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When I first started on this stack last year I quickly learned three things about Harry Potter:

  1. The Harry Potter wiki is complete garbage. Anyone caught citing it in an answer would be burned at the stake.
  2. The Harry Potter movies are complete garbage. Anyone caught citing them in an answer would be burned at the stake.
    1. Unless the films were listed as an okay backup by the OP. Then you were only heavily criticized and downvoted at the stake.
  3. Pottermore is the next best thing to the books for tidbits and trivia

But today I came across this comment on this answer (emphasis mine):

I know that Pottermore is no longer the reliable site that it once was, but it still isn't HP wiki. Please try quoting from the original sources if you can find them. – ibid

As of this writing that comment has two upvotes, so at least three users think this is true. Now I'm really confused. Is there no online database for non-book owners like myself to learn about the HP universe that won't cause us to lose rep if we mention it here? Recently I've been going to Pottermore for smaller questions I had and now I'm not sure if what I learned was accurate or not.

Could someone fill me in on what is now considered the main reliable source for Harry Potter information besides the books and JKR interviews?

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    You might check out this question – eshier Aug 16 '17 at 21:06
  • The HP Lexicon (which, IIRC, @ibid contributes to) is generally considered better than harrypotter.wikia.com, FWIW. – Mithrandir Aug 16 '17 at 21:26
  • Can you link to it please? – DCOPTimDowd Aug 16 '17 at 21:37
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    That comment was a reference to the OP citing something to Pottermore, but linking to a paraphrase of it he found on the HP wiki. It wasn't attacking Pottermore as a source. – ibid Aug 16 '17 at 23:16
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    But in general, the parts of Pottermore written by Rowling are on the same level as the books and interviews, because they are original sources of new canon information. The rest of Pottermore is complete garbage. – ibid Aug 16 '17 at 23:16
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    hp-lexicon.org – Mithrandir Aug 17 '17 at 2:38
  • @ibid - The same level according to whom? – Valorum Aug 19 '17 at 7:26
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    @Valorum - According to the majority of SFF's userbase, which is what the OP is asking about. But also according to anyone who distinguishes between primary and secondary sources. – ibid Aug 20 '17 at 3:25
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    @ibid - I don't think you can necessarily claim to speak for the majority when your post is at negative 1 points – Valorum Aug 20 '17 at 7:07
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    Harry Potter Wikia is good at what it does - I've found a few answers there - you just have to be careful when answering here to cite appropriately - meaning, I may have found an answer on a wikia article, and the actual source is listed as a chat log from 2003 with JKR. I'll cite that as the source of the answer and not mention the wikia at all. – NKCampbell Oct 16 '17 at 21:24
  • @NKCampbell The problem I have with that solution is that I've heard so much awful stuff about the wiki that I simply don't go there anymore, even if there is a chance that I'll find something useful. Kinda like when your hear about a really good restaurant and then find out it's in a shady part of town. Yeah, you could risk the trip and have an enjoyable experience, but there's also a pretty good chance something bad will happen. – DCOPTimDowd Oct 17 '17 at 15:55
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One of the main issues that Potter fans face is precisely what and how you define Harry Potter "canon". In short, there have been precious few announcements by Rowling herself (or the various publishers and studios involved in publishing and adapting her works) regarding the canon status of her works, so fans (like Ibid) have taken it upon themselves to define, to their own personal satisfaction, what counts as canon or not.

The generally accepted canon items are; the HP books and any additional writings by JKR herself, twitter announcements by JKR and any other interviews conducted by her.

By comparison, fans usually consider the films to be non-canon, as are any writings on Pottermore not attributed to JKR. Early knick-knacks like her work on the Wizard cards and various video games are also considered to be dubiously canon.


I'm personally of the opinion that a good answer should cover both canon and non-canon works, the films and anything else that answers the question that has been published under the officially licensed HP banner. You can then leave it to those reading your answers to decide what level of canon they'll accept and whether they've found your writings to be useful.

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    What constitutes a good answer might also depend on who asked the original question. An OP like Slytherincess or ibid who knows their HP canonicity levels back to front would be rather more choosy about what answers they'd consider acceptable than someone who's just seen the films, doesn't give two bent pins about the fandom, and wouldn't know Pottermore from the HP Wikia. (Of course, a really good answer might teach them more about the canonicity than they'd ever realised there was to know - SE is at its best when it does that, IMO.) – Rand al'Thor Aug 16 '17 at 21:56
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    @Randal'Thor - One of the main issue is that there's no such thing as "canon levels" in Potter, just fan opinion. – Valorum Aug 16 '17 at 22:00
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    There are levels (books, films, Pottermore, interviews, tweets, video games, etc. etc.) The precise order of those levels on the canonicity ladder might be debatable :-) – Rand al'Thor Aug 16 '17 at 22:03
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    @Randal'Thor - In the absence of anything resembling canon guidelines, all we're doing is guessing what (if any) canon exists. My instinct is that we've been spoiled by Star Wars, where a clear delineation exists. – Valorum Aug 16 '17 at 22:09
  • I have personal levels of canon myself. :) And I probably wouldn't accept an answer with non-canon sources. – Slytherincess Aug 22 '17 at 5:40
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    @Slytherincess - But what is non-canon in the Potter franchise? – Valorum Aug 22 '17 at 11:35
  • @Slytherincess is it really that important, accepting an answer in this stack? In coding questions, i get it - you accept the most helpful answer which usually can be implemented and tested. But if you ask a question about the twelve uses of dragon blood it's not the case. I think what should count is the opinion of the community - that is, the UV count and answers should be listed by it. – user68762 Aug 22 '17 at 19:08
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    @Valorum - I think primary canon is the books and writings at Pottermore by J.K. Rowling herself. To be honest, that's all I'm interested in when it comes to fielding answers to questions. I want to see some canon evidence in a Harry Potter answer. It doesn't have to be perfect. But, no, the movies, the inserts that come with a character doll, the theme parks, the My Immortal fan fic, etc., are not canon to me. (We keep having this argument! ;) ) – Slytherincess Aug 24 '17 at 1:34
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    @Nahiri - Well, yeah, it matters a lot. You care about coding questions and you want coding answers to be as precise and correct as possible. You might dismiss the 12 uses of dragon's blood as silly, but, you know, this is my hobby and I want answers to my questions to be as high quality as possible and that means having high standards. Answers that quote canon are typically superior. So, yeah, it matters. – Slytherincess Aug 24 '17 at 1:49
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    @Slytherincess i didn't say it's silly, i said it's not testable. I really like answers which take all the sources into account. The more you know... :) – user68762 Aug 24 '17 at 3:28
  • @Nahiri -- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend. When I said "silly" I was speaking theoretically. I didn't mean to suggest that you yourself thought our discussion was silly. :) – Slytherincess Aug 25 '17 at 5:31
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I've found that there are two main things which seem to be frowned upon citing in answers:

  1. Citing a source which isn't generally accepted here as canon.

  2. Citing a secondary source

Accepted canon

There is no official policy regarding Harry Potter canon that has been produced by either JK Rowling or any other offical source.

In general this site seems to define Harry Potter canon as works that were written by Rowling, though there have been some exceptions.

Primary sources vs secondary sources

Primary sources are original sources of canon. Things written by Rowling, things said in interviews, etc.

A secondary source is something which doesn't try providing new canon, but tries informing the reader about old canon.

Secondary sources are great for researching answers, but should never be actually cited in an answer. If you can find the primary source of the information, you should be citing the primary source. If you can not find the primary source then it likely isn't accurate.


Tl;dr

Primary sources ("good" canon)

  • Books
  • Interviews
  • Pottermore* writings
  • All the stuff listed here

Primary sources ("bad" canon)

  • Movies
  • Plays
  • Videogames
  • Merch
  • Fanfiction

Secondary Sources

  • Harry Potter wiki (different canon approach)
  • Harry Potter Lexicon (similar canon approach)
  • Old defunct Pottermore (similar canon approach)
  • New Pottermore* (different canon approach)
  • Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter
  • Wikipedia
  • Other SFF answers
  • Anything else you find on the internet.

To avoid being (as you put it) "burnt at the stake", it's best to either avoid citing anything from the last two groups altogether, or if you do include them, then clearly label them as such and make sure that they aren't integral to your answer.


* Note that Pottermore is currently a mixture of primary sources and secondary sources. There are about eighty or so writings from JKR that are hosted on the site (all marked as such on the top of the articles), and a few hundred fluff pieces from the "Pottermore Team".

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    I disagree. Avoiding evidence from the movies or the video games is unecessarily reductive. They're canon and fully licensed, just different. – Valorum Aug 17 '17 at 0:06
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    @Valorum - OP found that it gets him nasty comments and downvotes. So that's clearly not an option here. – ibid Aug 17 '17 at 0:08
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    Perhaps he could push back against those sorts of unhelpful comments and downvotes by citing the meta post above. – Valorum Aug 17 '17 at 0:20
  • Why is fan fiction a primary source, or a source at all? And is nothing written by the "fluff team" ever run by JKR first for her approval? – DCOPTimDowd Aug 17 '17 at 15:30
  • @DCOPTimDowd - We don't know how Pottermore is currently run – Valorum Aug 17 '17 at 16:27
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    @DCOPTimDowd - I was trying to illustrate the difference between primary and secondary sources. A primary source is something new. A secondary source is a retelling of a primary source. Fanfiction may be a really bad thing to use a source, but it's still a primary source, not a secondary source. A wiki, (or one of Pottermore's "Five lessons we can learn from Dobby the House Elf!") is a secondary source. – ibid Aug 17 '17 at 17:48
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    @DCOPTimDowd - Considering how Pottermore will not shut up about it any time that JKR does submit something, I would think that the lack of any claim to JKR is very telling. – ibid Aug 17 '17 at 17:50
  • @DCOPTimDowd - See this meta post about the difference between primary and secondary sources. – ibid Aug 17 '17 at 18:04
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    @Valorum -- What becomes problematic, at least with HP, is the answer that erroneously -- because the answerer used a poor source -- combines canon and the movies. For example, Hermione fixed Harry's glasses with Oculus Reparo in Chamber of Secrets, the book, except wait! Hermione says this in the movie; Mr Weasley repairs Harry's glasses in COS, the book, and no spell is spoken. But so many people think Oculus Reparo is canon. Just one example. When canon mixes with the movies ... Something wicked this way comes! ;) – Slytherincess Aug 22 '17 at 5:33
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The Harry Potter movies are complete garbage. Anyone caught citing them in an answer would be burned at the stake.

This is a simplification. I would divide the Harry Potter franchise into these domains:

  • The "book canon," consisting of the books and (perhaps) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
  • The "film canon," consisting of the films.
  • The "video game canon," consisting of the video games, to the extent that they are internally consistent (they often aren't).
  • The official or semi-official writings of JKR outside of all of the above (e.g. Pottermore, interviews, Twitter, etc.). This only includes things which can be directly attributed to JKR, not random other stuff you found on Pottermore or elsewhere.
  • Fan works and other "non-canon" things.

The first three bullets form entirely separate continuities, which only very loosely resemble one another. As far as I can tell, we are already handling this mess as follows:

  1. By default, questions about "Harry Potter" are about book canon.
  2. Questions which specify or imply a continuity (e.g. "I saw this scene in the films and didn't understand it, why did...?") are about that continuity. Questions may specify multiple continuities, or all of them, in which case answers should clearly distinguish between different continuities.
  3. Unless otherwise specified, the writings of JKR are always fair game to cite. Do make sure she is talking about the "right" continuity for your answer.
  4. Unless otherwise specified, non-canon is never fair game to cite. In the absence of canon, it may form a useful basis for speculation, but highly speculative answers are discouraged (and may indicate a poor question).
  5. Show your work; indicate the source for any claim you make so that it's clear which continuity you are talking about.
  6. There are a few "miscellaneous" items which don't seem to fall into any of these bins, such as Quidditch Through the Ages. In general, these are fair game to cite, but you should still be clear about your sources.

I propose that we continue with the status quo as I have described it above.

  • Downvoted. Questions about HP are not "by default" about the books. The remainder of this answer seems to be your own self-created (headcanon) canon hierarchy. – Valorum Aug 29 '17 at 19:33
  • @Valorum: We have to pick something as the default... – Kevin Aug 29 '17 at 19:38
  • This is precisely the problem I've outlined in my post. Everyone seems to has their own opinion but no-one can offer any solid evidence what they're basing it on. Because there isn't any – Valorum Aug 29 '17 at 19:40
  • @Valorum: Rephrased it a bit. – Kevin Aug 29 '17 at 19:41
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    Again, I feel like this is unnecessarily reductive. If I ask "in the book, does this ever happen" and someone answers "Well, this happens in the film" that's not inherently worthy of a downvote. The films enjoyed consultancy from the author and are based directly on her works – Valorum Aug 29 '17 at 19:43
  • Thanks for your opinion; I would downvote such an answer. We'll have to agree to disagree. – Kevin Aug 29 '17 at 19:45
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Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter on en.Wikibooks is generally reliable.

This is a secondary source, that is, it shouldn't create new canon, but only summarizes reference information from the existing canon in thematic form, especially information from the seven main books. It is useful because in my experience, it doesn't have the amount of made up information that the Harry Potter wikia has. The drawback is that almost none of the information names a source, so even if you do find some information on it, it's very hard to find actual canon proof for it. You can't even tell in advance whether any information comes from the books or from supplementary material.

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