Robin: This would be a rather disturbing little booklet if it were not so firmly established as a part of the fictional reality of the Harry Potter Saga – it even has scribbled comments by the young wizard Harry and his friends. As it is, however, it still reveals what it might be like if human beings had knowledge of and power over the magical world: in short, we see the familiar pattern of exploitation and control.

There is a rather sketchy account of how, in the face of persecution by Muggles – that is, non-magic humans – the wizards came to the decision to suppress Muggle knowledge of magic. This necessitated extending their control over all magical creatures; convenient, a sceptical person might think. Exaggerating danger from outsiders is a recognized tool of tyrants. Another chapter explains how the wizarding world came to its classification of creatures into beings, beasts, and spirits. Attempts to distinguish between them based on number of legs or ability to speak proved disastrous; in the end, it seems to have come down to self-classification. Perhaps tellingly, the centaurs and the merpeople chose not to align themselves with the wizard-dominated ‘beings’, preferring beast status.

I have indicated before the sorry portraiture of fairy-kind in this particular world, and here it is highly explicit: “A fairy is a small and decorative beast of little intelligence”, both vain and quarrelsome. It is decidedly insect-like, laying eggs on the underside of leaves and weaving cocoons. The similar doxy (or “biting fairy”) has extra limbs and sharp teeth. Leprechauns get the best entry, being described as “more intelligent than the fairy and less malicious than the imp, the pixie or the Doxy” – however, they are still a wild variety, oddly green in colour.

Also listed are gnomes and trolls, the former an annoying garden pest, the latter fearsome and violent. Although dwarfs and elves are not included, presumably classed as beings (neither race is specifically mentioned in this book), the dwarf-like Red Cap and the elvish Erkling are.

While the casual references to wizards’ use of the blood, eggs and powdered parts of beasts indicate a rather cavalier attitude, I did enjoy the description of various bizarre and wholly original beasts, such as Erumpents and Fwoopers. As an edition of the famous Hogwarts textbook, however, this edition is distinctly lacking. Despite the title, specific locations are not given and descriptions are short, with many details conspicuous by their absence. Above all, no photographs! Ruthless censorship by the Ministry of Magic?

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