How is the Fantastic Beasts character related to the Lestrange family from the Harry Potter books?
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spinoff, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, hits cinemas today (November 18). Almost immediately, the question on fans’ lips will be: Who is Leta Lestrange?
NB: Minor spoilers for Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them follow.
In the film, Eddie Redmayne’s magizoologist character, Newt Scamander, is revealed to have been best friends with a girl called Leta Lestrange while he was at Hogwarts. They were probably more than friends, because he keeps a photograph of her inside his magically expanded briefcase and he doesn’t like talking about her. Newt and his mind-reading (aka Legilimens) new witch pal Queenie share a scene where Queenie quizzes him on his connection to Leta. Queenie then says, “She’s a taker, you need a giver,” and during the latter phrase she gestures to her sister Tina Goldstein, who becomes Newt’s sort-of love interest by the end of the film. But what can we infer about Newt’s former flame from this dialogue?
Leta Lestrange will be in the second Fantastic Beasts film
According to Bustle, director David Yates recently told a press junket that “Leta comes into the second movie… She’s quite complicated, a little damaged, and confused… she’s a kind of tragic figure in a way. Newt is still absolutely in love with her, so she has a kind of power over him.”
What do we already know about the Lestrange family?
Potter fans will be aware that the brilliantly mad villain Bellatrix Lestrange – played Helena Bonham Carter in the films – was an absolutely awful human being, and that she was part of this pure-blood family (one of the ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight’). But she was only a Lestrange because she married into the family: her surname was originally Black, like Harry Potter’s godfather, Sirius.
The family she married into was as nasty as she was: both her husband Rodolphus and his brother Rabastan were Death Eaters and helped her torture Neville Longbottom’s parents into madness. There was another Lestrange – possibly their father, and known only by his surname – who was in Voldemort’s crew while he was at Hogwarts. He’s seen during Professor Slughorn’s memories in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Then again, they probably weren’t all so evil. On Rowling’s Pottermore site, she lists Radolphus Lestrange as a 19th century Minister for Magic (not a very good one – he was a reactionary who attempted to close down the Department of Mysteries). He served six years and “eventually resigned due to ill health, which was widely rumoured to be inability to cope with the strains of office.” Sounds like a bit of a dweeb, tbh – so possibly not all Lestranges are equally nasty.
Is Leta Lestrange evil? Is she helping Grindelwald?
There’s no way to know what’s going on with Leta at this stage, apart from director Yates’ comments that she’s “a little damaged” and “confused”. There are several instances of witches and wizards from pure-blood families rejecting their family’s intolerant ideologies that we could take into account: Sirius Black hated his Slytherin family, and Nymphadora Tonks’ mother was an outcast after marrying a muggle-born wizard called Ted. Perhaps Leta is one of these rebellious pure-bloods, and perhaps, like Newt, she was in Hufflepuff – and not her family’s Slytherin tribe. That would better explain how they were friends at school.
But it seems something’s happened in the meantime, and if this first film is going to connect to the second, it’s not completely implausible that the breakdown in Newt and Leta’s relationship was down to her turning to the darkside – and possibly being radicalised by the power-mad Grindelwald.
What can we read into Leta Lestrange’s name?
J.K. Rowling studied Classics and French at uni and often uses Classical mythology to name her characters. Sirius Black, for example, is named after Sirius the star – Romans called it the Dog Star and it rises with the sun in summer, which is why summer is sometimes referred to as the ‘dog days’. Anyway – this ties in nicely with the fact that Sirius Black is an animagus who can transform into a dog at will (his Patronus was also a dog.)
In Greek mythology, there’s a woman called Leda (pretty close to Leta) who is seduced by Zeus, the most powerful of the gods, and importantly he appears to her in the guise of a swan. The story is very weird, yeah – and what I’m about to write amounts to pure speculation – but possibly the point behind the name is that Leta was seduced (romantically or otherwise) by the most powerful wizard of the time, Grindelwald, who appears to her in another form (as in Fantastic Beasts, where he’s posing as Chief Auror, Graves, the whole time). Or, y’know, her name could mean nothing at all.
Who plays Leta Lestrange?
Lenny Kravitz’s daughter, Zoë, who’s previously starred in big films like Mad Max: Fury Road, Divergent, and X-Men: First Class. Expect to see a lot more of her in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts.
INTERVIEW: Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterson, aka the film’s witch sisters Queenie and Tina Goldstein, talk J.K. Rowling’s set visits and Queenie’s mind-reading powers.