Has J.K. Rowling crossed a line? The Harry Potter author is under fire after releasing the first two installments of her new story, “History of Magic in North America,” on her Pottermore website earlier this week.
The pieces, which chronicle the ways in which magic existed and was introduced to the New World in Rowling’s fictional universe, are being criticized by Native Americans who feel that the author is appropriating their culture for her own benefit.
“Native spirituality and religions are not fantasy on the same level as wizards. These beliefs are alive, practiced, and protected,” Dr. Adrienne Keene of the Cherokee Nation wrote in a piece for website Native Appropriations.
She then took to Twitter, publicly calling Rowling out on the social media site. “It’s not ‘your’ world. It’s our (real) Native world,” she wrote. “And skin walker stories have context, roots, and reality.”
On Pottermore, Rowling had written how “skin walkers” exist in the history of her fantasy world.
“The legend of the Native American ‘skin walker’ — an evil witch or wizard that can transform into an animal at will — has its basis in fact,” Rowling wrote. “A legend grew up around the Native American Animagi, that they had sacrificed close family members to gain their powers of transformation.”
When a Twitter user asked the author to clarify whether “skin walkers” were, then, good or evil, Rowling replied, “In my wizarding world, there were no skin-walkers. The legend was created by No-Majes [non-magical people] to demonize wizards.”
Keene’s issue with Rowling’s created past is also that young readers might conflate fantasy and what are, to Native American communities, very real traditions and beliefs.
“We fight so hard every single day as Native peoples to be seen as contemporary, real, full, and complete human beings and to push away from the stereotypes that restrict us in stock categories of mystical-connected-to-nature-shamans or violent-savage-warriors,” she wrote. “How in the world could a young person watch this and not make a logical leap that Native peoples belong in the same fictional world as Harry Potter?”
The last two installments in Rowling’s four-part series will appear on the site at the end of the week.
Rowling has yet to respond to the growing online controversy.
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