The Underground Lake #33: Cryptic Characters, Part 1: The Other Brother
Yes folks, I am back. The batteries are recharged and the wheels are back in motion. In truth, I have been in the proverbial HP lab brewing up some new material to stimulate the fervent HP masses. In my hiatus, a lot has happened in the HP universe. It seems that daily we are bombarded with new OOTP casting news. We know JKR is hard at work on Book Seven, and that – any day now – that marvelous door will once again open and spark that gloriously wicked debate not seen since the days of Spinner’s End, McClaggen, and “the lion-man”. But enough about the world; let’s move to the topic at hand.
This summer in my preview for this season, I told you that I was cooking up a four-part series entitled, “Cryptic Characters” (I always do five-parters; I decided to switch it up). The time has come, it seems, to put up or shut up. The purpose of this four-parter is my attempt to make sense of characters we know either a lot or a little about and try to figure what role they will play in Book Seven and, ultimately, the final confrontation. We begin this installment with someone, in my opinion, that is the most cryptic character of the four men I am doing… let me rephrase… the four men that I will be discussing (I liked Brokeback Mountain, but not THAT much). This is a gentleman about whom we have seen very little but about whom we get the tiniest little hints in several books. I am, of course, referring to the enigmatic Aberforth Dumbledore. Therefore, I submit for your entertainment and consideration: THE OTHER BROTHER!
What We Know: Inference & Fact
The facts of Aberforth are relatively obscured considering Albus talks very little of his brother. We know that he was once in trouble for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat, and that he is the innkeeper of the Hogs Head. Most enigmatically, he was a member of the original Order of the Phoenix who was – presumably – always on assignment as the only time people ever remember actually seeing him was the during the taking of the infamous photo.
The enigma deepens. We do not know that Aberforth was on assignment; we only infer that no one ever knew where he was or what he was doing. Why the secrecy? Why, in this relatively small wizarding world, does it appear that Albus is ashamed of his brother? Maybe they were step-brothers or half-brothers? This brings up an interesting line of questioning. Is there divorce in the wizarding world? Do wizards and witches remarry after a death or a separation? Do you suppose marriage is an Unbreakable Vow? Oooh! (That last one just made me want to say “oooh.”) But I digress. I repeat: information (cold hard facts, that is) is sketchy and scarce on Aberforth at best. That’s all we know, though we are certain that we WANT to know more.
It Sucks to Be Aberforth
It must be the hardest job in the world to be Aberforth Dumbledore, kid brother to the GREAT Albus Dumbledore. Robin Williams does a hilarious bit about “Jerry Christ,” the little brother of Jesus. After reading HP, one can see how the same applies to Aberforth. Here you have a brother who is considered by pretty much everybody as being the most powerful wizard of all time. His accomplishments are legendary, his abilities vast. And who the heck are you? A bartender. Can you imagine being Aberforth going to Hogwarts AFTER his brother graduated? Every teacher and older student would say, “HOLY CRAP! YOU’RE DUMBLEDORE’S BROTHER! I BET YOU’LL BE AN AMAZING WIZARD!!” The pressure must have been immense, the agony of disappointing these complete strangers after they find out “you’re not as good as your brother”. This is not to say that Aberforth was not as powerful as Albus. This is to say he might have had a little ‘Neville syndrome’ with a dash of ‘Weasley-itis’: constantly being compared to a family member, “why can’t you be more like your brother,” etc. The only thing worse would be if he was Albus’ OLDER brother in which case, he would constantly be bombarded with, “Wow, your little brother is sooooo cool! He’s better than you.” The poor guy probably has a major inferiority complex.
Important movie question: Will they cast Aberforth in the fifth movie, as he is the barman of the Hog’s Head, not to mention is in the Pensieve scene escorting the young TFPWWNBN (“The Former Professor Who Will Not Be Named,” for those just joining us) out of the bar as he overhears the prophecy? He then appears again at the funeral in Book Six.
WHAT I THINK IS IN STORE
This may hold the record as shortest Underground Lake ever, if only because there is SO LITTLE known about Aberforth. The main reason I decided to start with him is that I want him on EVERYBODY’S radar. I feel he will be critically crucial to Book Seven. I believe he will not only be present at the final confrontation, but I’d personally like to see some old-western-movie-style, “I’m comin’ to avenge my brother’s death” action on TFPWWNBN. Harry wants his vengeance. I understand this, but for me, vengeance is reserved for the most deserving – and it’s not fair any other way. For me, Lupin has to take down Greyback, Neville has to take down Bellatrix, Harry has to take down Voldemort, and Aberforth has to take down the man who killed his brother.
Who is Aberforth Dumbledore? As I have made it very clear, I don’t have a frickin’ clue… but you know how I love to speculate. So, allow me to put myself in JKR’s shoes (though with my size 14 feet, that’s gonna be pretty dang painful).
If we think about what Dumbledore is like, and use that as the divining rod, we might be able to deduce what ol’ Abe was like. Knowing Albus to be the sort of hip, old grandpa, I imagine Aberforth to have some of that signature Dumbledore wit. However, Albus is… excuse me… was a man in a lofty position in society. The position he held meant that though he had opinions, he had certain decorum about how he shared them. Albus wasn’t one to beat around the bush; yet, very often, he never just came out and said it. For examples, see his dealings with Umbridge: Note how he never came out and told Umbridge what he really thought of her or the ministry until it was time for him to split.
As for ol’ Abe (Aberforth is a long name to write for so someone who can’t type), I think he has that same wit. However, he has no one to impress. I think when we see Aberforth talk it will be as though seeing DUMBLEDORE – UNCUT AND UNCENSORED. He’s a bartender, so he’s probably pretty rough ‘n tumble. He was an Order member (and for all we know, he’s still is and is on assignment), so he can probably handle himself. If genetics have any weight in the wizarding world, you know the guy has skills (he was swimming in the Dumbledore gene pool). The whole “goat charming incident” makes me think perhaps he might be a bit off. Not crazy, or even useless, or even attention seeking (because nobody wants THAT kind of attention), but rather, he marches to the beat of his own drum. I see him as a guy who does not have the emotional attachment to people like his brother. He’s the lonely outcast. I think he’s probably a bit crotchety; perhaps he even has issues with kids.
Before I go, I’m going to put this out there. At this point, until I receive evidence to the contrary, I’m putting him down as the next/last Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. I see perhaps an issue with him and Slughorn (all this “I see” business has me feeling like Miss Cleo over here… is this the Central INTUITIVE Agency?). Perhaps there may be some story of which we know nothing where Aberforth and Slughorn have a problem with each other. Not to mention, there would be a fantastic dynamic to have “Dumbledore’s brother” teaching at the school. It would have an interesting effect on the kids. I see particularly Harry wanting to connect with him (at the beginning of the story) and finding him “unconnect-able.”
That’s all I have. Tune in for the next installment where I will discuss the fate of the ferret. Until then: THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION!