Newt Scamander is the central character in the Fantastic Beasts film series, which has kept Harry Potter fans immersed in the Wizarding World since the first film was released in 2016. As played by Eddie Redmayne, Scamander is not your average flashy, larger-than-life, heroic wizard. In fact, his behaviors and idiosyncrasies have prompted many fans to speculate about the possibility of him having a disability or even being on the autism spectrum.
What, if anything, has been proven, and what’s still speculation? Let’s reacquaint ourselves with the Fantastic Beasts universe and dive into what Redmayne and Potter author J.K. Rowling have said of the now iconic Hufflepuff.
What happened in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?
Audiences first met Scamander in the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first Potter-themed film released since 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Beasts takes place in 1926 and finds British magizoologist Scamander arriving in New York City with the intention of traveling west to release his Thunderbird named Frank. When some of his creatures escape, he instead gets swept up in the fight against the dark wizard Grindelwald.
His creatures are wrongly accused of killing Senator Henry Shaw Jr. when in actuality it was an Obscurus named Credence Barebone. Scamander attempts to help Credence, but Grindelwald manages to manipulate him as well, prompting Credence to escape New York and travel to find out the true identity of his family. Scamander then captures and reveals Grindelwald, who is left in American wizarding custody.
What about Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald?
In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which was released in 2018, Scamander is again brought into the impending fight for the safety of the Wizarding World against the dark wizard Grindelwald. Grindelwald manages to escape American wizarding custody, and after Queenie storms out while visiting with Muggle Jacob Kowalski, Scamander travels to Paris to find Tina and help reconcile the couple. Professor Albus Dumbledore wanted Scamander to go to Paris to track down Credence anyway, believing him to be Leta Lestrange’s long-lost half-brother, Corvus Lestrange V.
Right before Grindelwald holds a rally, Leta Lestrange reveals that Credence is not her half brother at all, as she switched infants when her brother would not stop crying on a boat to America and he drowned when the ship sank. Credence and Queenie join Grindelwald at the rally and Leta sacrifices herself to save the Scamander brothers. The rest of the wizards present save Paris from being destroyed by Grindelwald, though the dark wizard once again manages to escape. Newt then makes the decision to officially join the fight against Grindelwald.
So is Scamander on the autism spectrum?
The next film in the series, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, will continue Scamander’s adventures and will be released in theaters on April 15. Throughout both of the first two films and the marketing materials for the third, Scamander displays characteristics that could be viewed as autistic in nature. He is quiet, has difficulty making eye contact, and is very focused on his career as a magizoologist.
Actor Eddie Redmayne, who will once again play Scamander in Secrets, stated in a 2018 interview with Digital Spy that he believes the character has Asperger’s. According to Redmayne, “When he was first described by Jo [Rowling] in the first film, there were various qualities – the way he walked, the way he looked, and his eye contact – was spoken about. I think he is on the Asperger’s spectrum. At that point, it hadn’t been defined – that was in the ’40s, I think – so those qualities were something, yes.”
Redmayne believes that Scamander has Asperger’s but would not have been diagnosed because the term was not widely used during his lifetime. It’s important to note that Asperger’s is now considered to be part of the autism spectrum and is not a term that is used on its own anymore. According to The Mighty, “In 2013, ‘Asperger syndrome’ was removed from the DSM-5, the manual physicians often use to diagnosis autism, and replaced with the general term “autism spectrum disorder.” This was due to the syndrome’s namesake, Doctor Hans Asperger’s, ties to the Nazi party’s child euthanasia program as well as general difficulties in differentiating Asperger Syndrome from autism.
What does J.K. Rowling have to say?
Author J.K. Rowling has not publicly commented on whether or not Scamander is on the autism spectrum. Regardless, fans such as Emily Simmons, a contributor for The Odyssey Online, are relishing in the positive representation. Simmons stated, “If I, a college student, could feel a bit better about myself after seeing Newt, I couldn’t imagine what Newt would do for an autistic child obsessed with animals and the ‘Harry Potter’ universe.” She goes on to say that it doesn’t matter if Scamander is or is not autistic ⏤ he’s impacted audiences anyway.
“Whether Newt actually has autism or some other neurodivergent condition or is just a bit peculiar, whether you love the movie or hate it, whether you love Eddie Redmayne or hate him, one thing is very clear: There needs to be more representation of people like Newt. Many people, including myself, fell in love with him instantly when they saw themselves reflected in Newt.”
You can catch Scamander back in action when Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore arrives in theaters April 15.