Five Things We Learned About Dumbledore from “Crimes of Grindelwald”

SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION

Despite being the binding element that ties the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series together – since he was such a private figure – we know very little about the life of Albus Dumbledore. The trajectory of the Potter fandom’s relationship with Dumbledore as a character as they traversed J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter books has mirrored their relationship with Rowling herself. Throughout the early Potter books, Dumbledore was portrayed as the puppet master of the series – an authorial surrogate for Rowling herself. In the later books, Dumbledore’s flaws became more apparent. He became a more realistic character. According to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry “had grown used to the idea that Dumbledore could solve anything. He had expected Dumbledore to pull some amazing solution out of the air” (PoA 27). Similarly, when the Harry Potter books were coming out, we were so enamored with them that it felt like Rowling could do no wrong. However, years following the completion of the Harry Potter series have shown us that Rowling is not without her faults.

 

 

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Dumbledore. Prior to the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, fans debated – after learning that he would be the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor rather than the Transfiguration professor, which was canonically accepted – whether he would lose his identity in the film. The film addresses this issue – disappointingly. The explanation we receive is that because the Ministry thinks that Dumbledore is on Grindelwald’s side, they no longer want him to teach DADA. This makes absolutely no sense at all – Voldemort failed in his ambitions to teach DADA at Hogwarts and he still turned out to be a Dark wizard.

When the first official trailer for Crimes of Grindelwald came out, fans took note of the line “I can’t move against Grindelwald. It has to be you” and wondered whether Dumbledore would be manipulating Newt in the same way that he manipulated Harry – a pig for slaughter, for the greater good. There has also been a lot of discussion regarding the representation of Dumbledore’s sexuality, or lack thereof, in Crimes of Grindelwald.

In a moment of frustration at the end of Chapter 18 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore,” Harry realizes that he didn’t know Dumbledore as well as he thought he did.

I don’t know who he loved, Hermione, but it was never me. This isn’t love, the mess he’s left me in. He shared a damn sight more of what he was really thinking with Gellert Grindelwald than he ever shared with me.

Two years ago, Rowling told fans that the Fantastic Beasts film series would show us “Dumbledore as a younger man and quite a troubled man,” and now that Crimes of Grindelwald has been released, here are five things that we learned about Dumbledore.

 

He has a genealogical connection to phoenixes.

According to Dumbledore, and later Grindelwald, legend has it that phoenixes have been known to appear before members of the Dumbledore family in their most desperate hour of need. I previously wondered whether we’d be seeing Fawkes in Fantastic Beasts, and now I’m convinced that he’ll play a crucial role when Dumbledore has his famous duel with Grindelwald by the end of this franchise. However, I feel a tad conflicted about this expansion of Dumbledore’s character because it makes the connection between Dumbledore and Fawkes less personal.

 

He didn’t tell Harry everything.

Dumbledore is the most secretive and private person in the Harry Potter books (perhaps with the exception of Snape). After Sirius’s death, Dumbledore tells Harry it’s “time for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago” (OotP 37). This turned out to be a lie because in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we learned some shocking truths about Dumbledore, which blurred the fandom’s opinion of him – subsequently, he’s been described as “manipulative.” It turns out that Rita Skeeter didn’t uncover all of Dumbledore’s secrets, though. If we are to believe a big reveal at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald, then Credence is a Dumbledore (despite there being no mention of Dumbledore having any other siblings other than Aberforth and Ariana in the books). If Grindelwald was lying when he told Credence that he was a Dumbledore, why would a phoenix have appeared to him if it was a lie? My theory is that when Ariana Dumbledore died, her Obscurus survived, later attaching itself to Credence. In a sense, part of Ariana lives inside of Credence.

 

His friendship with Grindelwald was common knowledge in the 1920s.

I had always been under the impression that very few people knew about Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald – this might be my own headcanon and I might have to reread Deathly Hallows. As such, I was surprised when Travers conjured a flashback of Dumbledore and Grindelwald in their youth before telling him that “You were as close as brothers,” to which Dumbledore replied, “We were closer than brothers.”

The screenplay for Crimes of Grindelwald gives us some insight as to what Dumbledore was thinking at that moment.

DUMBLEDORE is looking at the pictures. These memories are agony. He is full of remorse but, almost worse: nostalgia for the only time in his life he felt fully understood.

 

He made a blood pact with Grindelwald.

Prior to Crimes of Grindelwald being released, we’d been asking why Newt would have to be doing Dumbledore’s dirty work. Some fans had theorized that Dumbledore and Grindelwald formed an Unbreakable Vow in their youth to not fight each other. Although blood pacts and Unbreakable Vows are not the same thing, they sound very similar. This revelation complicates what we know about Dumbledore’s history even more. If Dumbledore and Grindelwald made a blood pact not to fight each other, then how did the three-way duel between Aberforth, Dumbledore, and Grindelwald, in which Ariana died, occur?

 

He still holds some affection for Grindelwald.

I thought Jude Law was exceptional in his portrayal of Dumbledore, but there was one scene from Crimes of Grindelwald that stood out to me. It’s the scene of Dumbledore standing in front of the Mirror of Erised that we’d seen in the trailers. At that scene, we see the conflict within Dumbledore. Although Dumbledore tells Travers that he wants the defeat of Grindelwald, when Dumbledore looks into the Mirror and sees Grindelwald and himself in their youth, we see a flicker of a smile on his face. It seems as though Dumbledore misses the old days.

Victor Chan

Growing up with the books, Harry Potter shaped my life in ways that were invaluable. Through the books, I developed my passion for writing. When I’m not obsessing over Harry Potter, most of my time is spent listening to music (mostly, Prince) or podcasts (I am subscribed to too many to keep up with).