What Makes Credence So Special?
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
I had an inkling prior to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald being released that the film might be convoluted. Almost a year before Crimes of Grindelwald was released, I stated that “I don’t want detail for the sake of detail, but only if it serves a purpose by moving the story along.” However, the optimist in me was prepared to enjoy this film, even if, truth be told, I don’t hold the Potter films very close to my heart. To me, Harry Potter is all about the original seven books. At their core, those books are mystery and detective stories, and I was definitely left mystified after seeing Crimes of Grindelwald. The film was frustrating, but it hasn’t dissipated my interest in Fantastic Beasts.
Crimes of Grindelwald, like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child before it, has divided fans’ opinions, but it has also ignited the fandom. Whatever you think of the revelation at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald that Credence Barebone might be Aurelius Dumbledore, the film has sparked theorizing among fans that I have not experienced since the Harry Potter books were being released. I was actually drafting another attack piece on Crimes of Grindelwald when I stopped and thought to myself, “What needs to be said has already been said.” So to break my chain of negative Crimes of Grindelwald articles, I’m going back to what I love about Potter, theorizing.
Specifically, I want to put forth a theory explaining why Credence is “the key to” Grindelwald’s victory.
As a caveat, my theory isn’t dependent on Credence really being a Dumbledore, but it becomes a lot stronger if Grindelwald is being truthful about Credence’s ancestry. This theory works as long as Dumbledore simply believes that Credence is related to him. Some fans have even suggested that the Obscurus residing inside Credence is actually Ariana’s Obscurus, that the phoenix shown at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald was drawn to Ariana’s Obscurus (and not Credence himself), and that when Grindelwald says, “You have suffered the most heinous of betrayals, most purposely bestowed upon you by your own blood,” he’s actually talking to Ariana’s Obscurus.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed (which is a surprise), when Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released and we were introduced to the concept of Obscurials, everything seemed to point to Ariana Dumbledore having been an Obscurial.
In Crimes of Grindelwald, while discussing his plans for wizarding domination with his followers, Grindelwald tells Krall that “Credence is the only entity alive . . . who can kill” Dumbledore. However, why would this be the case? When Travers interrogates Dumbledore later in the film, he says, “You are the only wizard who is his equal.” If Grindelwald is prepared to use Credence to kill Dumbledore, then why isn’t the Ministry prepared to use Credence to kill Grindelwald? We know that this isn’t due to any moral dilemma since the Ministry has no qualms with Credence dying – they actively want to kill him.
When Voldemort is discussing his plans to resurrect his body in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with Wormtail, Wormtail says, “It could be done without Harry Potter, my Lord” (GoF, ch. 1). My feelings on Credence being the only entity capable of killing Dumbledore are similar. What makes Credence so powerful? Is it because he has so much untapped potential power (we’re veering dangerously toward discussions similar to midi-chlorian counts in Star Wars here)? In Crimes of Grindelwald, after Grindelwald presents Credence with a wand, Credence proceeds to blow up the side of a mountain. This, I suppose, is supposed to illustrate Credence’s raw power. However, from the Potter series, we’ve always known that “the wand chooses the wizard” (SS, ch. 5). When Harry is trying out wands in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Ollivander snatches away a wand after Harry destroys several filing cabinets. Somehow, Grindelwald is fine with Credence destroying a mountain. This might indicate that Grindelwald’s knowledge of wandlore is lacking, but I’m going to provide an alternative interpretation: Grindelwald has little interest in Credence harnessing his powers.
In Crimes of Grindelwald, Dumbledore tells Newt that “an Obscurus grows in the absence of love as a dark twin, an only friend. If Credence has a real brother or sister out there who can take its place, he might yet be saved.” I want to highlight the “a real brother… who can take its place” part of this quote. Later, when Dumbledore and Leta Lestrange have a conversation at Hogwarts, Dumbledore is uncharacteristically honest with Leta, telling her that “regret is [his] constant companion.” We know that Dumbledore died with his regret because when he drinks the potion in Voldemort’s cave in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he yells, “Don’t hurt them, don’t hurt them, please, please, it’s my fault, hurt me instead” (HBP, ch. 26).
Grindelwald is aware of Dumbledore’s regret. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore says, “I think he knew it, I think he knew what frightened me” (DH, ch. 35). My belief is that Grindelwald plans to kill Dumbledore by emotionally manipulating him and playing on his guilt. This seems very much in character with everything we know about Grindelwald so far. Having already lost Ariana, if Dumbledore believed that Credence was really his brother, then it isn’t far-fetched to suggest that, given the right circumstances, Dumbledore might sacrifice himself if it meant that Credence would be saved.
Here’s where Fawkes comes into play. At the end of Crimes of Grindelwald, when Grindelwald restores the name “Aurelius Dumbledore” to Credence, we see a phoenix reborn. To me, this can only be Fawkes. We learned in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that Dumbledore and Fawkes have a special connection when Dumbledore says to Harry, “You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could have called Fawkes to you” (CoS, ch. 18), and I’ve always seen Dumbledore as being the personification of Fawkes. We see Fawkes taking a bullet for Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. During Dumbledore’s duel with Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fawkes flies in front of Dumbledore and takes the full force of Voldemort’s Killing Curse. I would not be surprised if we see Fawkes similarly sacrificing himself for Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Recall what Dumbledore tells Newt early on in Crimes of Grindelwald: “A phoenix will come to any Dumbledore who is in desperate need.”
In short, Grindelwald believes that Credence is the only entity alive who can kill Dumbledore because he plans to exploit Dumbledore’s regret and guilt over Ariana’s death. In Fantastic Beasts 3, a situation will arise in which Dumbledore feels that he needs to sacrifice himself in order to save Credence, and Fawkes will fly in to save the day (this would certainly keep this series beast themed).