Everything we know (in canon) about Albus Dumbledore ahead of Crimes of Grindelwald

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Nov 8, 2018, 10:00 AM EST

I am probably biased here, but when it comes to the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling, there is no greater character than Albus Dumbledore. Many fans don't agree with his tactics and his secretive behavior, but without him doing exactly what had to be done in the Harry Potter stories, where would things have gone?

They would have gone right down the magical toilet, that's where. Dumbledore had to make some very tough calls, tough calls that he made despite his personal feelings for those involved. His plans were always brilliant, but risky… and never without sacrifice. With all of his planning, there was, to cross-franchise for a moment and quote another great wizard, "never much hope… just a fool's hope."

Whimsical, eccentric, and yet capable of outright fury when the occasion called for it, Dumbledore was the only wizard that both Voldemort and Gellert Grindelwald ever feared. Behind his kindly, formidable exterior, there was a vast background of heartbreak, and we learned a great deal about it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. When Harry, Ron, and Hemione learned the truth about Dumbledore's early history (no thanks to Rita Skeeter and her book of lies), we did as well. Because a younger version of this character (played by Jude Law) is about to hit the screens in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, it's time to take a look at the history of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.


Albus was born in 1881 to Percival and Kendra Dumbledore. He had two younger siblings, a brother named Aberforth and a sister named Ariana. They lived in a town called Mould-on-the-Wold, and this is where Ariana was caught doing magic by some local Muggle boys. They attacked her, leaving her emotionally and physically scarred, as well as very volatile. It is possible that she manifested an Obscurus, but this is unconfirmed.

Percival Dumbledore took vengeance on the Muggle boys and was sent to Azkaban as a result. He died there, and Kendra Dumbledore moved the entire family to Godric's Hollow. Albus soon began attending Hogwarts, was sorted into Gryffindor, and quickly overcame gossip about his father's crimes — his incredible brilliance, even at that age, surpassed everything else.

He demonstrated traits during his time at school that he would continue to develop over the course of his life, the most important being his ability to see the value in people that others had ignored. By the time he graduated, he had been prefect and Head Boy, had made countless connections, and was considered to be the most gifted student ever to attend the school. He returned to Godric's Hollow (and his family) with plans for a "grand tour" of the world with his friend, Elphias Doge.


Unfortunately, that trip never happened. Kendra Dumbledore was killed due to a violent, magical outburst from Ariana. Albus was now in charge of his family, a duty he did not want. He insisted that Aberforth finish school anyway, and he took up care of Ariana. His care probably wasn't very good.

It was during this time that Dumbledore first met Gellert Grindelwald and became utterly fascinated by his talent as well as his ideas. Grindelwald's notions about wizards being dominant over Muggles were appealing to Dumbledore, and perhaps the memory of his sister's attack was still on his mind. The two formed a friendship (and possibly much more, though we don't know for certain yet) and Albus rejoiced in their ideas, which he thought of as a way to let his brilliance shine out from underneath the burden of his family issues. The two boys also shared a passion for the lore of the Deathly Hallows.

When Albus and Gellert made plans to take a "grand tour" of their own (and begin to follow through on some of their plans for wizard dominance), Aberforth intervened. Gellert attacked him, and a three-way duel erupted among them all. Ariana was in the room, and she would be the only one not to live through it. Gellert vanished, and Albus blamed himself for Ariana's death from that moment forward. He never really knew whose curse it was that killed his sister, and he always feared that it had come from him. Aberforth, it should be noted, never forgave him.


Because of his actions (both taken and untaken), Albus realized that he could never be trusted with power. It was assumed by the wizarding community that this gifted young man would be a perfect Minister for Magic, but Albus refused the job. He turned to teaching instead, which he later said was his true passion.

Based on trailers for the new Fantastic Beasts film, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he began his teaching with the subject of Defense Against the Dark Arts. In one of the trailers for the new film (seen above), it is fairly clear that he is filling this position. During this time he taught both Newt Scamander and Leta Lestrange; he formed a tight bond with Newt and argued against his expulsion when Newt took the blame for something that he didn't do. We don't know yet if Albus was successful in keeping Newt at Hogwarts, but we do know that Newt still has a wand, and it's not broken in two.

It is in the period following this (1927) that the events of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will take place, and they will see Dumbledore unable (for some reason) to go up against his old friend Grindelwald personally. Instead, he enlists the help of his former pupil, Newt.

Following the events of this film, Dumbledore made a visit to Wool's Orphanage in 1938. It is there that he first meets a young wizard recruit named Tom Riddle, who would grow to become Lord Voldemort. This first meeting between the two is recounted in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.


Courtesy of Warner Bros. 


Dumbledore continued to teach during Grindelwald's rise, dealing with the opening of the Chamber of Secrets in 1943 and the unfortunate framing (and expulsion) of Rubeus Hagrid. Tom Riddle was the real perpetrator of that mess, and though he had the entire faculty fooled (Horace Slughorn especially), he did not fool Dumbledore. As he had done with Newt, Dumbledore stood up for Hagrid; though the half-giant was expelled, he was allowed to return to Hogwarts as a groundskeeper-in-training.

Eventually, the time came when something had to be done about Grindelwald, which may be covered in a future film that I'm deciding to call We Need to Talk About Gellert. Whether it was because Dumbledore thought that his old friend knew the truth about Ariana or it was because of something else, he resisted facing him until 1945. He intervened only when the entire wizarding world practically begged him to, and he faced off with Grindelwald in what is called "the greatest duel ever fought."

Dumbledore bested Grindelwald despite the fact that his old friend was using the Elder Wand; he would later say he was able to win because he was "a shade more skillful." Grindelwald was jailed for life, and Dumbledore became the new master of the Elder Wand. Butterbeers all around!


Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts, where he became Head of the Transfiguration Department. He began to chart the rise of Lord Voldemort during this time, and also taught many students who would one day become members of the Order of the Phoenix, including Arthur Weasley and Molly Prewett, Arthur's future wife. He also taught future Death Eaters, including Lucius Malfoy.

He was offered the position of Minister for Magic again during this period, but he turned it down flat. Instead, he ended up as Headmaster of Hogwarts upon the retirement of Armando Dippet. After his installation, he received a visit from Tom "Lord Voldemort" Riddle, who asked to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Dumbledore had been following Riddle's behavior in the years prior, so he turned him down. As a result, Riddle cursed the job forever, making it so nobody could hold the post for more than a year.

Dumbledore continued his kindly behavior to the unfortunate, most notably with Remus Lupin when he attended the school. When Lord Voldemort began his first true rise to power in 1970, Dumbledore created the Order of the Phoenix to fight against him. He installed Sybil Trelawney as professor of Divination (for her own protection), and did his best to protect the Potter family, due to the only accurate prophecy Trelawney ever made.

Toward the end of the war, he turned Severus Snape over to his side as a double agent, and also discovered that James Potter's cloak of invisibility was actually one of the Deathly Hallows. The cloak came into his possession after the unfortunate death of James and Lily Potter, which happened at the same time as Voldemort's "death" from a rebounded killing curse. The wee Harry Potter, forever after known as "the boy who lived," came into the care of Dumbledore, who made the very hard decision to leave him with the Dursleys of Privet Drive (the only place he could be truly safe) until he was old enough to attend Hogwarts. We have now arrived at the bulk of the Harry Potter stories, and I'll trust that you don't need a refresher on all of them.


A few occurrences during Harry Potter's time at Hogwarts really stand out in terms of Dumbledore's history, however. For one, he mysteriously gave the cloak of invisibility to Harry on his first Christmas at Hogwarts. For another, he made use of the Mirror of Erised, and he certainly lied to Harry about what he himself saw in it. I mention this because we are about to see the mirror again in the new film.

All throughout Harry's time at Hogwarts, Dumbledore was preparing for Voldemort's eventual return. When it actually happened, Dumbledore took action immediately. He re-formed the Order of the Phoenix and continued to research Horcruxes, the method that Voldemort had used to prevent his death. One of these Horcruxes ended up sealing Dumbledore's fate.

He tracked one of them to the old home of Marvolo Gaunt, an ancestor of Voldemort. Dumbledore managed to get through the various magical protections and found that the Horcrux in question was a ring. Unknown to Gaunt and Voldemort, the black stone of the ring was actually the Resurrection Stone — the only one of the Deathly Hallows that Dumbledore had never found.

In a brief moment of foolishness, Dumbledore attempted to use the stone to reunite with his fallen family members. He placed the ring on his finger, and because it was a Horcrux, it cursed him immediately. He was able to survive for a time thanks to his own skill, as well as the skills of Severus Snape. Though he was cursed by it, Dumbledore did manage to destroy the Horcrux with the Sword of Gryffindor.

The rest of his life was now on a ticking clock, so Dumbledore used it to his advantage. He spent his last year alive teaching Harry, sparing Draco Malfoy, and setting things up so that it appeared as if Severus Snape murdered him. All of this went off as intended, with Harry only learning about it after Snape's death.

It was only when Harry was briefly dead (in a ghostly version of King's Cross) that an apparition of Dumbledore told him everything. His portrait hung in a place of honor in the Headmaster's office, and the Wizarding World never saw his like again.

Though it seems like we know almost everything there is to know about him, we surely have some surprises still in store. Why is Dumbledore really sending Newt to deal with Grindelwald? What did his relationship with Gellert really consist of? How did he meet his brilliant Phoenix friend Fawkes? Have we heard all of the secrets regarding the Dumbledore family? Almost certainly not.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens on November 15. It seems only fitting that I close this article by saying a few words: nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak.