Newt Is Everything Dumbledore Wishes He Was
In the excitement surrounding the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, fans have been discussing what role Newt will have in hunting down Grindelwald. When we were introduced to Newt in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, he was portrayed as a Magizoologist who felt more comfortable among his creatures than humans. However, as we learned in the first film, there was more to Newt than met the eye. In that film, Grindelwald, masquerading as Graves, asks Newt, “Now, what makes Albus Dumbledore so fond of you?”
As the Fantastic Beasts series has expanded from a stand-alone story about Newt Scamander to more of a distant prequel to the Harry Potter series – with the exploration of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s history – fans have wondered how could a Magizoologist take down one of the most powerful Dark wizards of all time? Fans have also questioned Dumbledore’s motives behind sending Newt to do his dirty work. Is Dumbledore simply being his manipulative self again?
It would not be canonically unusual for Newt to be a hero. Harry, by all means, was an average wizard (he isn’t the most talented wizard in the Harry Potter books). It was Harry’s strong “moral fiber” (GoF 26), ability to love, and heart of courage that led to him triumphing over Voldemort. There is an excellent video by Pop Culture Detective that examines the atypical and sensitive masculinity of Newt Scamander, which is atypical for male heroes in Hollywood. Voldemort’s downfall was his arrogance – he underestimated the power of house-elves and of a mother’s love for her son. Ironically, in the first official trailer for Crimes of Grindelwald, we hear Grindelwald say “Their arrogance is a key to our victory.” Will Grindelwald’s arrogance also lead to his downfall? Might his mastership of the Elder Wand make him overestimate his own abilities? During his monologue at San Diego Comic-Con, Johnny Depp, as Grindelwald, stated that he did not hate Muggles, but that they have “other value.” Based on Dumbledore’s assertion in the first trailer for Crimes of Grindelwald, that “Muggles are not lesser,” Grindelwald probably does think that Muggles are inferior to wizards. It’s why he wants to create a society ruled by wizards – it’s for their own good.
But why exactly is Dumbledore sending Newt on a mission to Paris in Crimes of Grindelwald? A fan questioned J.K. Rowling about this on Twitter, and this was her response:
I could write you an essay in response to this, but it would give you the whole plot of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, so not going to… https://t.co/lXJwdMHrmB
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 25, 2018
Based on what know about Newt and Dumbledore so far, it’s my belief that Dumbledore is so fond of Newt because he identifies with him. Dumbledore sees himself in Newt, but he also admires Newt’s Hufflepuff-ness – Newt does not “seek power.” In Crimes of Grindelwald, we’ll see a flashback of Dumbledore teaching Newt the Boggart-Banishing Spell. It seems to me that Rowling has incorporated this scene into Crimes of Grindelwald to establish why Dumbledore feels strongly connected to Newt. As we know, Newt’s biggest fear is working in an office, and his boggart is a desk filled with copious amounts of paperwork. Newt’s fear of working in an office is indicative of a more overarching fear of having an ordinary life – the fear of mundanity. This is something Dumbledore could identify with. It’s why he was so drawn to Grindelwald. Dumbledore yearned to live an extraordinary life. He felt shackled by his responsibility to care for his younger siblings – especially Ariana. Newt, like Dumbledore, wants a fantastic life.
Dumbledore, knowing Newt’s kindness for all living things (according to Leta Lestrange, he’s “never met a monster [he] couldn’t love”), might have sent Newt to hunt Grindelwald down because he knew that Credence would somehow be involved. We don’t know yet whether Ariana Dumbledore was an Obscurial, but let’s just assume that she was. Based on how MACUSA’s Aurors attacked Credence, and the fact that Ariana was forced to go into hiding because of her condition, wizards during the time period in which the Fantastic Beasts films are set probably harbor a lot of prejudicial views toward Obscurials.
Most importantly, Dumbledore admires Newt because Newt is everything Dumbledore wants to be. According to J.K. Rowling, the Dumbledore we will see in Fantastic Beasts is “quite a troubled man.” As we learn in Chapter 35 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “King’s Cross,” Dumbledore felt that he “could not be trusted with power.” In “King’s Cross,” when Harry tells Dumbledore that he would have been a much better Minister of Magic than Fudge or Scrimgeour, Dumbledore’s expresses uncertainty:
I am not so sure. I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.
Therefore, Dumbledore doesn’t make Newt hunt down Grindelwald because he’s being manipulated. It’s because he doesn’t trust himself not to be tempted by power. Dumbledore admires people like Harry and Newt because he strives to be more like them. He struggles with the idea of power, while they do not.