“Potterversity” Episode 22: “Secrets of Dumbledore and the Deathly Hallows”

Join us for our deep dive into Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore and its literary allusions, beastly lore, and continuation of the plot points in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

NOTE: This episode contains spoilers!



Dr. Beatrice Groves (Trinity College, Oxford) joins Katy and Emily to decode the symbolic elements of this story and help us understand where it fits within the Harry Potter series. Find out about Bea’s prediction-come-true and hear about how the central beasts in the film reference medieval mythological creatures featured in various bestiaries that Bea has kindly read for us so she can share her knowledge. From the qilin to the Obscurus, Bea explains the importance of making beasts central to Grindelwald’s plan, which unites the Dumbledore plot with Newt Scamander’s. Grindelwald uses beasts for his own ends instead of appreciating them as they are, as Newt does, and this provides us key insights about his character – and echoes similar problematic aspects of Voldemort’s character. You can read about some of these theories in Bea’s column, Bathilda’s Notebook.

Bea connects the beasts to T.H. White’s The Once and Future King and The Book of Beasts – both strong influences on the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series – as well as the work of Neil Gaiman and Lev Grossman. The Fantastic Beasts films also draw from P.G. Wodehouse and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The prison (and its beasts) in Secrets of Dumbledore evokes mythology and other sources, layering stories upon stories to create rich intertextual meaning. We talk about Rappaport’s Law banning wizard/No-Maj marriages, seemingly abandoned at the end of the film, and the Dumbledore–Grindelwald blood troth and its significance.

How does this story inform our understanding of Albus Dumbledore’s youth and the whole Dumbledore family? Bea points out clever inversions of the Aberforth–Albus–Ariana scene in the last Harry Potter book and the revelations about Albus and Gellert’s relationship in the film – and whether those feelings continue. You’ll also hear much of interest about the mirror dimension experienced by Albus, Gellert, and Credence and additional functions of the Deluminator that echo Deathly Hallows moments. Secrets abound in this story and among the Dumbledores themselves, and their revelation drives the plot of the film.  

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Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.