What does “canon” mean? meaning and use

We’re talking about the “canon” of a series and you don’t know what that means? We’ll tell you what’s behind the expression and how you use it.

That means canon: original work

The term “canon” denotes the official material of a fictional story or universe. Everything that belongs to the original of a series, a film or a book is considered to be “canon”. Often “canon” is used as an antonym for fan fiction

origin of canon

The term “canon” is derived from the Greek and originally meant “straight stick”, “rule” or “guideline”. The latter meaning became established to describe the biblical canon. The religious writings recognized by the Church were numbered under the term “canon” and distinguished from the Apocrypha.

In the 20th century, the term also spread in literature. An essay by Ronald Knox is seen as one of the first uses of “canon” with today’s relevance. In this he distinguishes imitative works inspired by Arthur Conan Doyles from the original “Sherlock Holmes”.

degrees of canon

There are ambiguities or gradations in the canonicity of works for various reasons. If several original media are available, it is difficult to speak of just one “canon”, for example. Remakes and spin-offs also often blur the lines, sometimes due to unwanted plot holes.

Reboots aren’t always compatible with the original “canon” either. In many cases, therefore, different continuities are seen as a new universe distinct from the first published. This is the case, for example, with the MCU versus the Marvel Comics or “Star Wars” .

The extent to which information and background stories disseminated outside the work belong to the “canon” is also questioned. Even if, as in the case of the “Harry Potter” universe , the creator disseminates them, many fans do not accept them as “canon”. If every fan doesn’t have access to it through the work itself, it can’t belong.

Fanon and Headcanon

Two common terms for this blending of “canon” with fan theories are “fanon” and “headcanon”. The term “Fanon” is a portmanteau of “fan” and “canon” and refers to specific ideas within the fan community. If these are popular and accepted enough, they are referred to as “Fanon”.

“Headcanons” are elements and interpretations of a fictional universe accepted by individual fans but not necessarily found within the official “canon”. However, the “Headcanon” usually does not contradict the original, but is added just for fun, like “Dumbledore hid lemon drops all over Hogwarts”.


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