Remembering a wise wizard: Albus Dumbledore's 12 greatest quotes

Contributed by
Mar 23, 2017

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for most of the Harry Potter series. He was a powerful wizard who was well-known for defeating the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, founding the Order of the Phoenix, and being the only one Voldemort ever feared. He left quite a legacy behind when he was killed at Hogwart's Astronomy Tower in 1997 and has far from been forgotten since.

Dumbledore, who would have been 136 this year, was not a perfect man and certainly made mistakes. However, he also inspired countless people in the fight against evil and learned enough over the years to have quite a lot of wisdom to share. It's this legacy of Dumbledore's I want to revisit through some of his greatest quotes from the books and films in remembrance of the character. These quotes inspired those in the Harry Potter world he left behind 20 years ago and can inspire those of us today beyond that fictional universe as well.

Here are 12 of Dumbledore's most memorable quotes.

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"It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends."

From Neville Longbottom's first year at Hogwarts it was clear the clumsy boy was a real Gryffindor at heart. Dumbledore makes sure the whole school knows it too when he awards him House points at the end of the Sorcerer's Stone film. While everyone else who received points obtains them for things you might expect, Neville receives them for something that might not as easily come to mind. It took a lot of courage for Neville to stand up to Harry, Ron and Hermione. It's much more difficult to do what’s right when you're facing those close to you, who you know and trust, than facing those you believe to be in the wrong and generally wouldn't trust very much. After all, standing up to friends could hurt the friendship or their feelings and if you want to avoid that it could be easy to remain silent. If they're people you trust it also makes it easier to give in to peer pressure and go along with them. It takes a lot of strength to realize you sometimes need to speak up to those closest to you to really do the right thing.

"Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."

Hermione is given this line in the Chamber of Secrets film, but originally Dumbledore said it in the Sorcerer's Stone novel. He says it during his conversation with Harry after the young Gryffindor wakes up from his encounter with Voldemort and Quirrell. They're discussing what happened when Harry starts to say Voldemort's name before stopping and continuing by saying You-Know-Who instead. Dumbledore interrupts him there and tells Harry to say Voldemort and to "always use the proper name for things." Being afraid of even saying his name adds to the fear Voldemort has already inspired and gives him more power over them. By saying his name, they're taking that away from Voldemort and showing their defiance. It's something Harry will remember for the remainder of the series and others will follow in his lead until the show of strength is turned against Harry and his allies and used as a way to track them down in the Deathly Hallows book.

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"It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices."

Something Dumbledore has to consistently remind Harry of throughout the series is that Harry and Voldemort are different despite their similarities. In the Chamber of Secrets movie, the wizard tries to impart this knowledge when Harry begins to notice how similar he is to the Dark Lord towards the end. They share qualities, but that doesn’t make them the same. It’s what they do with them that matters. Dumbledore knows that a person's true nature is revealed based on what they decide to do in life. If two people have great power, it tells you nothing about who they are if that's all you know about them. However if one person chooses to use that power to hurt people and inspire fear while another uses it to help people and inspire hope, it shows exactly the type of individual they are. This won't be the last time Dumbledore has to remind Harry of this.

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"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."

Dumbledore shares these words when he's speaking to the students at the beginning of Harry's third year at Hogwarts in the Prisoner of Azkaban film after informing them of what's happening and that the Dementors are present at the school. It's a reminder to those assembled that hope is never lost in dark times. For example, the Dementors may feed on happiness but resisting them just requires concentrating on a happy memory to cast the Patronus charm. Goodness and happiness can never be eliminated no matter how bad things are. You just have to remember and not let the dark overwhelm you.

"You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!"

After everything that happened at the Triwizard Tournament in the Goblet of Fire book, Dumbledore tries to convince Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge that it's time to prepare for Voldemort's return. Unfortunately Fudge isn't keen on the idea of accepting Voldemort is back and when Dumbledore mentions sending envoys to the giants Fudge responds by saying people hate the giants and that such an action would be the end of his career. Fudge clearly cares more about his job than about taking any steps against Voldemort at this point. Dumbledore accuses him of being blinded by his office and says these words to the minister. They evoke a similar meaning to Dumbledore's Chamber of Secrets quote about abilities and choices. Who cares what someone is born? That tells you nothing about a person's true nature. What matters is what happens once they grow up. You can never judge someone on their beginning. Unfortunately it's something that Fudge here does not understand.

"… we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided ... Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."

Dumebledore addresses the school and the visitors from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang after the loss of Cedric at the Triwizard Tournament in the Goblet of Fire novel. He's honest about how Cedric died and about the return of Voldemort. Despite how dreadful and scary this news is however, the headmaster offers these hopeful words. He highlights how they are stronger when they stand together and says, "Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust." He then reiterates how their differences don't matter and they should never let those get between them. By remembering the bonds they have that transcend their differences and how they are all connected by what they want for the world, Dumbledore knows they can be triumphant.

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"Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy."

Before leaving Hogwarts for the summer in the Goblet of Fire movie, Dumbledore tells Harry this during their final talk. Voldemort has officially returned, which means things are going to get worse moving forward ... and when they do, everyone will be presented with a choice. The easy thing might be to just go along with whatever happens or just hide away from it all. This is far from the right thing to do, though. The right thing to do is often the harder path. It means standing up to darkness in some way to try to make a difference, no matter what happens. This comes with its own set of difficulties and is why it may be easier to just do nothing. It's a choice everyone makes, if they realize it or not, as Voldemort continues to once again rise.

"Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!"

When in the Half-Blood Prince book Dumbledore and Harry are discussing the prophecy from the following year, he ends up telling Harry this about Voldemort creating "his own worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do!" Since Voldemort was on the lookout for such a person, he acted quickly when hearing the prophecy and through his actions picked the person to most likely defeat him. Not all tyrants do this of course, but Dumbledore’s words still ring true. Tyrants fear their people because they can bring about the tyrant’s downfall. Eventually someone will want to strike back and that person will inspire others and more will follow until it leads to the tyrant's end. They cannot stop this and the more they try to, the more they are coming closer to lighting the spark that will destroy them.

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"Just like your mother, you're unfailingly kind. A trait people never fail to undervalue, I'm afraid."

Before Dumbledore and Harry head out to find a Horcrux together in the Half-Blood Prince film, they share a brief talk where the headmaster tells this to the boy. The wizard is quite right that others often belittle kindness. It's true in real life as well. It is a trait not valued as much as it should be, but seen by some as a weakness. They are blind to how important and powerful being kind can be. Kindness means more and can change more in life than people realize. It is a short sentence in the span of the movie and even within the conversation, but it's some of Dumbledore's wisest words.

"It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated ..."

In the Half-Blood Prince book, Dumbledore does not speak these words at this moment but Harry is thinking back to a time when Dumbledore shared this sentiment with him in Sorcerer's Stone. Here Harry remembers this during Dumbledore's funeral when everyone is gathered. He thinks about his first trip into the forest when he encountered the thing that was Voldemort and faced him. Not long after, during a discussion with Dumbledore, the older wizard brought this up. It might certainly feel sometimes like the battle Harry is fighting is a losing one, and that no matter what they do they can never win. Yet Dumbledore emphasizes that it's still important to keep fighting. That only by being vigilant and never backing down evil can be kept from overcoming good. It will always exist, but that doesn't mean it always has to be in control. It can be kept back in the world as long as people never give up the fight. By never giving up the fight, evil can be kept from gaining ground.

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"Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it."

This quote is from Dumbledore's conversation with Harry in the Deathly Hallows Part 2 movie, when the Chosen One finds himself in the strange King's Cross station-looking place where he has a choice of taking a train or going back. Dumbledore understands how powerful words can be, which is why he changes a past saying here. Before he does, though, he says this truthful line so Harry understands. Whether they're written or spoken, words matter and can have a huge impact on people. It's why people need to consider their words carefully. People might think saying one thing here or there means nothing in the scheme of things, but those words have consequences. Words can do wondrous and terrible things, and it's important for people to remember that.

"... perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well."

In the Deathly Hallows book while at that King's Cross-like station, Dumbledore tells Harry more about his history and how he turned down being Minister for Magic more than once. When Harry says he would have been better than Fudge and Scrimgeour, Dumbledore isn't sure. He knows power was a temptation and weakness of his, which leads to these words. Dumbledore’s experience has taught him that it's those not seeking power that should perhaps have it. Those that find they have it and are surprisingly suited for it. They're the ones that might not be greedy, that might not forget to help others, and might be able to resist any temptations that go with that power to do what should be done as a leader with the power they have.

Which Dumbledore quote from the Harry Potter books or movies is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!