A member of staff poses with a prop of a horntail dragon made for the Fantastic Beasts film series.—AFP
A member of staff poses with a prop of a horntail dragon made for the Fantastic Beasts film series.—AFP

LONDON: Fans of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts will already be familiar with nifflers, occamy and demiguise while unicorns, dragons and mermaids have been the stuff of legends for centuries.

Now London’s Natural History Museum has scoured its vast collection for an exhibition to celebrate strange beasts in all their forms, including those created by the Harry Potter author.

“Fantastic Beasts. The Wonder of Nature” is a collaboration between the museum, the BBC and Warner Bros, and comes as the venue reopens after months of coronavirus-enforced closure.

The show promises to plunge visitors straight into a world well known to Harry Potter fans, where they learn about the “magizoologist” Newt Scamander, a leading authority on fantastic beasts.

The 2001 book was turned into a hit fantasy film franchise starring Eddie Redmayne, whose costume also features in the exhibition, which opened on Wednesday and would run till August.

The head of conservation at the Natural History Museum, Lorraine Cornish, said curators looked at the characteristics of Rowling’s inventions and compared them with their own collection.

Then from a long-list, they honed the exhibits down to more than 100 specimens that appear in the show.

“By taking some of these fantastic beasts that people around the world have enjoyed watching on film or reading in the books, we’ve been able to highlight some of the fantastic beasts that actually exist in the real world today,” she said.

“I think it will really give the audience an extra insight into the amazing world of nature.”

Extraordinary abilities

The first part of the exhibition looks at the animals included in the books such as the niffler, which resembles a platypus and whose penchant for shiny things makes it a good treasure hunter.

An occamy is described as a plumed, two-legged winged creature with a serpentine body, while a demiguise is a peaceful herbivore that can make itself invisible and predict the future.

Also featured are dragons, unicorns and mermaids, which are more well-known in public consciousness.

A skeleton of an eight-metre-long deep sea oarfish which fuelled myths of huge sea serpents is featured, as are giant narwhal tusks.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2020

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