Is Ariana’s Obscurus Inside Credence?
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a divisive film with many twists and turns. The shocking reveal at the end with Credence and Grindelwald left many fans scratching their heads. We all know that J.K. Rowling has a love for names. Luna Lovegood is referred to in the books as “Loony Lovegood,” and luna is the Latin word for “moon.” This seems to evoke the notion of being celestial and otherworldly, which describes Luna. She also shares her name with the divine embodiment of the moon in Roman religion and myth. “Knockturn Alley” is a play on the word “nocturnally.” This implies darkness and shadows, and as such, this is the only place that we know of in England where wizards obtain artifacts pertaining to the Dark Arts. It also includes Borgin and Burkes – a shop that specializes in objects that have strong and unusual magical properties – where Voldemort worked after attending Hogwarts to help him obtain Horcruxes. Even one of Dumbledore’s seemingly boring middle names, Brian, comes from the Celtic word for “noble,” which describes him well. Given all the name etymology, Rowling’s choices of names aren’t just happy accidents.
There are several theories explaining what Grindelwald meant when he told Credence that he was Dumbledore’s brother. I originally believed he was lying to Credence, but given more thought, I find that theory far too simple. Rowling uses misdirection in the Harry Potter books as well as different, but equally plausible, versions of the truth. She rarely lies to the reader. Grindelwald isn’t lying, he’s misdirecting. Grindelwald isn’t speaking to Credence when he says he’s Dumbledore’s brother. He is talking to the Obscurus inside of Credence.
Queenie was sought after by Grindelwald for her empath capabilities. She can read thoughts, and in both films, she is shown to be so gifted at it that it overwhelms her. Grindelwald is described at the beginning of the film as “persuasive,” to the point where the jail had to change his guard three times inside of six months and even removed his tongue to neutralize his persuasiveness. Grindelwald has never needed to read people’s minds. He can manipulate and bend people to his will with his “persuasiveness.” At the end of the film, he asks Queenie, “Is he frightened of me still?” The obvious question is why he would need such an accomplished empath to read Credence’s mind to find out if Credence is afraid of him. He has spoken to and been surrounded by people who are completely terrified of him throughout the entire film. Furthermore, since he manipulated prison guards who have had a history of difficult inmates, it seems unreasonable that he would need help with a 20-something-year old kid.
Queenie replies, “You need to be careful… He’s not sure he made the right choice. Be very gentle with him.” Grindelwald needs Queenie because he isn’t talking to Credence, he’s talking to the Obscurus. The Obscurus typically overwhelms and kills their host, or Obscurial. Credence has shown, on some level, that he has the ability to influence the Obscurus, but by no means can he control it. The Obscurus is in charge.
Grindelwald then walks over to Credence and says, “And just as he has celebrated your torment, your brother seeks to destroy you.” As we know from the Harry Potter books, one of the hallmarks is that Dumbledore has always given a character the benefit of the doubt, almost to a fault. As such, he wouldn’t want to destroy Credence – he would want to try to save him. In fact, earlier in the film, Dumbledore explains to Newt on the bus, “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.” The only thing Dumbledore would want to destroy is the Obscurus that latched itself onto his sister.
Grindelwald continues by revealing Credence’s real name, “Aurelius. Aurelius Dumbledore.” The name Aurelius is the most telling clue as to the identity of the Obscurus inside Credence. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor who was adopted. In the screenplay, the directions say, “Credence turns. The power of his Obscurus can, at last, be channeled. He points the wand at the window and a spell of immense power shatters the glass and breaks apart the mountain opposite.” The Obscurus is Ariana, Dumbledore’s sister. The Obscurus left Ariana’s body after her untimely death and harbored itself in another body. We know from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that Newt has an Obscurus in his suitcase. Therefore, an Obscurus can survive without an Obscurial. That is what Grindelwald is speaking to when he calls Credence “Aurelius.” Credence is not a blood relative, but like Marcus Aurelius, he is an adopted brother via the Obscurus that resides inside him.