An Open Letter to J.K. Rowling from Mugglenet and The Harry Potter Lexicon

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Open Letter
Title: An Open Letter to J.K. Rowling from Mugglenet and The Harry Potter Lexicon
From: Steve Vander Ark
Addressed To: J.K. Rowling
Date(s): September 2004 (open letter), July 2005 (Lexicon essay)
Medium: online
Fandom: Harry Potter
Topic: canon
External Links: The 2004 Open Letter to Rowling at Harry Potter Lexicon (reference link)
The original open letter at MuggleNet (Wayback capture)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

In September 2004, Steve Vander Ark/The Harry Potter Lexicon and MuggleNet wrote an open letter to J.K. Rowling. It was posted to both sites in 2004, and Vander Ark reposted the letter with an essay explaining its background and JKR's answers thus far at The Harry Potter Lexicon in July 2005.

The letter asks a number of question regarding canon. Vander Ark also questions how much of The Harry Potter Lexicon information was used for official purposes, something that may have led to/was reflected by some of the legal conflicts he had regarding a print version of The Lexicon. See The Harry Potter Lexicon Trial.

J.K. Rowling answered some, but not all, of the questions posed in the letter in the FAQ section of her official site, where these questions were marked as a "Mugglenet/Lexicon question". The FAQs were removed when her site was revamped from a Harry Potter site to a more general corporate one. They can still be accessed via the Wayback Machine,[1] and many of the answers are reposted or excerpted on the Harry Potter Lexicon.

See The Snake's Quill Interview with Steve Vander Ark.

The Letter

Dear Jo:

Not surprisingly, we're thrilled to know that you visit the Lexicon and MuggleNet on occasion. We are delighted that the work we've done is helpful and appreciated, not only to you but also to fans all over the world. Thank you so much for honoring us on your site.

First, let us say that we don't want to know any big secrets from upcoming books. What fun would that be? We want to be surprised when we read them. However, there are some more mundane things that we'd love to know. As obsessive as we are, we would love to have some nagging things answered, partly to add missing details into the Lexicon and MuggleNet's pages, but also just because it's fun to learn these kinds of things. We discussed this with your solicitor and he suggested that an open letter might be the best way for you to do this. That's why this letter is here.

At the bottom of this letter is a list of questions that just beg to be answered. We don't think any of them cross the line into giving too much away, and we would be thrilled if you could fill in the blanks for us.

Thanks for considering this. We can't thank you enough for creating your website and for communicating with us all. Most of all, thanks for creating such a wonderful world for us to play in.

Sincerely,

Steve Vander Ark
The Harry Potter Lexicon

and

Emerson and the rest of the crew
MuggleNet

Vander Ark's Explanation

The questions on the Open Letter were written by me, Steve Vander Ark, with the exception of a few which Emerson of MuggleNet asked to add. I spent over a month writing these questions, trying to find ways to word them which would clarify what exactly I wanted to know and, quite honestly, trying to make sure that Jo's response wouldn't just create a host of new questions. I figured I'd only have one chance to do this--I don't expect to write a new Open Letter whenever Jo happens to answer all the questions on this one. I knew that at least one or two of the questions would not be able to be answered in a way that satisfied all the references from the books. For example, I knew that there was really no way that Jo could rectify all the references to Charlie's age from the first three books, no matter how she answered. Please don't interpret that to mean that I was hoping to trick Jo into saying something that I could "prove" was wrong by the books. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since I write the Lexicon, and since I'm trying very hard to list the facts in its pages, I wanted to have a definitive answer to some of those questions, even though I knew that some book references may have to be ignored for now. Since Jo is actively editing her previous books, I am hoping that my mentioning some of these inconsistencies will be helpful not only for fans but for Jo as she works on that. [2]

The Questions

These are the questions Steve Vander Ark asked in his open letter. Some of the JKR's answers are here; reference link.

What are the first names of Flitwick, Sinistra, Vector, Sprout, Quirrell, and Hooch? What houses were they in? (Jo partially answered this question on her site when she listed October 17 as the birthday of Filius Flitwick. In book six, we learn that Sprout's first name is indeed Pomona, and in some of the notes on her website we find first names for Sinistra and Vector).

If a teacher is head of a house, can we assume that they were sorted into those houses when they were students at Hogwarts? Is that also true for the house ghosts? So was Snape a Slytherin? (It never actually says he was in the books...)

Who teaches Ancient Runes and Muggle Studies? Are there other teachers and subjects that we haven't heard about yet? In book seven we briefly meet the Muggle Studies teacher, Charity Burbage, right before she is murdered by Voldemort. As for Ancient Runes, we have a name from the notes on Jos' site.

Is Flitwick a short human or is he some other type of being?

What is Godric's Hollow? Is it a town, a house, a street, a tree...?

How many students are there really at Hogwarts? You said 1000 once, but that doesn't really work out very well with information elsewhere in the books. Do you have a better explanation for us?

How old are Molly and Arthur Weasley? (Thanks for letting us know that Lucius is 41, by the way. We wondered.)

You said recently that Charlie was two years older than Percy. If that's so, he would have been the Seeker in Harry's first year. Can you clarify his and Bill's ages for us?

As you probably know, we have worked out the years of the books to 1991 through 1998 using information from the books. The official timeline on the Chamber of Secrets DVD follows this as well. Is that correct?

Speaking of that official timeline, there is some pretty convincing evidence that they took the timeline directly from the Lexicon. Do you know anything about that? The folks at Warner said that they took a timeline and gave it to you for review. Was the timeline they gave you from the Lexicon's calendars?

Did you actually write the information that ended up on the Famous Wizard cards? Most of it fits pretty well into the overall story and they do seem to be written in your style. In fact, the material from the cards is now turning up on your website. So how about it? And then what about things like "Flipendo"? For that matter, what about the spells in the films? Some of them do seem a bit dodgy. Did you invent those or did Steve Kloves? And why were new incantations created for the movies in the first place? (Example: "Incendio" to "Lacarnum Inflamarae".)

What house was Myrtle in? What was/is her last name?

Are there other Gryffindors in Harry's year besides the ones we've met in the books?

Is Theodore Nott the "stringy" Slytherin mentioned in the Thestral class scene? If he isn't, who is that boy?

On your website, you used the term "marauders" to refer to James and his friends. Were they actually called that or are you just borrowing the fan term?

Were Gideon and Fabian Prewett Molly's brothers?

Was James a Chaser, as you said in an interview at one point, or a Seeker? Or did he play both positions?

Do all young people in the wizarding world (from Britain) go to Hogwarts? For example, did Stan Shunpike attend Hogwarts? Or is Hogwarts a school just for those who are particularly good at magic while others go into trades without formal schooling?

In fifth year, some students are made Prefects. Are there sixth year and seventh year Prefects as well? Are they simply the same kids or are there new Prefects chosen each year? (We're resisting the urge to ask how James became Head Boy if he was't made a Prefect in fifth year).

How old are Mad-Eye Moody and Tonks and what houses were they in?

You've told us that Hermione's birthday is September 19. When she first came to Hogwarts, then, was she nearly eleven years old or was she nearly twelve? The official timeline says that she was nearly eleven, but we're all still very unsure about this.

What are Dumbledore's, Draco's, and Hermione's wands made of and what are their cores?

Is there a living heir of Gryffindor? The books only mention an heir of Slytherin. What about Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff?

References

  1. Section: F.A.Q. - About the Books at J.K.Rowling Official Site, last archived by the Wayback Machine on 04 February 2012.
  2. from Questions and More Questions; reference link, accessed September 2013