From Harry Potter to Star Wars: What Is a Canon Event, and Why Does It Matter?


Imagine you’re deeply immersed in your favorite book, TV show, or video game. You’ve grown attached to the characters and the world they inhabit, and you can’t wait to see what happens next. Then, suddenly, a major event occurs that changes the course of the story. You wonder, “Is this part of the ‘real’ story, or is it just a side quest?” That’s where the concept of “canon events” comes into play. In this article, we’ll explore what canon events are, why they matter, and how they shape the fictional universes we love.

Understanding Canon in Fiction

Before we dive into canon events, let’s clarify what “canon” means in the world of fiction. In essence, the term “canon” refers to the official, accepted body of work within a fictional universe. It’s the core material that builds the foundation of a story, and it’s considered the authoritative source for that world.

The Role of Canon in Building a Fictional Universe

Think of a fictional universe as a vast puzzle with countless pieces. Each piece represents a story, character, event, or element within that universe. The canon is the complete, coherent picture formed by these pieces. It’s what makes the story’s world feel real and consistent.

To illustrate this, let me share a personal anecdote. As a devoted Star Wars fan, I’ve seen how the Star Wars canon unites movies, TV series, books, and comics into one massive, interconnected narrative. When a character or event from a non-canon source makes its way into the official canon, it’s like discovering a missing piece of the puzzle that finally fits.

Canon vs. Non-Canon: What Sets Them Apart

In fiction, not everything is part of the canon. Non-canon elements, often referred to as “alternative” or “fan fiction,” exist outside the official storyline. They’re like what-if scenarios, offering different perspectives and outcomes. While non-canon works can be entertaining, they’re not considered part of the “true” story.

For example, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has an expansive world, but only what’s established in the seven books and the subsequent Pottermore website is considered canon. Fan fiction and theories may be fun, but they won’t change the official story.

What Constitutes a Canon Event

Canon events are those pivotal moments that are considered part of the official narrative. Here’s how you can identify them:

Canonical Sources

  1. Original Works: This includes the primary material, such as novels, TV episodes, or movies. Anything that originates from the creator’s mind or official channels falls into this category.
  2. Authorial Statements: Sometimes, authors make statements or provide background information about their work. These statements can add depth to the canon, even if they’re not part of the original work.
  3. Official Spin-offs and Expanded Universe Material: Some franchises expand their worlds through supplementary material like comics, video games, or spin-off series. If these materials are approved and integrated into the main story, they become part of the canon.

In my experience with the Harry Potter series, the information J.K. Rowling shares about characters and the wizarding world on Pottermore gives us a more comprehensive view of the canon.

Impact on the Main Narrative

A canon event is significant in that it impacts the main storyline. It’s not just a throwaway moment or a side story. It shapes the direction of the narrative and often has far-reaching consequences.

To illustrate, consider the “Red Wedding” episode in Game of Thrones. This shocking event significantly altered the course of the story and left a lasting impact on the characters and the audience.

Consistency and Continuity

Canon events are chosen for their ability to maintain consistency and continuity within the fictional universe. They adhere to the established rules, characters’ behaviors, and the overarching narrative. Any event that contradicts or disrupts the established world is typically considered non-canon.

The Significance of Canon Events

Canon events play a crucial role in shaping the world and characters within a fictional universe. Let’s explore their significance in more detail:

World-Building and Lore

A well-crafted canon adds depth and authenticity to a fictional world. It establishes the rules, history, and culture of the universe. For instance, in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the events of “The Silmarillion” serve as a rich source of lore, enriching the entire canon.

Character Development

Canon events often drive character growth and evolution. Major life-changing events, decisions, and experiences shape who characters become. Consider how the canon event of Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-Man defines his journey and identity in the Marvel Universe.

Fan Engagement and Fandom

Canon events are a source of excitement and discussion among fans. They inspire fan theories, debates, and fanfiction. As a Star Trek fan, I’ve seen countless debates about what should be considered canon, which adds a layer of community engagement to the experience.

Examples of Canon Events in Popular Franchises

Let’s take a look at a few examples of canon events in various forms of media:


  • The Death of Dumbledore in Harry Potter: This event had a profound impact on the wizarding world, Harry, and the entire series.

Film and Television

  • The Destruction of Alderaan in Star Wars: This event illustrates the power of the Death Star and the cruelty of the Empire.

Video Games

  • Aerith’s Death in Final Fantasy VII: Aerith’s death significantly impacts the story and the characters’ emotional development.


  • The Death of Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man: This event forever changed Spider-Man’s character and comic book storytelling.

The Challenges of Managing Canon

While canon is essential, it comes with its own set of challenges:

Canon Conflicts

Sometimes, different creators contribute to a franchise, leading to canon conflicts. For example, the multiple interpretations of Batman in various comic book runs can create confusion about his true character.

Retconning and Revision

Authors may choose to revise or retcon elements of the canon to tell new stories or correct inconsistencies. This can be divisive among fans, as seen in the controversial alterations to Star Wars’ Expanded Universe.

Fan Reactions and Fanon

Fans often develop their own interpretations and stories within a fictional universe, known as “fanon.” This can sometimes clash with the official canon, leading to tensions and debates within the fan community.

The Evolution of Canon Events

Canon is not static; it evolves over time:

Changes Over Time

As new works are created and added to a franchise, the canon expands and evolves. What was once considered non-canon may become canon, or canon events may be reinterpreted.

Adaptations and Reinterpretations

Adaptations of popular works, such as movies and TV series, sometimes take creative liberties with the source material. While these adaptations introduce new audiences to the story, they may create their own canon events that diverge from the original.

The Role of Fan Theories and Speculation

Fan theories and speculation are integral to the experience of canon events:

Fan Theories and Their Impact on Canon

Fans often generate theories and speculation about what might happen next or what certain events mean. Sometimes, these fan theories gain such traction that creators incorporate them into the official canon.

Fandom’s Influence on Canon Events

The passion and enthusiasm of a fanbase can influence creators’ decisions. Fans’ reactions and desires may shape the direction of the story or lead to the resurrection of beloved characters.


In the world of fiction, canon events are the threads that weave together the tapestry of a fictional universe. They provide structure, consistency, and significance to the stories we love. While challenges and changes may arise, the enduring appeal of canon events lies in their ability to captivate our imaginations and foster a sense of community among fans. So, next time you dive into your favorite fictional world, take a moment to appreciate the canon events that make it all come to life.