Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Jack Thorne’s Awkward Fit within J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Saga
Warning: This article contains spoilers from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Just like millions of die-hard Harry Potter fans that anxiously waited for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I was caught up from the hype. The Cursed Child was for many readers who grew up with Harry, not including J.K. Rowling’s short stories on Pottermore, the first piece of literature in nine years since the series ended in 2007. I could not wait to buy my copy, and start diving into the latest installment of Harry Potter. As The Cursed Child starts from the epilogue from The Deathly Hallows, I was excited to be returning to the wizarding world with a new adventure. However, after Albus Severus Potter boards the Hogwarts express, we shift from J.K. Rowling’s magical storytelling to Jack Thorne’s fan fiction.
Overall, I thought the central story of The Cursed Child was clever, but as I was reading the play, I could not help but share the same belief as others thinking this is fan fiction. Personally, I do not think fan fiction is disparaging to any fandom or series. Fan fiction can be insightful, and boldly go where an original work dared not to. However, the further I got into The Cursed Child, I could not help but believe that the script did the opposite. Jack Thorne’s script is full of miraculous and convenient devices from Durmstrang robes to Albus’s expertise of the Polyjuice potion, strange dialogue between characters, and devoid of character development that Rowling had built over a span of seven novels. All these attributes fuel for an incredibly self-reflexive script that, at times, felt both awkward and silly to read. Throughout the script, there are references to events, quotes, and characters from both the Harry Potter books and films. Scorpius Malfoy, who’s displayed to have great intelligence similar to Hermione, is so overly informed of the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, it is as if he had read the Harry Potter series himself. At times, even the characters found themselves getting caught up with the self-references from the main Harry Potter series in The Cursed Child; when Scorpius travels to an alternate timeline where Voldemort reigns supreme, an oddly effervescent Severus Snape finds himself wondering if he had quoted Dumbledore in attempt to help Scorpius return to his own timeline. While fan fiction and other transformative works indeed need canon as a foundation to branch out for alternative stories, the self-awareness falls short and feels awkward.
The Cursed Child, similar to other fan fiction stories, plays with conceivable possibilities that seem to be a far stretch within Rowling’s wizarding world. Michal Schick from Hypable points out the “what if” factor that tended to be controversial for plot points in The Cursed Child. Schick writes, “Within the bounds of an established, canonical tale, storytellers must be judicious in their application of ‘what if’, because ‘what if’ is not governed by theme, history, or character. ‘What if’ can lead anywhere, and stories that bear the weight of canon cannot afford to go anywhere”. Fan fiction has the ability to tell stories such as possible romances, subplot lines, or spinoffs, but without responsibility and accountability to stay true to canon, fan fiction can run off course. The strength and weakness of fan fiction is its freedom to not adhere to the standards set by the creator of the original work. Throughout The Cursed Child, in attempts to save Cedric Diggory, Albus and Scorpius travel to alternate realities that are dependent on Cedric’s failures during the First and Second Task. These alternate realities result in what if scenarios such as what if Ron and Hermione never married or what if Harry lost to Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts? Although what if scenarios play a role in The Cursed Child, the script also explores possibilities never addressed in the main Harry Potter series. For instance, many might have found the unexpected mystery of Voldemort’s progeny bothersome, but the biggest critique for me was Cedric Diggory being the supposed x-factor for Voldemort’s return to power. It seemed farfetched that Cedric would become a Death Eater simply by being humiliated during the First, Second, or Third Tasks of the Triwizard Tournament. Rowling may have approved of the script, but its readers are going to act as regulators and scrutinize material that attempts to step out from the boundaries established by Harry Potter canon.
What makes the Harry Potter series so fascinating is Rowling’s innovativeness, creativity, and vivid storytelling that envelops its readers. Every Harry Potter book is so unique in its own way through new creatures, new methods of magic that are introduced, yet consistent with character development and overall plot. By the time readers get to The Cursed Child, Jack Thorne delivers something readers are already too familiar with from magical devices such as Time-Turners and Invisibility Cloaks, themes, and Harry Potter canon. Although The Cursed Child is filled with material readers find familiar, some may feel distanced from the characters they grew up with. Rather than branch out for something new, The Cursed Child retreats to what we already know.
Ultimately, everyone is going to have different opinion about the latest addition to the Harry Potter series. The Cursed Child can be loved, disliked, or be in a love-hate relationship with its readers. J.K. Rowling has come out publicly saying that Harry Potter’s storyline is done. Rowling is already preoccupied with her Cormoran Strike crime series, and is the screenwriter for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. If Rowling ever decides to write another Harry Potter book, one would think that she would not have to be bond to the restrictions of The Cursed Child, because it is the eighth story and not the official eighth installment written by Rowling. Another Harry Potter book or just any story within the wizarding world would enlighten readers knowing full well it is written by Rowling herself. There is nothing wrong with fan fiction; it is just not what many were expecting.