The Terrifying Implications of Nagini: Fantastic Beasts and Retroactive Damage To The Harry Potter Universe
With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald releasing in November, nerdy fans are abuzz about its possibilities. Its connecting even more to classic Harry Potter characters, after all, with the addition of a younger Dumbledore to the cast. However, the things they’re abuzz about aren’t all inherently good. Many fans have mixed feelings about Johnny Depp’s involvement as Grindelwald himself, are concerned about the portrayal of a younger Dumbledore, and, more recently, the uproarious confusion about adding Nagini, Voldemort’s pet snake, as a character in the film. What once was a highly intelligent reptile is now shown to be a beautiful woman who transforms into a massive snake. Her inclusion, her race, and her relevance have all been up for grabs when it comes to criticizing the film. Here, though, we are going to look into something more unsettling: what this new information on her implies for the original Harry Potter series.
And trust that those implications are disturbing.
When fans first met Nagini in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, she was just the malevolent war snake of Voldemort. She was smarter than the average viper, but she was still just a creature, a pet, trained and conditioned for his nefarious purposes.
Now, with the new information of her being a witch once, a cursed Maledictus, that consistent description of her gets a little murky. Instead of a dutiful pet, she’s a tortured human trapped in an animalistic form.
To give context to her transformation from woman to beast, her curse needs to be explained. As a Maledictus, Nagini is a witch cursed from birth. Only women have the curse. It’s a genetic affliction that passes from mother to daughter. No matter what she does, a Maledictus will eventually turn into a certain creature permanently. In the case of Nagini, that creature is a snake. Her affliction ostracizes her and, by Fantastic Beasts, leads her to be a member of a freak show.
She could be a willing, jaded participant in Voldemort’s deeds or a manipulated slave. Either way, Voldemort’s treatment of her is alarming. After all, more than anyone else, he treats Nagini like a pawn in his plans. He even makes her a horcrux. As evil and manipulative as he is, he wouldn’t do that unless he knew he had complete control over her.
Furthermore, even if she is evil, the fact she was once a young witch cursed to turn into a snake, it makes Neville chopping off her head far less triumphant. Instead of killing the final arm of Voldemort’s defenses, it’s now killing a woman who may have felt/been doomed to a terrible life. Even if she was a bad witch, it feels much sadder than the scene ever was before. Killing her isn’t a triumph. If Voldemort has manipulated her, it’s nearly merciful. Changes the tone entirely, doesn’t it?
Her curse also gives more validity to the chance she maybe isn’t inherently bad. Because of her affliction, she’s a vulnerable target for a man like Voldemort to manipulate. The Nagini that fans know may not be this vicious snake, she might just be a sad woman turned into an ultimate weapon. People can change into terrible things when the world turns their back on them.
If Voldemort manipulated the lonely, dejected Nagini into becoming his literal pet, convincing her to throw away her agency as a human and be devoted to him, that’s heartbreaking. It changes the entire narrative behind her.
There are some loopholes the movie might take to avoid the more depressing aspects of Nagini’s narrative. For example, regardless of her curse she may be evil. Then it only changes the fact that Neville killed a woman, not a snake. Still a more brutal situation now, but less depressing. Also, as the life span of a Maledictus is vague, the original Nagini could be dead and Voldemort’s snake could just be named after this original woman. That clears up any age confusion, humane murkiness, and the like.
Conclusively, the uncomfortable complexities of Nagini’s “true” origins is par for the course when it comes to Rowling. Though a fantastic world-builder, her notes on character depth have caused controversy. This goes from wishing she made Harry and Hermione get together to declaring Dumbledore gay despite making it nearly irrelevant in the books. These things upset fans most, though, because she casually reveals them on Twitter instead of in the books. Perhaps, though complicated, Nagini’s backstory will be more interesting because its’ revealed in the plot of the film. She may even become a fan-favorite character. Ultimately, only the movie will answer these questions and show why a doomed witch becomes the right-hand of the Dark Lord.
My best guess? Either Neville murdered a poor, Stockholm Syndrome-d woman or Voldemort’s evil girlfriend. Those head nuzzles were always weirdly affectionate.