Harry Potter fans are extremely passionate about their fandom and can’t seem to get enough of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. They’ve been anxiously awaiting the newest spinoff film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for nearly two years, with it finally premiering this month on November 18th.
Recently, it was confirmed by director David Yates that one of the most beloved characters in the series, Professor Albus Dumbledore, would appear in the second Fantastic Beasts film alongside Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. In one of the first trailers for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colin Farrel’s character, Percival Graves, references Newt’s expulsion from Hogwarts and Dumbledore’s attempt to prevent it. It’s possible that the second film could be a prequel to the first, exploring their relationship at Hogwarts, or possibly seen through flashbacks.
Dumbledore has always been a slightly enigmatic character, especially to Harry Potter, keeping much of his personal life to himself. Although Harry looked up to Dumbledore as a fatherly or grandfatherly figure, there were times when The Boy Who Lived questioned Dumbledore’s actions. Dumbledore’s life was plagued with tragedy, which made him a very human, conflicted character. In preparation for this new exploration of his character, here are 15 things you never knew about Dumbledore.
15. He Was in Love With Grindelwald
Yearning to explore the world and break free from the burdens of his family life, Dumbledore was easily manipulated by and attracted to the magnetic personality of Gellert Grindelwald. Dumbledore too was interested in the power of the Deathly Hallows, although mostly the resurrection stone, which he wished to use on his dead loved ones.
Intellectual equals, Dumbledore and Grindelwald bonded over their shared interest in a mastery of death with Dumbledore’s feelings eventually blossoming into love. J.K. Rowling even hinted that Dumbledore’s sexuality will be explored in greater depth during the Fantastic Beasts sequels. Yes, Dumbledore was gay. If you didn’t know that by now, you must have been living under a rock for the past nine years. It’s unclear if Grindelwald ever reciprocated those feelings, but it’s likely he was too much of a power-hungry sociopath to love anyone other than himself.
Although Dumbledore loved Grindelwald, things were definitely complicated, especially after the fight between the two of them and Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, which resulted in the death of Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana. Imagine Dumbledore’s horror years later at finding out Grindelwald had become the worst dark wizard in the history of the magical world. That must’ve been quite sobering for poor Dumbledore. Love really is blind.
14. He Witnessed the Prophecy About Harry Potter
Like muggles, not many wizards seem to favor Divination, preferring practical magic of the here and now over crystal-ball gazing. Even Albus Dumbledore himself didn’t think much about Divination, and he hesitated before hiring Cybil Trelawney as a professor at Hogwarts. Since she was the great-great granddaughter of a famous seer, however, he gave her a chance to prove herself.
Fans of the series know how spacey Professor Trelawney was, so it’s no surprise Dumbledore didn’t think much of her during their interview. However, as if to prove him wrong, she fell into a trance at the end of their meeting and made one of the most famous prophecies in the Wizarding World—the prophecy about Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort:
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies….”
Dumbledore witnessed her prophecy along with Severus Snape, who eventually passed on the information to Lord Voldemort. This was, as we all know, Lily and James Potter’s death sentence, as well as the first chapter in little Harry’s journey as The Boy Who Lived.
13. He Taught Transfiguration Before Becoming Headmaster
Considered one of the most powerful wizards of all time both within the Harry Potter universe and in all of film and television, Dumbledore had quite an illustrious career before and after becoming the headmaster of Hogwarts sometime around 1970. In school, he excelled at Charms and Transfiguration, winning many awards and publishing scholarly papers on his findings. During this time, he forged friendships with great witches and wizards who would also rise to fame for their contributions to specific types of magic and fields of study. Dumbledore is said to have rubbed elbows with many famous witches and wizards both in and out of Hogwarts as a student, including Nicholas Flamel, whom he helped make significant contributions to alchemy with.
Only a few years after graduating, Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts as the Transfiguration professor. Even though he could have easily gone on to become an Auror or even the Minister of Magic—a position that was offered to him multiple times—Dumbledore preferred to teach. J.K. Rowling has said that Transfiguration is “very hard work” and much more scientific than subjects like Charms. It alters the very molecular structure of a being or object, turning it into something new. While he was obviously an expert in his field of study, Dumbledore’s decision to teach may have also been a way to suppress his thirst for power, which had tragically led to his sister’s death under the influence of Grindelwald.
12. He Can Turn Invisible Without an Invisibility Cloak
We may never know the full extent of Dumbledore’s mastery of magic, but one thing’s for sure: he knew exactly what he was doing. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore gives Harry his father’s invisibility cloak for Christmas (for some reason). Although the cloak is quite special as we later learn, Dumbledore had no real need of it; he only borrowed it from James Potter to inspect it and see how it was made. In the same book, he tells Harry that he doesn’t need an invisibility cloak to become invisible.
Dumbledore can do the Disillusionment Charm, which camouflages a person to their surroundings, rendering them all but invisible. Because of his incredible power as a wizard, Dumbledore could actually make himself completely invisible, likely by using an advanced version of this spell. Supposedly, Grindelwald was capable of invisibility as well, so one may have taught the other how to do it in their youth.
11. He Was Born in 1881 and Died at the Age of 115
To the novice Harry Potter fan, the timeline of events mentioned throughout the books can become quite confusing. Apparently, even J.K. Rowling can’t keep certain things straight. In a 2000 Scholastic.com interview, she was quoted as saying Dumbledore was 150 years old. It’s possible that the transcriber misheard 115 as 150 due to her English accent, but that information has now been lost to the interwebs. She corrected the mistake in 2007 on her website’s Wizard of the Month section (now archived), stating that Dumbledore was in fact 115 years old when he died. This would make his birth year 1881, quite a significant year when it comes to the symbolism related to his character.
Since Dumbledore is attributed to the innate goodness of the world and its people, counter to Lord Voldemort’s darkness, he is often attributed with light. One of his most famous quotes addresses this very concept. “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb in 1879, and Britain’s first city and first theater to become electrified did so in 1881. It’s interesting then, that J.K. Rowling also chose to give Dumbledore a device, the Deluminator, which could both extinguish all electrified lights in an area in addition to guiding a person to their loved ones through the light in their heart.
10. He Received His Order of Merlin For Defeating Grindelwald
Dumbledore received many titles and positions in his illustrious career, including the Order of Merlin, First Class award. Like the name suggests, the award was created by the medieval wizard, Merlin, in order to encourage the protection of muggles. A first class distinction means that the wizard performed an outstanding act of bravery or distinction in magic. Dumbledore received the award for defeating his former love, Grindelwald, during the latter’s reign of terror across Europe in the 1940s.
Dumbledore finally made up his mind to go after Grindelwald at the urging of fellow Hogwarts professors and others directly affected by Grindelwald’s deeds. Dumbledore was hesitant for so long because of what happened during their last confrontation, when his sister Ariana was killed. Dumbledore never knew for sure whose curse actually caused her death, but he feared that Grindelwald would reveal the truth to him.
The two men dueled for the last time in 1945, resulting in Grindelwald’s defeat at Dumbledore’s hand and the latter’s acquisition of the Elder Wand. It just goes to show how powerful Dumbledore came to be if he could best someone who was the master of the most powerful wand in the world (that supposedly made its owner unbeatable). We’re hoping to see at least some part of this duel in one of the Fantastic Beasts movies, since Grindelwald has also been confirmed to appear. He’s set to be played by Johnny Depp.
9. He Lied About What He Saw in the Mirror of Erised
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry comes across the mysterious Mirror of Erised, which shows all who gaze into it their heart’s true desire. Dumbledore warns young Harry of dwelling on what he sees in the mirror, his dead parents, and advises him to focus on living instead. However, when Harry asks him what he sees in the mirror, he responds with “I see myself holding a pair of thick woolen socks.” Really Dumbledore? Socks? Harry didn’t seriously believe that, did he?
While it was never explicitly clarified in the books, J.K. Rowling eventually did reveal that Dumbledore did indeed lie…as well as what he really saw in the mirror. In a 2007 chat with Bloomsbury Publishing, she answered that Dumbledore “saw his family alive, whole and happy – Ariana, Percival and Kendra all returned to him, and Aberforth reconciled to him.” When Dumbledore saw Harry continuously visiting the mirror, he completely understood, because he saw something very similar. Although he could have just told Harry that in the first place to make him feel better, he instead withheld this very personal information and instead deflected with a bit of humor. Classic Dumbledore.
8. His Boggart Was His Sister’s Corpse
The biggest tragedy of Dumbledore’s life was the aforementioned death of his sister. When he got into a three-way duel with his brother Aberforth and Grindelwald, Ariana got in the way and was struck by one of the boy’s curses. The poor girl was just doomed from the very beginning, of course. When she was a little girl, a group of muggle boys attacked her after seeing her do magic, leaving her emotionally and mentally scarred from the encounter.
Talk about guilt; even Dumbledore’s boggart took the form of his poor dead sister. In that same Bloomsbury chat where J.K. Rowling revealed Dumbledore’s deepest desire, she also revealed his greatest fear. He was tortured by the thought that it was his curse that ultimately killed Ariana, and not Grindelwald’s. Although he never found out the truth, it likely wouldn’t have mattered all that much. Even if it had been Grindelwald, he probably would have still blamed himself, since they were all fighting because of him and his supposed friend.
7. He Could Do Both Wandless and Silent Magic
Only the most powerful wizards can master wandless or silent magic. In true Dumbledore fashion, the man could do both–and remarkably well, as it so happens. One of the clearest instances of this was in relation to his phoenix, Fawkes. Dumbledore could most likely disapparate at will, even within Hogwarts, but he used Fawkes on occasion, like when the Ministry of Magic tried to escort him out of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. During the feasts in The Great Hall, Dumbledore also used silent and wandless magic to change the banners, light candles, and bring the food up from the kitchens with a snap of his fingers. He could even see through Harry’ invisibility cloak using the spell Homenum Revelio, which he always cast silently.
There were a number of times where he used wandless magic to save Harry’s life too, such as in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry fell off his broom during a Quidditch match because of the dementors. When Harry dueled with Lord Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic, Dumbledore appeared and took his place, continuously throwing Harry aside to protect him using wandless magic.
6. He Could Understand Parseltongue
Who knew you could actually study Parseltongue like you could any other language? The ancient snake language passed on through generations of Salazar Slytherin’s descendants had a student in Albus Dumbledore. In the 2007 Bloomsbury live chat, J.K. Rowling confirmed that Dumbledore could indeed understand the language, along with the Merpeople’s Mermish and Goblin’s Gobbledegook. Parseltongue, as you might remember, is the language of snakes and normally the mark of a dark wizard. However, there was no mention of Dumbledore actually being able to speak the language, although he may have been able to imitate the sounds like Ron Weasley could.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore shows Harry a memory of Bob Ogden’s, an employee of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. In it, Ogden goes to the home of the Gaunts, Voldemort’s relatives, who all speak in Parseltongue to each other. Dumbledore appears to have understood what was going on there, and he discusses what they saw with Harry afterward. While the other two languages he learned were probably useful on an everyday basis, Dumbledore may have chosen to learn Parseltongue in order to understand more about Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort.
5. His Father Died in Azkaban
The start of all the tragedy in Dumbledore’s life comes down to an incident where his sister, Ariana, was attacked by a group of muggle boys after they saw her doing magic. The attack scarred her badly, and she was never the same again. She apparently even lost her ability to properly perform magic as a result of the incident. J.K. Rowling has never gone into detail about what exactly the boys did, but they must have subjected her to either hardcore violence, torture, or sexual abuse for her to become so emotionally and mentally disabled.
Dumbledore’s father, Percival, naturally wanted to get revenge on the a-holes who harmed his baby girl. He hunted them down and got his revenge, but to what extent we don’t know. However, he likely used magic on them since he was sent to Azkaban for it, which would have violated the International Statute of Secrecy.
Percival, of course, never revealed the real reason why he attacked the muggle boys in order to protect Ariana. Desperate to keep his family together, he was afraid she would be taken away to St. Mungo’s, the hospital for magical maladies and injuries. Although they stuck together, poor Albus and the rest of his family were left to fend for themselves and were constantly ostracized by their neighbors from then on, since it appeared his father attacked muggles for no good reason.
4. His Wand Has A Thestral Hair Core
When Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in 1945, he took his wand away from him. More than just a souvenir of his victory, Grindelwald’s wand was the legendary Elder Wand, one of the three Deathly Hallows of the Peverell Brothers. Dumbledore likely took it to prevent Grindelwald from having unlimited power, since he had such evil intentions. There’s no question that he likely wanted to study the wand too, since he was once interested in acquiring the Deathly Hallows himself and was attracted by the power they wielded over death.
As revealed on J.K. Rowling’s old website (now archived), the core of the Elder Wand was a Thestral hair, the creepy, misunderstood creatures that can only be seen once someone witnesses death. How appropriate then that Dumbledore should come into possession of it, since he had faced death, gave it the finger, and took control like the total badass he was. Even though he witnessed the death of his sister and experienced so much death and tragedy in his life, he still maintained his goodness and purity of heart through it all.
3. His is the Only Grave at Hogwarts
There aren’t too many schools with graveyards onsite, so it’s really no surprise that there weren’t any other graves before Dumbledore’s at Hogwarts. Perhaps there could have been a few headmasters buried there, but they probably wanted to be buried with their families. So why didn’t Dumbledore want to be buried near his family back in Godric’s Hollow? Some part of him must have felt like he didn’t deserve to be, especially since he was partially responsible for his sister’s death. He probably also felt, like Harry, that Hogwarts was his real home, the place where he felt the most comfortable and safe.
Since it was a first for a headmaster to be buried at Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic had to approve it, which they did because of Dumbledore’s reputation in the wizarding community. In the books, his tomb is located next to the shores of the black lake where the giant squid lives. However, in the films, the filmmakers placed it on a small island in the middle of the lake. While it’s certainly a better dramatic choice, it doesn’t really make practical sense. The only time anyone is seen on the lake is at the beginning of term, when the students take little boats across it to get to the school. They’d have to steal a boat to go visit his tomb.
2. He’s The Only Wizard, Besides Harry, To Possess All 3 Hallows
Again, J.K. Rowling’s genius never ceases to amaze. Even though both Grindelwald and Voldemort sought the Deathly Hallows for themselves, they were never able to obtain all three of them or become true masters of death. Only Dumbledore and Harry Potter ever held all three, and for very good reason. Not only were they both willing to face death and sacrifice themselves for the greater good, but their lives were undeniably linked together.
Dumbledore, like Harry, was orphaned before adulthood, and saw a similar scene to Harry’s in the Mirror of Erised. They were both from the same wizarding village and both experienced great tragedy throughout their lives, but always stayed on the side of good. Dumbledore witnessed the prophecy about Harry and was instrumental in protecting him at all costs, but also allowed him to come to the same conclusion about his death. Dumbledore sacrificed himself in order to further protect Harry, allowing the boy to do the same and save the Wizarding World. There’s a fan theory that Dumbledore was in fact, representative of Death himself, which even J.K. Rowling has said fits with the Deathly Hallows story.
1. He Was Introduced to Grindelwald by Bathilda Bagshot
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling first revealed some of the other wizarding schools around the world besides Hogwarts—Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Dumbledore’s crush Grindelwald attended Durmstrang, which was known for producing dark wizards. How then did Dumbledore and Grindelwald meet, since they didn’t go to school together?
After finishing his seventh year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore was further plagued by tragedy with the death of his mother by one of his sister’s accidental magical outbursts. As a result, Dumbledore was left to care for his family instead of touring the world with his friend Elphias Doge. Coincidentally, Grindelwald had come to the village of Godric’s Hollow, where Dumbledore’s family was living, to research the Deathly Hallows.
One of the neighbors who was friendly with the Dumbledore family, Bathilda Bagshot, just happened to be Grindelwald’s great-aunt. Seeing the similarities and intellectual compatibilities of the two young men, she introduced them to each other. The rest, as they say, is history. Quite literally, in this case. Bathilda Bagshot was a magical historian, and included the story of Grindelwald and Dumbledore in her book, A History of Magic. It’s possible this first meeting will also be explored in greater detail in one of the Fantastic Beasts films, since the story of Grindelwald and Dumbledore seem to have a large part to play in the sequels.
What else should fans know about Albus Dumbledore? Are you excited to see him in the Fantastic Beasts sequel, and which actor do you think should play him? Let us know in the comments.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arrives in theaters on November 18th, 2