The Dumbledore Conundrum
When Rita Skeeter first announced the publication of The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, everyone – characters and readers alike – was in denial that the beloved Headmaster could ever do something scandalous enough to warrant such a salacious biography. This shock only grew throughout the novel as Harry Potter learns of Dumbledore’s troubled history with Grindelwald. By the time Dumbledore’s own brother, Aberforth, confirmed that Albus was a master of secrets and deceptions, we were all beginning to understand that there is so much more to the kindly old man than anyone thought. Then, when Harry allowed Dumbledore to explain himself in the ghost version of King’s Cross station, Dumbledore claimed that all of his mistakes stemmed from naivety and youthful love. In a nutshell, he claimed that the part of him that toyed with lies and duplicity was a mistake and not a character trait, but is this really the truth?
I know it is hard to believe that the same man who consistently protected Harry and trolled the Dursleys with magical brandy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince could also be a master manipulator. That, though, seems to be the best description of Albus Dumbledore. After watching the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer, it is readily apparent to me how much Dumbledore’s interactions with Newt Scamander mirror his interactions with Harry. For example, in the trailer, Dumbledore gives Newt a card and when asked about the address on it, Dumbledore responds that it is a nice place to go “for a cup of tea.” Sure, this is a witty one-liner on the surface, but underneath, this is only further proof exemplifying Dumbledore’s systemic avoidance of the full truth. On a broad scale, how is this any different from when Dumbledore told Harry he saw socks in the Mirror of Erised?
Dumbledore sends both Harry and Newt on dangerous, life-threatening tasks, in both cases claiming that he is unable to do them himself. Aside from the fact that Dumbledore could have 100% run his own errands, he gives both Newt and Harry very little information off of which to work. He waits 15 years before finally explaining to Harry why the Darkest wizard of his time is trying to kill him – not to mention that whole year Dumbledore flat-out avoided Harry! On top of that, once Dumbledore was forced to explain the prophecy, he did so in an ultimately vague way that left Harry relatively helpless on his journey for the Horcruxes. As far as I can tell, Dumbledore does the same thing to Newt in Crimes of Grindelwald. Dumbledore tells Newt that only he can work against Grindelwald, never explaining why and what kind of trouble Newt could be getting himself into. Don’t believe me? Well, going back to the card with the address on it, Dumbledore calls it a safehouse and Newt is confused about why he would need such a thing. If he really had been fully informed, Newt surely would understand the point of a Parisian safehouse – and it’s not for tea.
Dumbledore’s lack of candor is not only deceptive but also dangerous. He uses Harry like a pawn in his master chess game, and at this rate, he will do the same thing with Newt. Sure, you can argue that Dumbledore was doing everything to defeat Dark wizards and all that, but the real issue here is that he repeatedly twists people for his own plan, even for his own gain. He may be on the good side, but that doesn’t make him a morally good person. In fact, the most troubling aspect of Dumbledore’s manipulative nature is that he himself doesn’t see it. Each time, he blames his mistakes on age and emotion. With Harry, he claims he was an old man, blinded by his love for the young boy who had already been through so much. Similarly, Dumbledore claims that when he was with Newt, he was naïve and attempting to suppress his feelings for Grindelwald. These are certainly valid points and likely played a part in his actions, but you cannot deny that repetition of these follies suggests something more innate.
Ultimately, Dumbledore is a great a man, but he is not an infallible hero. What do you think? Do you think this is Dumbledore’s big character flaw, or was he just misguided? And don’t forget to go see young Dumbledore in Crimes of Grindelwald!