This is a very interesting topic for me, because I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering this myself, so here goes. I could honestly talk about this for pages and pages, but I’ll stick to the questions to keep it concise.
Is something canon even if it never appears in the actual work?
Canon obviously begins with the original books themselves, but I do consider material in published novellas as canon too, even if I don’t much like the idea of side stories. The concept of canon vs non-canon is why I usually have so much trouble reading novellas. If they’re not released chronologically along with the books or doesn’t very obviously tie into the main storyline, it never feels like canon to me, even though it logically is. My opinion on this is that as long as the fact is in a properly published work, I consider it canon.
Can an author tweet something and it becomes retroactively canon?
No way, absolutely not. If the author were to tweet something leading up to the release of a book as a teaser or spoiler, that I can accept, but when they decide to drop tidbits long after the series has ended, that will never be canon to me *cough*Harry Potter*cough*. With social media, it is so easy to interact with authors and ask questions, and the answers are not always very well thought out and might contradict the facts in their books. I’m of the opinion that a good fictional universe doesn’t need to be described point by point, for characters or world-building, and only needs to provide enough of a picture that readers can fill in the gaps with their imagination – and when authors drop ‘canon’ facts much later, I actually find it really annoying.
When a company like Disney buys something and decides to declare previously canon things non-canon is that to be respected? If events differ in different adaptations which events are the “true” canon?
Again, no. In the case of movie adaptations, when a company buys the rights, there’s no guarantee that the original creator has any say in the new version at all. I mean, look at the disaster that was the Percy Jackson movies. And even if the author does have a say, it’s rarely possible to translate from book to screen exactly, so there are always differences, or added facts to fill in the plotholes that didn’t matter in the books, making it non canon. Even one of my favourite movies of all time, Lord of the Rings, did not escape from this – I still fret about the fact that Arwen rescued the hobbits in the movies instead of Glorfindel as in the books.
As much as I enjoy adaptations – book or movie, I tend to consider them as retellings, putting a twist on the original story for any number of reasons such as catering to present day audiences, or making it appealing across age groups. And retellings are hugely entertaining – for example, look at Cinderella is Dead – I actually liked it better than the original since I’ve never really been a fan of Cinderella, but that doesn’t make it fact. The original should be considered the true canon.
What do you consider canon? Share your thoughts in the comments below!