Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald reveals Fawkes the phoenix’s origin story, and the beginnings of his connection to Albus Dumbledore. From the appearance of Nagini (Claudia Kim) to Nicholas Flamel’s (Brontis Jodorowsky) extended cameo, The Crimes of Grindelwald contains more links to the Harry Potter series than its predecessor, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The most prominent of these is a younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), whom Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) reconvenes with early in the film. During their conversation about Frank the Thunderbird in the previous movie, Dumbledore muses upon his own family's association with fabled feathered creatures; Dumbledore discloses that phoenixes have been closely linked to his family for generations. Specifically, he mentions that one of these birds came to his grandfather in an hour of need.
This conversation becomes much more significant at Fantastic Beasts 2's end when the troubled Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) sides with Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). For much of the film, many of the characters believe that Credence is Corvus Lestrange, part of an ancient wizarding family whose emblem is a raven. As such, when Credence is seen caring for a young baby bird earlier in the movie, the filmmakers subtly seems to confirm these suspicions. However, this proves to be a major misdirection. In the very final scene, Grindelwald informs Credence that he is, in fact, Aurelius Dumbledore, Albus and Aberforth’s long lost brother. The chick that Credence has been carrying erupts into flame, and transforms into a red-and-gold phoenix. It's quite the revelation and seemingly confirms that Credence's heritage.
Similarly, given that phoenixes rarely feature in the Harry Potter saga – and that this specimen is already related to Albus Dumbledore through the previously-unknown Aurelius – we can also guess that this Dumbledore’s future companion, Fawkes.
If this is Fawkes in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, then this is yet another retcon that J.K. Rowling has made to the Wizarding World. As she stated in 2007, Rowling originally envisioned Fawkes living in the wild before he became allied to Albus Dumbledore. This complemented Rowling's description of phoenixes in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them textbook, when she described them as being rare creatures that are extremely difficult to domesticate. On the other hand, tying Fawkes closer to Dumbledore and his family in the Fantastic Beasts series proves to be an interesting and unexpected move for long-time fans.
Indeed, Dumbledore’s phoenix has so far played a small yet vital role in Harry Potter canon. His feathers feature as the twin cores of Harry and Voldemort’s wands, and like his master, Fawkes was dedicated to fighting the forces of evil. The phoenix attacked the Basilisk and saved Harry’s life after he was poisoned in The Chamber of Secrets. The Order of the Phoenix also saw Fawkes serve as Dumbledore’s secret messenger, and he ensured that they both escaped when the Ministry of Magic came to arrest them. He even absorbed a killing curse during Dumbledore's duel against Voldemort, thus saving his companion's life.
It will still be interesting to see how Fawkes fits in with Grindelwald and his followers in the Fantastic Beasts series. As the Harry Potter saga depicted, phoenixes usually side with the good guys, and their the cries strike fear into those with impure hearts. Nevertheless, the dark wizard has seemingly gained two formidable allies. With his Obscurus, Credence/Aurelius poses as a particularly destructive threat for Newt and Dumbledore. Coupled with the healing tears and the teleportation powers of a phoenix (along with the power of the Elder Wand) Grindelwald will be able to bypass much of what the wizarding world does in their attempts to stop him.
But this, in turn, raises several questions. Since they are effectively immortal in Harry Potter lore, are the various phoenixes that have visited the Dumbledore family over the years simply the same bird that chooses to reappear? And if this phoenix somehow transpires not be Fawkes, when will he appear? Surely this is the right time period for him to do so?
At the moment, we can only speculate as to what kind of circumstances Fawkes allies himself with Albus Dumbledore. What is clear is that J.K. Rowling is fully committed to providing an unexpected origin story within this prequel series. All that remains is for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’s three sequels to fill in the unknown parts of these tales.
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald/Fantastic Beasts 2 (2018) release date: Nov 16, 2018