Is Grindelwald a More Dynamic Villain Than Voldemort?

Much like Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, Voldemort embodies the concept of pure evil. He’s slightly more developed as an individual through Pensieve memories, but the audience still tends to reject the notion that he may have been an innocent child. If he legitimately cannot love because he was conceived under the influence of a love potion, his fate is sealed as a symbolic force of hate. His weakness doesn’t lie in people, but in his fear of death. He gathers followers by fear and intimidation once he loses his handsome, boyish charm.  His vendetta against Muggles appeals to the psychotic, the racist, and the privileged who want to hold on to their power. He doesn’t seem to appeal to the vast majority of wizards struggling with everyday issues or value their freedom.

 

 

Fantastic Beasts, in my opinion, may give us a more dynamic villain. Gellert Grindelwald has a similar goal of solidifying wizards’ superiority over Muggles, but he’s much more manipulative in his argument. Grindelwald’s campaign stretches to the United States, whereas Voldemort seems to stay in Europe. Grindelwald takes advantage of the oppressive state of American Muggle relations when Madam Picquery insists Credence broke a sacred law:

A law that has us scuttling like rats in the gutter! A law that demands that we conceal our true nature! A law that directs those under its dominion to cower in fear lest we risk discovery! I ask you, Madam President—I ask all of you—who does this law protect? Us? Or them?”(Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay 255)

Grindelwald’s words may strike a chord with the wizards and witches who are denied all contact with Muggles in the 1920s. The intense isolation of the wizarding community may generate resentment and fear of the unknown. American wizards could be an easy target for Grindelwald’s propaganda. Their vulnerability was surely one of his motivations to infiltrate MACUSA. Although we know the date of Grindelwald’s ultimate defeat, there’s still plenty of unknown history to explore. Grindelwald has an unpredictable quality to his treachery that Voldemort lacked. Voldemort had a foreseeable plan throughout the books: kill Harry Potter, enslave Muggles and inferior beings, and promote prejudice. We don’t know what’s motivating Grindelwald’s agenda. I’m hoping that his evolution into malicious intent will be more nuanced than “he was just born that way.”

 

 

Grindelwald possesses similar goals, but we don’t know exactly what his reign of terror entailed. His humanity is prevalent in his messy relationship with Albus Dumbledore and gives another dimension to his villainy that we’ll continue to dissect throughout Fantastic Beasts. The idea that his weakness could be a person rather than fear of death is far more relatable and compelling to me. How did Grindelwald win the duel against Dumbledore when he possessed the Elder Wand?  Did Dumbledore truly best him, or did he appeal to Grindelwald’s humanity? We also know that Grindelwald may have felt regret later in life, which gives the impression of an antagonist who believes he’s doing something for the “greater good” of the world. Voldemort didn’t seem to truly believe his cause would bring about a better world. Instead, he projected a need for demented pleasure in causing fear and pain without bounds. I’m excited to see the arc of Grindelwald’s character in the upcoming films! I foresee possible Snape-like debates if his character continues to travel into complex territory.

What do you think will happen in Fantastic Beasts with Grindelwald’s character? Let us know in the comments below!

  • worldstraveller

    This is actually a very interesting topic, but is a little soon for judgement, most of what we know about him is in Deathly Hallows and Fantastic Beasts first movie, which is still little.
    I was already interested in his character since book 7, I do like this theme about “the greater good” philosophy and the moral challenges that it gives, because it ends in a very grey zone, which was one of it’s main themes in book 7 and is connected strongly with Dumbledore’s character too and is also Dumbledore’s methods of planning and decision.

  • Iain Walker

    “If he legitimately cannot love because he was conceived under the influence of a love potion”

    This is not what Rowling said. She said that Voldemort’s loveless conception was symbolic of his inability to understand love, and that if Merope had survived and he’d been raised in a loving environment he’d probably have turned out differently. So, love potion = symbolic, not a causal factor; loveless upbringing = an actual causal factor.

    (Also, you don’t seem to mention Voldemort’s main goal, which was personal power and immortality. Even his espousal of pureblood fascism seems to have taken second place to this.)

    That said, you’re right that Grindelwald is a different kind of villain. He’s more of an ideological fascist, where Voldemort (although not necessarily insincere) was more opportunistic. He also has sociopathic tendencies, but he’s not as far gone as Voldemort – he’s still relatively high-functioning. And the fact that he has an agenda that might have some populist appeal amongst a broader range of wizards than mere pureblood supremacism also makes him dangerous in a way that Voldemort never got around to being.

    So yes, I’m kind of looking forward to see what the films do with the character. However …

    Is Johnny Depp’s performance going to consist entirely of menacing whispers and jocular riddles? Depp used to be a great actor, and if he could actually bring some of that to the table I might feel less uneasy about his casting. But if we’re just going to get self-caricature Depp in the role, then the films might struggle to make Grindelwald a compelling villain, no matter how well written the part.