Canon and its Application in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

A few weeks back, we were asked to read the introduction to Literary Analysis the basics by Celena Kusch. When I read this, I remember stopping when I got to the word “canonical.” Me being the huge Harry Potter nerd thought about how books can be seen as canon to a series. For those who don’t understand the Harry Potter connection, there is a big debate over whether or not the Cursed Child is seen as canon. Now I am probably the only one who thinks this funny that the literary definition is about religious books, where we now use it when discussing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. 

Though the application of the word has expanded over the years, I think it’s important to consider how subjective the word canon is. The literary definition states whether or not a book has “importance, influence, brilliance, and exemplary qualities,” which cannot be measured (7). How can you compare writing and decide what is of value and what’s not? You can break down conventions, or use of literary devices, but these are mostly used for educational purposes. Over the years, what was seen as important has shifted; this makes it hard to distinguish what is still important to us today. For instance, literature written by minorities were often ignored throughout history, but that doesn’t make them not important to us today. 

About whether something is canon to a series has a slightly different meaning. According to Wikipedia, canon in fiction “is the material accepted as officially part of the story in the fictional universe of that story. It is often contrasted with, or used as the basis for, works of fan fiction.” This definition seems to leave nothing up to interpretation, but I see some issues. What defines “officially accepted?” Is it what the author says or is it the reader’s opinion that matters? This might seem like an obvious answer, but when it comes to the Cursed Child is a slippery slope.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Harry Potter series, it follows a boy from the ages of 11 to 17 and his experiences with a new, magical world, and his past. At the end of the series, we are given an epilogue, wrapping up the story with each of the characters and their families. This is where the Cursed Child starts. It continues with the children of the characters and if you don’t want spoilers, stop reading now. The son of Harry and Ginny, Albus, goes to travel through time with the son of Draco, Scorpius, to save Cedric. They end up succeeding and Voldemort comes back with his daughter at his side. 

Now that you have both definitions of canon and how it changes throughout history and the basic plot, we can go into whether it can be considered canon. Now Super Carlin Brothers uploaded a video where J discusses how it shouldn’t be canon, even though J.K. Rowling tweeted otherwise. I happen to agree with the points he made. The two major plot holes in the cursed child are seen with the time turner and how it works. In the canon book series, Rowling sets up a method for time travel that doesn’t leave loose ends. In this system, you can’t constantly meddle with time because a new timeline isn’t made with each attempt. Harry and Hermoine stay on the same timeline throughout their mission to save Buckbeak and Sirius. Everything they do already happened in the past. This makes it so you cant constantly change what has happened, which doesn’t leave readers with questions like why don’t you go back in time and kill Voldemort. This was a smart writing move that didn’t make her past work irrelevant as the Cursed Child did. The Cursed Child takes the one timeline rule and throws it out the window. Scorpius and Albus create several timelines throughout the cursed child, all of which have some problems that I will get into later. This creation of timelines completely disregards the canon books, which means that it cant possibly canon. How can something canon contradict itself? 

Another major problem with the time turners is one of the final timelines. When Albus disappears, Scorpius decides that Harry must’ve died because Cedric killed Neville so the snake is still alive. This causes Harry to die in the battle, but that just doesn’t make sense. These events don’t necessarily correlate. Yes, Neville did kill the snake which made it possible for Voldemort to die, but Voldemort not dying doesn’t guarantee Harry’s death. As J explained, it just means that Voldemort doesn’t die. Harry would still be the master of the elder wand, causing Voldemort to kill Snape. But in this timeline, Snape survives somehow and Harry dies. This not only doesn’t make sense but also underminds the final book of the series. 

Other smaller flaws in the Cursed Child include, but aren’t limited to the changing of Cedric’s character to make him a Deatheater, Voldemort day existing despite the fear of his name, Voldemort having a baby with Bellatrix, and the fact that Hermoine and Ron would’ve never fallen in love if it wasn’t for jealously. I particularly have a problem with Voldemort having a baby. For someone who we were constantly told can’t love to have a child just seems far fetched. Not only that, Bellatrix was never pregnant in any of the books. This could be explained by her not showing yet, but wouldn’t make sense due to her constant appearances and time in Azkaban. We see her at the end of the fifth book, shortly after being freed from Azkaban in the battle at the Ministry of Magic. We then see her in the summertime at the beginning of the sixth book going to talk to snape without a baby. She is then seen at the top of the belltower, again without any sign of a baby. We then see her in a meeting with Voldemort at the beginning of the seventh book and again in Malfoy Manor in the middle of the book and finally dies at the end. This doesn’t give her enough time to get knocked up and then give birth. Not only this, her daughter is never mentioned on the Pottermore page section dedicated to her. If these books were considered canon, there would be mention of the characters in the official site for all things Harry Potter. This website can be considered canon in some aspects including the character bio mentioned and other articles written by J.K. Rowling herself. 

But not everything that comes from J.K. Rowling can be considered canon. She has mentioned things in interviews that go against the series, and are not canon. These things are just as informal as a tweet, which is the only leg the cursed child has to stand on. This is why it is clear that there is no way the Cursed Child can be canon without undermining the whole series. 

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