Grindelwald and Professor Binns
One of the things that makes JKR’s writing so entertaining to children and adults alike is that her story lines are so tight and complex. I recently read here that she plotted out the entire 7 part story on an elaborate grid before she set to work on the first book. Brilliant. I’d love to look at these notes when the series is complete, but, as Rowling said in a recent interview, she’s unlikely to release them for publication. That means we’ll just have to keep working on the mosaic together and help each other figure it all out.
My schooling was in the field of History, so the natural approach for me is to make a timeline of events and see what patterns or inferences may appear. It takes some work in the HP world, and I may have made mistakes, but here’s my attempt.
We can begin in 1942 because Nearly Headless Nick announced his 500th death day anniversary dating from 1492 in CoS, taking us to 1992, and the Riddle diary took us back 50 years from there. (See what I mean? I’m already wearing down) Tom Riddle is a 5th year student, meaning he graduated and went out on his own to study the Dark Arts in 1944.
Moving to our next solid piece of information – from Dumbledore’s chocolate frog card, PS/SS – we know that he’s most famous for his defeat of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in 1945. Then recall how Dumbledore reminds Voldemort during their duel in OoTP that “we both know there are worse things then death” and we get good clues as to what transpired before Harry was born, and perhaps, what is to come. It stands to reason that Grindelwald became Voldemort’s Dark Arts master when he left school. He must have witnessed the final duel between Grindelwald and Dumbledore, and what he saw obviously struck such terror into his heart that Dumbledore became “The Only Wizard He Ever Feared.”
The images invoked by this event rather stir the imagination, don’t they? (Ms. Rowling, if you’re reading this, I’d really like to hear the rest of this story.)
My little timeline tells me that Dumbledore’s battle against Grindelwald fortells important aspects of the looming confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. For example, I wonder whether the fact that Grindelwald’s reign coincided with WWII is significant, given that a Dark Lord’s “gift for sowing discord and dissension is very great.”
We should also think over the other dates revealed so far: 1971, when James and his team won the Quidditch Cup (revealed in the trophy room, PS/SS); 1980, when Harry was born (12 years before the 500th death day anniversary in 1992); and 1969, when Voldemort started his own reign of terror (Hagrid told Harry that Voldemort had been at it for 11 years before Harry, James, and Lily felled him). Let’s see here… Snape was “up to his eyeballs in the Dark Arts when he arrived at school” which would have been at or near the beginning of Voldemort’s Dark ascension. He became a Death Eater. James “always hated the Dark Arts” and detested Snape on first sight. JKR warns us not to feel sorry for what happened to Snape as a student at Hogwarts. Lily and James defied Voldemort three times during their brief lives. Therefore… (Ms. Rowling, if you’re reading this, I’d really like to hear the rest of this story)
Each revelation, however small seems to uncover more hidden stories. (which is why we all keep reading JKR, after all) What would James Potter have learned about the Dark Arts as a child before entering Hogwarts? Why would he have such a visceral aversion to the people he suspects of practicing them that he would be so cruel to Snape in OoTP? Let’s go back to the timeline and consider what we know. Harry has no blood relatives left but Petunia. It would seem that James lost many relatives to Dark Wizards in the previous war led by Grindelwald. That raises many more important implications for Harry’s future, does it not?
I’d like to continue, but I’ve now exhausted my knowledge of Harry Potter history. If any of you think I’m on to something, a little help would be appreciated. I’m sure I lifted several of these ideas from the contributors here anyway. Let’s banish the spectre of boring Professor Binns and see what these historical facts may tell us about what happens next in the HP world.
Come to think of it, perhaps wheezy old Professor Binns is going to become a bit more interesting to us as his course of instruction methodically moves toward the events leading up to Dumbledore’s titanic battle with Grindelwald. Perhaps he’s already more important then we may think. As you all have written many times, everyone in Rowling’s books serves a particular purpose. He’s already told of Giant Wars and Goblin rebellions, and as they say, the Past is Prologue…