one wizard clan transfigured another. Thankfully, these creatures are only found on an unplottable island off the northernmost tip of Scotland.

13. STREELER

Rating: XXX // Competent wizard should cope

The venom produced by this giant snail, which changes color every hour, “shrivels and and burns all vegetation over which is passes” and “is one of the few substances known to kill Horklumps,” mushroom-like creatures that infest gardens.

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An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
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Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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12 Smart Book Ideas for Everyone in Your Life
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Books make the perfect gift: they're durable, transportable, and they promise some (hopefully) quality alone time. But what do you get the aunt who loves mystery novels if you're not familiar with the genre? Or the nephew who devours travelogues and goes backpacking around the world? Look no further—we've got them covered, plus 10 other very specific categories.

1. FOR THE VINTAGE COOKBOOK LOVER: LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES: THE LIFE, ART, AND COOKBOOK OF CIPE PINELES, EDITED BY SARAH RICH,‎ WENDY MACNAUGHTON, DEBBIE MILLMAN, AND MARIA POPOVA; $27

Book cover for Leave Me Alone With the Recipes
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Author Sarah Rich and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton fell in love with the work of Cipe Pineles, the first female art director at Condé Nast, after discovering her recipes at a San Francisco antiquarian book fair. Filled with vibrantly colored illustrations, Leave Me Alone With the Recipes shows the joyful spirit and homespun flair that made Pineles’s work so influential. Alongside the recipes, the book includes contributions from luminaries in the worlds of food and illustration, including artist Maira Kalman and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings renown.

Find It: Amazon

2. FOR ANYONE HAVING SURGERY THIS YEAR: THE BUTCHERING ART: JOSEPH LISTER’S QUEST TO TRANSFORM THE GRISLY WORLD OF VICTORIAN MEDICINE BY LINDSEY FITZHARRIS; $27

Cover of The Butchering Art
Amazon

Back in the bad old days of medicine, a consistently blood-soaked apron was a sign of pride. Surgeons rarely washed them—or their hands, or their operating tools. Joseph Lister, the somewhat reluctant hero of Lindsey Fitzharris's new book The Butchering Art, was the genius who convinced the medical world that germs were not only real but a major cause of mortality in their hospitals. With an eye for vivid details and the colorful characters of 19th century medicine, Fitzharris has crafted a book that will make you thank Lister for his foresight—and make you glad you weren't alive back then.

Find It: Amazon

3. FOR THE GENEALOGY OBSESSIVE: IT’S ALL RELATIVE: ADVENTURES UP AND DOWN THE WORLD’S FAMILY TREE BY A.J. JACOBS; $27

Cover of Its All Relative
Simon & Schuster

What constitutes a "family"? In his latest book, A.J. Jacobs (famed for lifestyle experiments like trying to live an entire year in accordance with the Bible) delves into the world of genetics and genealogy to try and orchestrate the world's largest family reunion. With his trademark humor and insight, he ends up exploring the interconnectedness of all of humankind.

Find It: Amazon

4. FOR THE SOCIALLY AWARE YOUNG ADULT: THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS; $18

Cover of The Hate U Give
Amazon

Already caught between the conflicting worlds of the poor neighborhood where she lives and her fancy prep school, 16-year-old Starr Carter finds herself in the middle of a tragedy when her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer. As his death becomes a national flashpoint, it becomes clear that she may be the only person alive who can explain what really happened that night. Angie Thomas's writing has earned praise for being gut-wrenching, searing, and deftly crafted; Publishers Weekly called the book "heartbreakingly topical."

Find It: Amazon

5. FOR FANS OF PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY THAT READS LIKE A NOVEL: THE WARS OF THE ROOSEVELTS: THE RUTHLESS RISE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST POLITICAL FAMILY BY WILLIAM J. MANN; $35

You might think you know the Roosevelts, but historian William J. Mann looks beyond the well-worn stories to expose the bitter rivalries that drove its most famous members' quest for power. Along the way, he examines the Roosevelts who were kept away from the limelight, and the secrets they hold—all told in dramatic style.

Find It: Amazon

6. FOR THE INTREPID TRAVELER: ATLAS OBSCURA: AN EXPLORER'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD'S HIDDEN WONDERS, BY JOSHIA FOER, DYLAN THURAS, AND ELLA MORTON; $35

The book cover for Atlas Obscura's book
Amazon.com

An amusement park in a salt mine? Check. A tree so big it has its own pub? Check. A giant hole that's been spouting flames for 40 years? Check. This guidebook is a compendium of the world's strangest and most wonderful places, and it's guaranteed to inspire some serious wanderlust, especially in more adventurous travelers. For the complete experience, you can also get an awesome wall calendar featuring destinations from the book designed as vintage travel posters; there's a page-a-day desk calendar and explorers' journal too.

Find it: Amazon

7. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES WEIRD HISTORY: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW SELECTED ESSAYS; $20

The Public Domain Review is one of the premier online destination for fans of curious history. If you know someone who enjoys stories about weird medieval medicine treaties, ancient automata, deranged 18th century scientists, and other odd subjects well off the beaten historical path, look no further than this book of essays (the site's fourth).

Find It: The Public Domain Review

8. FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY: THE BIG BOOK OF ROGUES AND VILLAINS, EDITED BY OTTO PENZLER; $25

Cover of the Big Book of Rogues and Villains
Amazon

At the heart of every good mystery is a (usually dastardly) perpetrator, whether it's a Count Dracula or a Jimmy Valentine. With this anthology, Edgar Award winner Otto Penzler has combed through 150 years of literary history to find 72 stories featuring the most famous and entertaining antiheroes authors have ever been able to dream up.

Find It: Amazon

9. FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE BORSCHT BELT IS: JEWISH COMEDY: A SERIOUS HISTORY BY JEREMY DAUBER; $28.95

Jews and humor go together like challah and Manischewitz (after all, as my bubbie says, if you don't laugh, you'll cry). In this "serious history," Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber considers the origins of Jewish humor in Biblical times through its life on Twitter today; how it's reflected—and even influenced—Jewish history; the production of major archetypes like the Jewish mother; and the prominence of Jewish comedians like Sarah Silverman and Larry David. You don't have to be Jewish to love it, but it may help you understand the in-jokes.

Find It: Amazon

10. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES DARK SHORT STORIES: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES, BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO; $16

Book cover for Her Body and Other Parties
Amazon

A story told in the form of Law & Order episode summaries. A strange plague that makes girls go invisible, as narrated by a mall worker. A recollection of romantic encounters with the last of humanity’s survivors. In this collection, Carmen Maria Machado fuses urban legends, dystopian tropes, and heavy helpings of sexuality to create a new kind of magical realism strangely appropriate to our era. The images will haunt you long after you put the book down, if you let them.

Find It: Amazon

11. FOR THE PERSON WHO LOVES BIG-DEAL LITERARY NOVELS AND ALSO ABRAHAM LINCOLN: LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, BY GEORGE SAUNDERS; $18

A meditation on sorrow and the Civil War populated by a rag-tag group of ghosts, Lincoln in the Bardo starts with the real-life death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, Abraham's son. In the book, Willie has entered the Bardo—a Tibetan Buddhist term for a transitional limbo—where there's a fierce struggle underway for his soul.

Find It: Amazon

12. FOR THE GENERALIST: A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION; $45 FOR THREE MONTHS

A book of the month club subscription box with gift trappings nearby
Book of the Month Club

Can’t decide what to get, but feeling generous? Give your friend who loves to read a new hardcover book of their choice every month. Literary fans who are short on time will love having someone else do the legwork to find the best new novels; plus, there’s early access to new releases. Prices vary depending on the length of the subscription, and there’s a deal right now where you can get a month free when you give a subscription as a gift.

Find It: Book of the Month

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