Seven Things to Ponder About Grindelwald
We have a new enigmatic character to theorize about these days! Even if we’re not quite done discussing Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore, it’s time to turn our attention to the new faces in the wizarding world. And for me, the character I’m most curious to learn more about is Gellert Grindelwald. There are so many questions! Here are seven that will definitely be on my mind over the next two years.
#1: What on earth did Grindelwald mean, “Will we die, just a little?” (Scene 116)
This is the question that everyone wants to answer, but damned if I even have a guess to venture.
#2: Do Grindelwald and Newt know each other?
Ah, here we have much more to go on! And it looks like evidence points toward the two having a history together.
After Tina brings Newt to MACUSA, saying, “There’s been a minor incident” (Scene 22), Graves follows her to find out what’s going on (Scene 24), even though Picquery dismisses her. Surely it’s not customary for the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to humor disgraced ex-Aurors reporting minor incidents? So this is not just Grindelwald acting the part of Graves. And why would Grindelwald have any interest in what Tina has to say, unless Newt means something to him?
During World War I, Newt claims he “worked mostly with dragons, Ukrainian Ironbellies—Eastern Front” (Scene 50). The Eastern Front encompassed all of Eastern Europe, and lasted from 1914 to 1918, though we can assume Newt was somewhere close to Ukraine, given that he was working with Ironbellies. Grindelwald is from Eastern Europe, given that he went to Durmstrang. His and Newt’s paths very well could have crossed there, and this is exactly the kind of hint Jo likes to drop for us.
We also have to ponder if Newt’s family figures in here. Newt has an elder brother, Theseus Scamander, who’s a war hero (Scene 59). I’m willing to bet my signed Rowling book that this is not the last we’ve heard of him! Could he be a war hero for something to do with Grindelwald? It’s worth noting that the name Theseus comes from Greek mythology, where Theseus was a hero best known for slaying the Minotaur. I hope this irony isn’t lost on anyone: Newt is concerned with preserving magical creatures, while his elder brother is named after someone best known for killing one.
When looking at the interactions between Newt and Grindelgraves at MACUSA, they can be read either way, which Jo doubtless intended. A possible nugget of information comes from the fact that Newt was able to separate an Obscurus from its host (Scene 65). Aside from the questions about how separated Obscuruses work (can they take another host?), I wonder how Newt came by the knowledge of how to separate them. It seems like an obscure thing to know for Newt (pardon the pun), but we know Grindelwald has interacted with an Obscurial before: Ariana Dumbledore.
This is a bit of a reach, but what if Grindelwald began his research into Obscuruses during his summer with Dumbledore? Newt has never heard of an Obscurus surviving past the age of ten, yet Ariana was fourteen when she died, and (as far as we know) it wasn’t the Obscurus that killed her. Part of her longevity must be attributed to the supportive environment she was in, as opposed to the usual Obscurial. But assuming her days were still numbered, Grindelwald may have been looking into removing the Obscurus as a way of staying in Dumbledore’s good books – what’s more romantic than trying to save someone’s younger sister from a deadly magical parasite?
At some point, Grindelwald came up with a potential use for an Obscurus, whether during the Ariana episode or afterward. He has been hunting them ever since. If Grindelwald was hunting Obscuruses, there’s a decent chance he ran into Newt in Sudan when Newt removed the Obscurus from a girl. It’s possible the knowledge of how to perform that procedure came from Grindelwald. Even if it didn’t, Newt and Grindelwald could have faced off in Sudan over the Obscurus.
Noteworthy is that Grindelgraves seems to think he tipped Newt off to something as he interrogated him (Scene 65). Nothing that was actually said is incriminating without context, even the comment about using an Obscurus. Yet Grindelgraves considers the situation dire enough to order Newt and Tina’s execution, and Newt is suspicious enough to begin inquiring about Graves’s background. All this seems to point to Newt and Grindelwald knowing something about each other that we don’t know they know.
#3: As Newt asks regarding the Obscurus, “What on earth would you use it for?” (Scene 65)
What exactly is Grindelwald’s master plan for an Obscurus? It can’t be just to wreak havoc; Grindelwald has plenty of other magical means of doing so. After all, Voldemort never needed an Obscurus when he had giants, Dementors, and Dark wizards. It’s unlikely to be purely for propaganda purposes since Credence failed to elicit any sympathy from MACUSA.
We know Grindelwald’s ultimate plan is to overthrow the Statute of Secrecy and subjugate Muggles, but we’re missing the crucial intermediate step for how having an Obscurus achieves that goal.
#4: What does Gnarlak know?
When Newt asks about Graves’s background, “Gnarlak stares. A sense that there is much that he could say—and that he’d rather die than say it” (Scene 82). What exactly does Gnarlak know about Graves that he is so reluctant to say? If he knows that Graves is Grindelwald, then how on earth would he know that? Does Grindelwald have goblin confidants? If Gnarlak doesn’t know about Grindelgraves, then what is there to know about the real Graves’s background that Gnarlak is afraid of saying? Something’s afoot here.
#5: What is up with Grindelwald’s vision?
In Scene 43, Grindelgraves tells Credence, “My vision showed only the child’s immense power. He or she is no older than ten, and I saw the child in close proximity to your mother— she I saw so plainly.” As soon as I heard that line, questions were firing in my head.
First, was there really a vision? It’s possible, but extremely unlikely, that Grindelwald made the whole thing up: He realized the damage caused in NYC was caused by an Obscurus, just as Newt realized it, and then made a bet on the Obscurus being one of Mary Lou’s children because of how she suppressed magic? That would explain his mistake about the Obscurial’s age, if that was more guesswork on his part, since Obscuruses don’t usually live past ten.
Otherwise, we have to assume that Grindelwald really did have a vision. How does this all work? We know that Trelawney’s branch of Divination is little more than hokum, and in any event, the word “vision” is never used to describe what one sees in a crystal ball. We never heard anything about the centaurs having visions, and we never see Harry’s visions provide a glimpse of the future. The only thing that comes close is prophecies, and the prophet is not conscious of the prophecy if Trelawney is anything to go on. So there are three possibilities: Grindelwald is using a form of Divination heretofore unknown to us; Grindelwald heard someone’s else prophecy and said it was his own vision; or Grindelwald is a Seer and gave the prophecy, with someone telling him later what the prophecy was.
If we assume that there was a real prophecy/vision involved, I’d be very curious as to what was actually seen or said. Grindelgraves correctly says that the Obscurial is one of Mary Lou’s children and has immense power, but he did not see the child in question since he makes an erroneous assumption about the child’s age. That means he can’t have actually seen the Obscurial in question unless he saw a much younger version of Credence and didn’t recognize him in the present day.
#6: When did Grindelwald assume the mantle of Graves?
The script book says that the opening scene with Grindelwald’s attack happened the day before Newt arrived in New York. This seems wrong for several reasons, but primarily because Grindelgraves seems perfectly settled into his Auror lifestyle the next day. So how long has Grindelwald been masquerading as Graves? Has he had a chance to influence MACUSA policy? Has he placed other people at MACUSA under the Imperius Curse? Knowing how long he was infiltrating a government is very pertinent to figuring out how much damage he got to do, which could very well figure into future movies if MACUSA comes up again.
#7: Will Grindelwald burst into song?
For the musical theater fans: Apparently, Jo has been listening to the Wicked cast album a lot lately. In Scene 100, Graves says to Credence, “Come with me—think of what we could achieve together.” That’s one word off from the lyrics of “Defying Gravity.” In NYC, most of us had to fight the urge to sing after that line, “Unlimited… together we’re unlimited…” And if the wizarding world is coming to the stage anyway… who knows?
So astute readers, do you have any answers to these questions? Or are you as stumped as I am?