Ilvermorny Founders and the Potters: The Chosen Family


The recent Pottermore story on the Ilvermorny founders, the Sayre-Stewards, has more than a few parallels to the Potters’ family history.

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In anticipation of the new Fantastic Beasts movie, J.K. Rowling and the Pottermore team have been revealing the magical background of its setting of North America. Most recently, we’ve seen the major reveal of the North American wizarding school Ilvermorny. The story is filled with references to the Harry Potter books, from the family name of the antagonist, Gaunt, to the familiar narrative of a child raised by an unloving aunt. However, the most striking parallels are the connections to the Potter family.

From the very beginning of the story, an echo of the Potter family history can be spotted. According to Pottermore, the Potter family has origins in aiding Muggles through the use of magic, and so does the family of Isolt Sayre, the founder of Ilvermorny.

The stories bear even more resemblance once Isolt is established in North America. She and her family don’t just resemble the Potter family in general, but a specific branch: James, Lily and Harry. It’s subtle, but the future of Isolt’s family is also affected by a prophecy. While the “Chosen One” prophecy was delivered by Trelawney, this prophecy is delivered by the Horned Serpent Isolt visits, and he warns Isolt, “Until I am part of your family, your family is doomed.”

Unlike the Potters’ prophecy, the danger is less immediate, but nevertheless it eventually comes to a head. When Isolt marries the Muggle James Steward, she bears that warning in mind to protect their adoptive children.

For both the Potters and the Sayre-Stewards, it is ultimately their love of their children which allows their family to live on.

James Steward and James Potter are twin names in more ways than one. Not only do they share a given name, they also share the trait of a last name referring to an occupation. Yet it seems clear that if we’re noting the similarities of James and Isolt to Lily and James, Isolt Sayre takes the place of James Potter. Both pure-blood wizards who choose to intermarry, who rush towards the danger while their spouse offers his/her own life to protect their children. James Steward facing Gormlaith mimics Lily Potter when we see her face Voldemort in Deathly Hallows:

"Finally she managed to blast open the doors to their bedroom, where James stood ready to die in front of the cribs of his daughters."


"He forced the door open, cast aside the chair and boxes hastily piled against it with one lazy wave of his wand… and there she stood, the child in her arms. At the last sight of him, she dropped her son into the crib behind her and threw her arms wide, as if this would help, as if in shielding him from sight she hoped to be chosen instead…."

For both the Potters and the Sayre-Stewards, neither is able to raise a wand to defend themselves and it is ultimately their love of their children which allows their family to live on. For Isolt and James, it is the cry of their twin girls that breaks their enchanted sleep, and for Lily and James it is the willingness to sacrifice their own life for their son. Both families required loyalty to keep them safe, but were Peter Pettigrew failed, William the Pukwudgie came through.

The monuments to these two families wrap up the similarities very poetically. In Deathly Hallows, Harry passes by a memorial which shows his family carved in stone in tribute to their impact on the wizarding world:

"Instead of an obelisk covered in names, there was a statue of three people: a man with untidy hair and glasses, a woman with long hair and a kind, pretty face, and a baby boy sitting in his mother’s arms."

Likewise, Isolt and James Steward’s images guard the entrance to the school they founded. Brave and loving parents are immortalized in statue, leaving a more lasting legacy than their enemy could’ve ever hoped to achieve.

Next: 20 Questions We Have About the Marauders Era

The Sayre-Stewards have made a positive impact for me in the same way the Potters did. The wizarding world was a better place after they made their mark.