If you’re a Potterhead, then you’re probably stoked to find out Nagini’s origins will be explored in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”.
Played by Claudia Kim, the news was met with controversy when some accused casting of being “racist”. That aside, most of us were captivated by the fact that the snake girl in the sequel’s trailer was in fact Nagini. So how did she and Voldemort meet? How did their relationship progress?
J.K. Rowling has once again managed to connect “Fantastic Beasts” to “Harry Potter” by including yet another crucial character. It has always been difficult to place Nagini in Voldemort’s life. She’s one of the characters that lacks a backstory, so it’s nice that fans are getting a chance to witness it on the big screen. Let’s explore some theories based on Harry Potter Folklore:
1. The meaning of Nagini
The author herself tweeted that she’s been holding on to this Nagini secret for 20 years. By now, you should know that Nagini is a Maledictus, which is a blood curse that only affects females. According to sources, “Mal” is a prefix of Latin origin meaning “bad”, “wrongful”, or “ill”. “Dictus” in Latin means “spoken”. Together, they could mean “ill spoken”.
The name Nagini is originated from several cultures. Looking at Wikipedia, Nagini is a “female counterpart for a class of entity or being that takes the form of a very large snake… sometimes seen with a partly human form”. So Rowling knew all along what Nagini was.
Rowling also elaborated further:
The Naga are snake-like mythical creatures of Indonesian mythology, hence the name ‘Nagini.’ They are sometimes depicted as winged, sometimes as half-human, half-snake. Indonesia comprises a few hundred ethnic groups, including Javanese, Chinese and Betawi. Have a lovely day 🐍
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 26, 2018
2. Understanding Nagini’s condition
When it comes to the character’s transformation, some may bring up a werewolf’s change and that of an Animagus (a witch or wizard who can morph him or herself into an animal at will). One has no control of their change while the other doesn’t. Yet Nagini is supposed to be condemned by this curse – which is to be eventually transformed into a snake for eternity. But until then, she can opt between her human form and snake form.
At what point does her blood curse consumed her? It seems that the affliction takes place at a later age in life. Taking that into consideration, it is unlikely we’ll see Nagini transformed permanently in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”. They’ll probably save it for the next film or the one after.
Some fans believe that there’s a limitation to the amount of Nagini’s transformation. So why would she continue to transform knowing she’ll be stuck that way? There are several reasons to consider.
3. Nagini’s lifespan
Eternity. It’s safe to assume that Nagini is her 20s in the upcoming movie. Judging by her death in 1998 while subtracting the timeline of Grindelwald (which was in 1926) – Nagini was approximately 92 years old (72 years difference + 20) when she was killed during the battle of Hogwarts.
The average age of a viper is 20 years. So that’s 70+ years passed the age of a snake’s lifespan. This would support the notion that a Maledictus becomes immortal after being trapped in an animal’s body forever. This also probably results in Nagini’s change of heart.
4. Maledictus aren’t destined to be evil
It is believed that Nagini is against Grindelwald rather then with him. She’s a good character with a good heart but falls into darkness after being stuck in an animal’s body that she wasn’t born with and doesn’t belong in.
Can you imagine growing up as human with the privileges that comes with it, only to become a reptile? You loose the ability to run and communicate. Your source of food is now other animals while having a human mindset. Anyone in Nagini’s unfortunate position would clearly go insane. Not having anyone to talk is also a hard blow, as parseltongue is incredibly rare.
This is where Voldemort comes in…
5. Meeting Voldemort for the first time
Grindelwald falls in 1945 just as Tom Riddle graduates with his evil plans for world domination. Tom is a parselmouth and has a strong connection to snakes. It has always been this way since he was a boy. He’s been drawn to them, and them to him.
Imagine Nagini’s surprise when she comes across a boy who can hear her speak. Now where would the duo could have met one another? Harry Potter Folklore suggests that it could had happened at a certain cave during a field trip. According to the books, young Tom scared Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop (fellow orphanage children) beyond belief to the point where they never spoke a word of it again. Did Tom asked Nagini to scare both Amy and Dennis?
6. Tom & Nagini’s relationship progress
Harry Potter Folklore also believes that Tom and Nagini meet again in the forest of Albania when Tom went to locate the lost diadem. Perhaps now that he is older and wiser, Tom felt that he may have use of Nagini down the road. Seduced by his charm and need for companionship, Nagini might have pledge her loyalty to Tom right there and then. Given their long history together, Nagini is perhaps the only being that Voldemort came close to caring about.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise that Nagini might have allowed Voldemort to take control of her several times. Nagini became Voldemort’s one true friend, the only being the Dark Lord could trust without question, the only one would never betray him. He turned her into a freaking Horcrux, and that says it all.
7. Claudia Kim weighs in on controversy
As aforementioned, the racist controversy made quite a splash. Here’s what the 33-year-old South Korean actress had to say about an Asian woman playing a “slave” to Voldemort:
“It was unexpected. When I found out that I’m playing Nagini, I thought it was meaningful because it’s an important character in the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Harry Potter’ is a franchise film with many Caucasian actors, so I thought many Korean viewers would be happy,” she told AllKpop.
Kim continued, “I’m looking forward to viewers being satisfied and the controversy fading away once the film premieres. I don’t perceive such controversy solely in a negative way. I believe changes can be made by giving attention to an Asian’s promotions (like this) and through the people that look into such issues.”
8. On why an Asian should portray Nagini
“I think Nagini should’ve been played by an Asian. Scriptwriter JK Rowling probably searched for an Asian actress because she researched the origin of Nagini. I’m not sure if it’s just my pride, but I think I was able to bring out a different vibe as a Korean in Hollywood where there are many Korean Americans,” quipped Kim.
She added, “I was a fan who believed in (J.K.) Rowling. She’s always shown that she’s interested in the marginalised. Since this is just the beginning of Nagini’s story, I think there will be more stories that will help forget these kinds of controversies.”
“When I first learned about Nagini, I thought that (J.K. Rowling) was the queen of plot twists. There’s a lot of depth to each of the characters. I thought that that’s what fans loved so much. There are a lot of people who think Nagini is a pet snake. But as I read the books, I thought she was a powerful medium because she’s an animal who houses a part of Voldemort’s soul.”
Sources: Harry Potter Folklore, Next Shark.