Three Ways That Grindelwald Is a Different Villain Than Voldemort
SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
At first glance, Grindelwald and Voldemort seem like similar villains. They both try to gain power by spreading the message of wizarding supremacy. They both attempt to escape their mortality, through Horcruxes in Voldemort’s case and Hallows in Grindelwald’s. Yet in a variety of subtle and more intangible ways, they operate differently.
1. Secrecy vs. Charisma
Voldemort and Grindelwald both have the ability to be quite charming. Although this quality is evident in young Tom Riddle, once Voldemort gains real power, he quickly gives up the attempt to use charm as a form of manipulation. In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, however, we quickly see that charisma is one of Grindelwald’s most dangerous weapons. He almost manages to talk his way out of prison and effortlessly persuades Queenie to join his side. Grindelwald flagrantly promotes his rally as a way of publicizing his fearlessness and influence. He then uses the rally as a platform to charm his followers into believing that he is just, fair, reasonable, and fighting “For the Greater Good.”
Voldemort, on the other hand, is not a person you can imagine having a large, public rally. He operates underground, trusting that this will make him more difficult to confront. He comes back to power and builds his army in secret, and even when he takes over the Ministry, he lurks in the shadows, spreading panic by not showing himself. He trusts that hiding his plans will prevent any form of counterattack.
2. Fear vs. Manipulation
Grindelwald’s charisma only works because he understands people’s motivations and is able to use them for his own ends. He is successful because he is able to convince people that they are doing the moral thing. He pretends that he is not fighting out of prejudice and that his Muggle domination will actually prevent another world war. He tries to paint his followers in a better light by framing law enforcement as the violent ones.
Grindelwald is also willing to play the long game in his manipulations. He knows how to draw people toward him in a way that makes it seem like it’s actually their own idea. He sets a whole scavenger hunt for Credence to search for his family, sending him on a path that will lead him directly to his rally. He even ropes in Queenie as part of this plan, knowing that she will draw Newt and Tina to the rally as well.
Voldemort, while manipulative in his own way, gains compliance through fear tactics and attracts followers who enjoy spreading fear in others. People never know whom to trust or where the next attack is coming from, so they are too afraid to speak out or try to resist. This, combined with his secrecy, means that Voldemort is able to gain large amounts of power without actually having a large number of followers.
Voldemort’s forms of manipulation are violent, simplistic, and based on the fact that people already fear him. Every time Voldemort manipulates Harry, it is through capturing or threatening someone whom he loves. He rarely tries to convince people that what he’s doing is right.
3. Hallows vs. Horcruxes
Although both Grindelwald and Voldemort attempt to avoid death, their strategies for doing so represent something important about their personality. Voldemort chooses the rather crude, brutish method of Horcruxes. Horcruxes are based around killing, and Voldemort wastes no time in trying to make as many Horcruxes as possible, ripping his soul into pieces and destroying his humanity.
Hallows, on the other hand, are more subtle and elegant. They do not need to be gained through murder (although the Elder Wand does have that reputation), and Grindelwald does not even win the Elder Wand through the use of force. The Hallows represent a quest, both internal and external, because true mastery of them is not just based on having them in your possession, but through being worthy of them. Grindelwald’s search for the Hallows represents a wider appreciation of subtleties and his desire to win things through skill and cunning, not just force.
When Harry talks to Dumbledore at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore asks,
‘Was I better, ultimately, than Voldemort? […] I too sought a way to conquer death, Harry.’
‘Not the way he did,’ said Harry […] ‘Hallows, not Horcruxes.’
‘Hallows,’ murmured Dumbledore. ‘not Horcruxes. Precisely.'” (DH 713).
Although Grindelwald is certainly a villain, causing the deaths of hundreds of people, his choice of Hallows over Horcruxes shows that he may in fact have the potential to be redeemable. At the very end of his life, Grindelwald stands up to Voldemort, trying to stop him from gaining more power. Even after all the horrors he has perpetrated, a small part of Grindelwald manages to remain human.