At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As such, spoilers will be present within the article.
Jacob Kowalski was a Polish-born American No-Maj, who lived at 435 Rivington Street New York during the 1920s. Jacob fought in the First World War. Returning home to the United States he found work in a cannery, but dreamt of becoming a baker. On 6 December 1926, he went to Steen National Bank to apply for a loan of $2300, but was turned down.
While at the bank he met Newt Scamander, a British wizard who stopped in New York City on his travels to find and document magical beasts. Through Newt he was exposed to the magical world, but had his memories wiped as was required by wizarding law.
As last known, Jacob owned a very successful bakery subconsciously inspired by his experiences with Newt Scamander's beasts.
Family and early life
Military service and post-war life
Jacob fought in the First World War. He served in France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, and remained stationed there until well after the conclusion of the war (presumably as part of a peace-keeping effort), returning to the United States in 1924. His brother also fought in the war, but was killed at some point.
The extended length of his military service left him able to find only a menial job at the Moreton Dale Canning Factory in his post-war life. He thus applied for a loan on 5 October 1926 in the hope of getting the money he needed to realise his dream of opening a bakery.
Meeting Newt Scamander
While visiting the Steen National Bank to secure a loan to set up his own bakery, Jacob meets Newt Scamander when he arrived to find the Niffler that had escaped his suitcase. As Newt left suddenly to chase his Niffler, Jacob noticed that he accidentally left his Occamy egg behind. Before he could return it, Jacob was summoned to banker Gilbert Bingley's office. Jacob presented Bingley with his suitcase full of pastries, but Bingley questioned how Jacob would return the loan and pointed out that his proposed bakery would not produce the same revenue as a factory and thus rejected his application.
As he left the office, Jacob noticed that the egg was about to hatch and called out to Newt, who pulled the egg, and Jacob accidentally, with a Summoning Charm and Disapparated them onto the stairwell near the bank vault. Just as Newt recaptured his Niffler, Bingley arrived at the vault and, seeing the pilfered deposit boxes, mistakenly assumed that Jacob was trying to rob the bank, and sounded the alarm. Newt quickly placed a Full Body-Bind Curse on Bingley and Disapparated himself and Jacob to the outside of the bank just as the guards arrived. Subsequently, Newt tried to Obliviate Jacob, but the No-Maj unknowingly grabbed Newt's briefcase, hit him with it, and fled.
When Jacob returned to his apartment without a bank loan, his fiance Mildred left him. Shortly afterwards, Jacob placed the case down on his bed only to hear something protesting inside. As Jacob approached it, the lid opened and several magical creatures escaped, including a murtlap that attacked and bit Jacob. Following escaped billywigs, Newt and Tina Goldstein arrived at Jacob's apartment, finding it half destroyed and Jacob unwell due to a reaction to the Murtlap bite. Newt repaired Jacob's apartment to its original state, and Tina agreed to take Jacob with them to her place.
Retrieving the creatures
"I ain't got the brains to make this up." ― Jacob regarding the complexity of the inside of Newt's case[source]
At Tina's house, Jacob met Queenie Goldstein who made them dinner and strudel. He and Queenie instantly connected with each other. In the evening, he watched Newt walk down into his suitcase and followed him after Newt invited him in. He met Newt's collection of creatures and heard about how Newt hoped to care for them as they were rejected by the wizarding world. Jacob wandered through various landscapes as Newt did a headcount of each creature to see which he needed to find. Jacob found an Obscurus which Newt described as a dark entity and advised Jacob not to touch it. They decided they needed to retrieve the missing Erumpent first and left the suitcase.
However, Newt soon found out that his Niffler had escaped again. As they passed by a jewellery store, Newt spotted his Niffler inside. While Newt furiously attempted to capture the Niffler, Jacob noticed that a latch on Newt's suitcase had popped off and by the time he sealed it, Newt and the Niffler fell through the store's glass window. Subsequently, they were confronted by a squad of policemen, who were puzzled by the sight of the Niffler. Jacob then directed their attention to a lion wandering right by them, giving him and Newt the opportunity to disapparate away.
Passing an ostrich in Central Park, they soon discovered the cause of the loose animals: the Erumpent had broke into the Central Park Zoo, setting many of the animals free, in its search to mate with the zoo's hippopotamus. Newt provided Jacob with a helmet and vest to protect himself from the Erumpent and left the No-Maj to hold a vial of Erumpent musk while he performed a mating dance to lure the creature back into his suitcase. Unfortunately, Jacob accidentally spilled musk on himself when he was hit by a fish thrown by an escaped seal, prompting the Erumpent to chase him out of the zoo and into the frozen park pond before Newt managed to contain the Erumpent. However, when they got in the suitcase, Tina, who had followed them, locked them in and took them to headquarters of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, where they, including Tina, were arrested by Seraphina Picquery and Percival Graves.
As he was being escorted by Sam, an Obliviator, to have his memory erased, Jacob was saved by Queenie, who managed to blackmail Sam. Subsequently, they tried to break into Graves' office to retrieve the Newt's suitcase, along with his and Tina's wands; Queenie unsuccessfully tried to use an Unlocking Charm, forcing Jacob to kick down the door. They subsequently ran into Newt and Tina, who had managed to escape execution. Queenie then had everyone hide in the suitcase so she could smuggle them out of MACUSA.
They journeyed to a wizarding speakeasy, The Blind Pig, where the friends met Gnarlak, a goblin gangster, to find information about Newt's escaped Demiguise named Dougal. While trying to get a drink at the bar, the bartender house-elf asked if Jacob has never seen a house-elf; Jacob blithely retorts that of course he has, his uncle is a house-elf. After discovering that Gnarlak had turned them into MACUSA for the reward money, Jacob punched him in the face so Newt could retrieve his bowtruckle Pickett. They were forced to apparate away as a group as MACUSA agents mounted a raid.
Following up on information gained from Gnarlak, they found the Demiguise at the Ginzberg Delaunay department store. Following it led to a hatched Occamy that was not accounted for, which had expanded itself to fill the entire storeroom. Jacob helped to shrink it by luring it into a teapot with a cockroach.
After returning the beasts to Newt's case, Jacob went with the group to investigate the Obscurus that was demolishing the city. Although Queenie wanted Jacob to stay out of the way, he insisted on helping and through her Legilimency skill, she saw the conflicts he endured during the First World War.
Following a battle against Graves, Seraphina stated that Jacob's memory needed to be erased and gave Newt, Tina, and Queenie a moment to say goodbye to him. Jacob then stepped into the Obliviating rain, with Queenie giving him one last kiss under a magical umbrella before leaving him standing there alone and confused.
"I was never supposed to know any of this." ― Jacob right before his memories are wiped[source]
Jacob returned to his job at the Moreton Dale Canning Factory. One day, he bumped into a passerby. Upon trying to lift his now extremely heavy suitcase, he found silver Occamy eggshells provided anonymously by Newt as collateral for a bank loan. By March 1927, Jacob had opened his bakery, Kowalski Quality Baked Goods. He baked various pastries and confections in the form of fantastic creatures, unconsciously modelling them on the beasts he encountered on his adventures with Newt. He was unaware of their origins, claiming that they came to him in dreams. The whimsical treats proved extremely popular and his bakery did a brisk business.
One day, Queenie visited the shop, possibly sparking Jacob's memories of his time with her.
- Jacob is derived from Late Latin Jacobus/Iacobus, from Greek Ἰάκωβος (Iakobos), from Hebrew יַעֲקֹב (Yaʿqob/Yaʿaqov/Yaʿăqōḇ). In the Abrahamic monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), Jacob, (in Christianity considered one of the Patriarchs) son of Isaac and Rebekah, was the third to have held a covenant with God, and was later named Israel (later the progenitor of the "Twelve Tribes"). His original name meant "seizing by the/holder of the heel" or "supplanting/supplanter", which ties in with his pre-covenant life: in birth as having held his elder twin brother Esau's heel, as having persuaded Esau to give him the birthright of the eldest son, and as having his old almost-blind father bless him under the disguise of Esau. Jacob is also a cognate/reduced English form of the name "James", the name of some of Jesus's disciples.
- Jacob's role in Newt's life (from inadvertently switching cases to being Newt's friend/assistant in helping him catch the former's escaped beasts) is reflected from the name's original Hebrew root עקב (ʿqb) meaning "to follow/be behind", but also "to supplant/circumvent/assail/overreach"; or from the word for "heel", עֲקֵב (ʿaqeb).
- Kowalski is the 2nd most common surname in Poland (as well as in the U.S.A.), meaning "blacksmith's son" (root kowal “blacksmith”). "Jan Kowalski" is the Polish equivalent to "John Smith".
- Additionally, Smith is the most popular surname in America. This could be seen as symbolic of Jacob being the everyman, a character in literature and drama that is ordinary and that the audience is meant to easily identify with, and are often put into extraordinary circumstances.
- Even though Jacob is no blacksmith, as his patronymic surname means, his preferred business is still connected with intense fire: the fashioning of pastry products through the usage of fire (using an oven over the forge).
- Contrary to the movie's pronunciation of "ko-Wal-ski" (as per the name), the proper pronunciation is "ko-Val-ski'i". In Polish, as in the Slavic languages (where Polish is classified under), "w" is pronounced as in the English "v" sound (the English "w" sound corresponding to the letter "ł"). The butchering of the name's native pronunciation was common during the Great Migration period in the United States. For example, German names such as Van Ortman were shortened to simply, "Ortman." This was a process known as Americanization.
Behind the scenes
- Jacob Kowalski is portrayed by Dan Fogler in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film series. In an interview, Fogler stated his character will speak with a historical Brooklyn accent, similar to that of early 20th-century comedian Lou Costello. He has likened the relationship between Jacob and Newt as being akin to that of Holmes and Watson, or Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
- Dan Fogler was around 14 years older than his character when he first played Jacob in Fantastic Beasts and where to find them.
- Since Jacob is identified as having been born around 1900 in (then-partitioned) Poland (Poles being the largest Slavic ethnic group in the USA, immigration dating back to the Colonial era predating the Pilgrims), Jacob and/or his family must have immigrated in the latter years of 1870-1914 (the largest immigration wave, which most present Polish Americans are descended from), and as "Poland" never existed as an independent sovereign state (from 1795-1918), the U.S. Immigration and Naturalisation Service classified Poles (including Jacob and/or family) into either "Russian", "German", or "Austrian", depending on which partitioned territory the immigrant came from.
- Jacob's connection with bread can be related to the 1870-1914 immigration wave, as immigrant Poles from this time period were called "za chlebem (for bread)" immigrants, because most were peasants in Poland who did not own land and lacked basic subsistence.
- As Jacob mentioned participating in the Expeditionary Forces (1917-1919) in World War I, he would have been drafted through the amended Selective Service Act of 1917. Under the original Act (enacted 18 May 1917), all men aged between 21-31 were required to register for military service, and after Congress amended the Act in August 1918, the age range was widened to 18-45. Due to his birth date around 1900 (most probably before August), Jacob must've been drafted after the 1918 amendment (the 3rd registration held on 12 September 1918), as he would've been ineligible (underage) under the original 1917 Act.
- It is worth noting that World War I motivated Polish Americans (such as Jacob) to vigorously contribute and/or support the War, with large numbers volunteering for or being drafted into the United States Army, working in war-related industries, and buying war bonds; a common theme was to fight for America, defeat the Germans (who were one of the participants in the partitions of Poland), and for the restoration of Poland as a unified, independent nation.
- His late return indicates that he would likely have been a member of the U.S. Third Army, which was created by General Pershing at the end of 1918 to perform occupation duties. Third Army was created from the Third and Fourth Army Corps which both took part in major combat operations at the end of the War September to November of 1918. Despite his apparent desire to minimise his war experiences, it is most likely that Jacob was a combat veteran, having taken part in either the Battle of Saint-Mihiel or the bloody Meuse-Argonne offensive.
- Although Jacob was born in Poland and emigrated to America, by the time he was in his mid-twenties he spoke with a heavy Brooklyn accent. As such, he likely immigrated when he was young child.
- Quentin Kowalski may be a descendant of Jacob and Queenie Goldstein, though this would breach Rappaport's Law. Queenie and Jacob would need to have left the United States of America to marry as to protect Queenie from prosecution - which may have happened when Tina and Newt married. It is possible they returned in 1956 when Rappaport's law was repealed, or that their children or grandchildren travelled to the United states of their own accord.
- If Jacob had been a wizard and attended Ilvermorny, he would have been Sorted into Wampus.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
- LEGO Dimensions
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Magical Movie Handbook
- The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (see this image)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Magical Movie Handbook (see this image)
- ↑ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - (see this image)
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 EW - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Character Posters
- ↑ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (see this image)
- ↑ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - (see this image)
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 'Fantastic Beasts' Character Descriptions Revealed
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Everything we've learned about ‘Fantastic Beasts' this week" from Pottermore
- ↑ Behind-the-scenes video from the official Pottermore account on Twitter
- ↑ 'Fantastic Beasts' cast talk wands, creatures, Newt & his friends, Salem trials, more" from SnitchSeeker.com
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 "‘Fantastic Beasts': ‘Secret and Lies’ Actor Dan Fogler Joins ‘Harry Potter’ Spinoff" at Variety.com
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Deleted scene on the DVD/Blu-ray release
- ↑ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- ↑ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- ↑ The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, page 22
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, page 27
- ↑ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - "EXT. JACOB’S BAKERY, LOWER EAST SIDE—THREE MONTHS LATER—DAY". The previous scene was 16 December, 10 days after Newt's arrival to New York.
- ↑ Video: Dan Fogler talks 'Fantastic Beasts' casting, NY accent, film's era in early 1920s - SnitchSeeker.com
- ↑ THE FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM CAST ON JOINING THE WORLD OF HARRY POTTER at IGN.com
- ↑ J. K. Rowling on Twitter: "Wampus, of course."