America & The Harry Potter Franchise
Today marks twenty years since the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; or, as American audiences know it, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The reason the word ‘philosopher’ was substituted for ‘sorcerer’ in the States is because, apparently, the word ‘sorcerer’ was predicted to be confusing to American readers. Given this, a social media user became concerned that Americans may struggle to understand the rest of the novels and renamed them accordingly;
Why is this relevant? As twenty years of Hogwarts adventures with Harry and the gang come to a close, a new spin-off is broadening the horizon of the wizarding world beyond the borders of Great Britain. America played host to the 2016 film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Further sequels have been announced, with fans hoping for further insight into Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, located in North America.
Ilvermorny: An Introduction
J.K. Rowling has posted a fair amount of information about Ilvermorny on Pottermore. The following video is an introduction to the school.
The founder is a woman called Isolt Sayre, a pureblood descendant of Salazar Slytherin born in Ireland. Despite their pureblood status, Isolt’s parents showed great kindness to their muggle neighbours. This was a highly controversial action, particularly for this time period (1600’s). This drove Gormlaith Gaunt (yep, one of Voldemort’s ancestors!), her mother’s estranged sister, to kill Isolt’s parents and kidnap Isolt to raise her away from muggles. Because Salazar Slytherin’s plan for a pure-blood dominated Hogwarts had failed, Gormlaith refused to allow Isolt to attend.
Eventually Isolt realised Gormlaith had killed her parents. She stole her aunt’s wand and fled to America, where she rescued two orphaned wizard boys and fell in love with a no-maj (the American term for ‘muggle’), named James. She and James, who decided to raise the boys themselves, built a house in the woods and dubbed it Ilvermorny. Because she could not send her sons to Hogwarts, Isolt resolved to teach them at home.
Having heard tales of the Hogwarts houses, the boys insisted Ilvermorny have its own house structure. They each picked a magical creature; Thunderbolt, Wampus, Pukwudgie and Horned Serpent, and thus the four houses of Ilvermorny were born. As word spread of Isolt’s school, more and more wizarding families who had settled in the Americas began sending their children to Ilvermorny.
Ilvermorny: The Sorting Ceremony
Rowling describes the American school as built off Hogwarts’ ideology, but less elitist and more accepting. The sorting process at Ilvermorny is very different to Hogwarts. There is a statue of each house, which offers a student a place in their respective house if that student so desires. If more than one house offers a student a place, the onus is transferred to the student to choose (yep, it’s just like The Voice). It’s very rare for all four houses to choose one student, but it happens.
The last student to be offered a place in all four houses was Seraphina Picquery. She chose the Horned Serpent to be her house, which favours scholar, and went on to become the President of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), as seen in Fantastic Beasts (2016).
It’s worth noting that given the house structure differs so much between the wizarding schools, there is no ‘equivalent’ Hogwarts house for any of the Ilvermorny houses. Rather, there are two correlating Ilvermorny houses for each Hogwarts house. For example I strongly identify as a Slytherin and fit the bill for Horned Serpent much more closely than Wampus.
It’s interesting to note that both America’s wizarding school and wizarding government were inspired by their British counterparts.