I just want to love you, Harry Potter universe. So, in my mind, I have to believe this story about the four houses of Ilvermorny, the American wizarding school we’ll be seeing soon in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them spin-off movies, isn’t true. Because, if it is, wow did America screw up its magic school.
According to the story, reported by Hypable and The Daily Mail, an engineer was rooting around the code of the official Harry Potter website, Pottermore, and found a still-under-construction quiz which names the four houses of Ilvermorny. You can see a supposed screenshot of the code at Hypabale, but it supposedly shows that the four houses are named Horned Serpent, Wampus, Thunderbird, and Pukwudgie.
I’ll accept Ilvermorny copying Hogwarts here. Ilvermorny having four houses is in the grand tradition of old East Coast American private schools imitating British ones. I’ll even go with the idea that the makers behind Pottermore copying the Hogwarts sorting quiz for Ilvermorny. That’s in the grand tradition of film marketing being lazy.
But I hope to god these names aren’t real. For oh so many reasons. First, having Ilvermorny have houses named after magical creatures is such an obvious tie-in to the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie that I’m kind of insulted. Second, two of those names are—regardless of their real, and fascinating, origins—hard to say out loud without a little bit of humor. It’s like giving Ilvermorny two Hufflepuffs.
But, finally, the real issue is that Thunderbird, Horned Serpent, and Pukwudgie are all from various Native American myth, culture, and folklore. The Wampus, a terrifying cougar-type creature, is according to Wikipedia “often compared to the ‘Ewah’ of Cherokee mythology.” So it’s a school in the mold of British Hogwarts, but the house names are taken from Native Americans—this is practically the platonic ideal of cultural appropriation.
Given that J.K. Rowling’s history of American wizardry already presented a shocking insensitivity to Native Americans and their culture, this is a terrible idea. Two of the names used here were even in that history. Combined, that’s a sign that these names might well be real.
Editor’s Note: This post originally included a line sourced from Wikipedia without attribution. We’ve corrected the omission.