J.K. Rowling Gives Her North American School A Backstory And A Sorting Quiz

Earlier this year, J.K. Rowling served her ever-hungry fans new stories to feast on with her Pottermore series “History of Magic in North America.” The stories touched on a wizarding school much like Hogwarts but with a more mysterious and slightly less satisfying name: Ilvermorny.

There’d been scant information about the school and its students until today, when Rowling released a video, a brief history and a sorting hat quiz on Pottermore.

Ready to discover #Ilvermorny for the first time? Delve into the rich history of the North American school…https://t.co/UBFdY5RMVD

— Pottermore (@pottermore) June 28, 2016

“Its enchanted stone walls have stood strong through the ages, surviving fearsome battles and weathering powerful storms to become one of the wizarding world’s greatest schools,” the video dictates. “If these walls could talk, they would tell you a tale of loyalty, revenge and a love that gave it life.”

That’s still pretty vague, albeit intriguing.

We then learn towards the end of the video that Ilvermorny was founded by a young Irish girl named Isolt Sayre, who’s in possession of a “unique stolen wand.” A more detailed story of Sayre’s upbringing — which is reminiscent of a certain other famous wizard’s — is detailed on Pottermore.

“At 5 years old, an attack upon the family home resulted in the death of both of her parents,” the story reads. “Isolt was ‘rescued’ from the fire by her mother’s estranged sister, Gormlaith Gaunt, who took her to the neighbouring valley of Coomcallee, or ‘Hag’s Glen,’ and raised her there.”

Sayre then travelled to America on the Mayflower, settling there among a crew of No-Majs, the overseas word for Muggles. After run-ins with a few magical creatures and fellow Plymouth settlers, she goes on to found Ilvermorny, growing the school enough by 1634 to allow for inter-house sports — which is where the handy sorting hat comes in.

You've read the history, and now you can find out your own #Ilvermorny house! https://t.co/hcpPFkD2aw pic.twitter.com/1tRAesIeW3

— Pottermore (@pottermore) June 28, 2016

The story of Ilvermorny was first announced to promote the upcoming film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. The additional, richly described wizarding worlds have polarized fans, most of whom can’t get enough of Rowling’s legends, and some of whom take issue with her relentless updating, well after Harry Potter’s saga has ended.

On occasion, Rowling will use her powers for good, noting on Twitter that she fully supports casting a black Hermione, who would be totally canon. But she’s also made a few missteps with her appendages; in a four-part Pottermore series on North American magic, Rowling lumped separate Native American communities into a single, monolithic group with shared traditions. Needless to say, she messed up.

Once again, in revealing the Ilvermorny houses, each named after a magical creature — Thunderbird, Wampus, Serpent and Pukwudgie — she’s plucked disparate components of Native American culture, corralling them together into one mashed-up house, one that was founded and run by a white, Irish settler. 

This simplistic rewrite of a rich history is dangerous — in today’s story on Ilvermorny, she dashes off the school’s houses as “light-heartedly named.” 

It’s clear that Rowling’s habit of revealing tantalizing tidbits won’t let up anytime soon — here’s hoping that future installments are better informed, and more respectful, of the cultures that inspired them.