In the lush fictional world of the Harry Potter fantasy novels, J.K. Rowling has included a number of creatures, plants, and objects with magical powers. An exhaustive list is provided in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, a book which Rowling penned to benefit a British charity. A complete directory of magical creatures would encompass a multitude of wiseGEEK articles, but it may be helpful to know about a few remarkable animals in the Harry Potter novels. These animals are distinctive because of the roles that they play and the powers that they have.
The Harry Potter novels create a world for readers in which a magical world exists alongside the normal, or Muggle world. This magical world is immensely complex, and includes a number of witches, wizards, magical creatures, enchanted items, powerful plants, and other magical creatures which are not technically creatures, because they are sentient. Examples of this last category include house elves, goblins, and centaurs. The treatment of these individuals is an important theme in the Harry Potter novels, which recommend tolerance and respect for all creatures, not just humans.
Many of the magical creatures in the Harry Potter novels are recognizable to people who are not steeped in the Harry Potter universe. These animals are widely accepted as mythical beasts, and Rowling incorporated much of the common lore about them into her novels. Others, such as thestrals, magical horses closely associated with death and ill omens, appear to have sprung whole from the creative mind of J.K. Rowling.
Some of the most notable magical creatures are Fawkes the phoenix, an assortment of dragons, and hippogriffs. Fawkes plays an important role in the Harry Potter novels, and may have a bit of sentience of his own, as well as loyalty and healing powers. Dragons are also recurring characters in the novels, starting with Norbert in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997), the first book in the series. Potter also does battle with a dragon in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and dragons often crop up in the other books as well.
Hippogriffs are also frequently appearing magical creatures in the Harry Potter novels. A hippogriff is a cross between a griffin and a horse, with the body of a horse, the head of an eagle, and a powerful set of wings. The magical creatures first appear in the third novel, along with more mundane magical creatures such as flobberworms.
Many of the magical creatures in the Harry Potter novels have fleeting appearances and less than notable roles, such as knarls, kappas, unicorns, Cornish pixies, bowtruckles, doxies, fire crabs, puffskeins, and crumple-horned snorkacks. Others, such as Aragog the acromantula, a giant spider, play brief but very important roles. Owls, cats, and toads also frequent the Harry Potter novels, and although these animals are not technically magical, they are important.