Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
When the first installment in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series debuted in 1997, it was the first step into a whole new wizarding world. The franchise has since grown to include six other novels following the adventures of Harry, eight film adaptations, a continuation in the form of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and a new blockbuster prequel series kicked off in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Set decades before Harry was even born, Fantastic Beasts follows the magizoologist Newt Scamander on an adventure through New York City in 1926 as the wizard attempts to track down magical creatures that escaped from his care.
Fantastic Beasts is additionally set in a tense era between wizards and No-Majs (non-magic folk). The Magical Congress of the United States, aka the MACUSA, is desperate to protect the International Statute of Secrecy because they believe breaking it would threaten the safety of the American wizarding society. Meanwhile, the No-Maj group New Salem Philanthropic Society, aka the Second Salemers, is intent on revealing and eradicating the wizarding community -- seemingly proving President Seraphina Picquery's (Carmen Ejogo) belief in the protection of the Statute of Secrecy.
However, just prior to Newt's arrival in New York City, a terrifying magical creature begins terrorizing the city and its No-Maj inhabitants, threatening the delicate balance between the MACUSA and Second Salemers. The creature is revealed to be an Obscurus -- which isn't so much a creature as a force of magic (more on that later) -- and in the final act of Fantastic Beasts, the Obscurus is revealed to be Second Salemer Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller).
Now, for those who are still unclear on what exactly an Obscurus is, we dive into this particular wizarding world creature and its impact on the future of Warner Bros' five-film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise. Additionally, we discuss a potential connection between the Obscurus and another major character within the Harry Potter world.
- This Page: The Obscurus in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Page 2: The Obscurus in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
What We Know About the Obscurus
Early on in Fantastic Beasts, the MACUSA's Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) investigates an attack on a No-Maj residence that left the majority of the building demolished; the No-Maj who bore witness to the attack describes the creature as a dark wind -- an amorphous force of nature rather than a solid creature. We later learn this "dark wind" to be the Obscurus, which goes on to attack and kill Henry Shaw, Jr. (Josh Cowdery) -- a senator and the eldest son of newspaper magnate Henry Shaw, Sr. -- as well as Second Salemer leader/Credence's adoptive mother Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton).
From Newt, who has studied the Obscurus on his travels, we learn that the creature is created when a very young witch or wizard suppresses their magic -- essentially represses their true identity -- to the point that their powers manifest in the dark force known as the Obscurus. When Newt theorizes to President Picquery that the creature terrorizing New York City is an Obscurus, she shoots it down on the belief that the creatures no longer exist because witches and wizards aren't persecuted as they once were.
As revealed when Newt discusses the Obscurus with the MACUSA, it's believed that the eldest living child to be tied to an Obscurus was only 10. Additionally, Newt reveals he attempted to sever an Obscurus from the child that manifested it, but while the Obscurus survived, the child did not. This Obscurus is seen within Newt's case, and seems to lure Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to it before Newt snaps the No-Maj out of whatever trance the Obscurus had put him in.
Throughout Fantastic Beasts, Graves -- who is revealed to be the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) -- attempts to find the child that manifested the Obscurus through a manipulative relationship with Credence. Graves believes Credence to be a squib (a non-magical person born to at least one wizarding parent) and uses the teenaged boy to help locate the Obscurus, who Graves has learned is among the children Mary Lou and the Second Salemers feed/use to distribute anti-wizard pamphlets. Though Graves believes the Obscurus to be Credence's younger adoptive sister Modesty (Faith Wood-Blagrove), Credence reveals himself to be the creature -- making him the oldest known Obscurus.
In terms of how Credence became an Obscurus, it seems to be fairly straightforward that his life with Mary Lou caused him to repress whatever magical abilities with which he was born. Mary Lou is fanatical in her hatred of witches and wizards, and she physically abuses Credence, creating an environment that would cause the teenager to suppress his magic. It's unclear if Mary Lou knew of Credence's magical abilities and that factors into her abuse, but she does mean to abuse him when she discovers Modesty playing with a wand the young girl found among Credence's belongings. It's additionally unclear if Credence has been an Obscurus since he was under 10, or if he's proof that witches and wizards can manifest an Obscurus into their teen years -- perhaps even into adulthood.
In the final act of Fantastic Beasts, President Picquery leads the MACUSA's Aurors against Credence/the Obscurus, despite Newt and Tina Goldstein's (Katherine Waterston) objections that there may be another way to deal with the young wizard and the creature. The MACUSA's forces seemingly kill the Obscurus (and Credence along with it), with the creature dissipating into shreds of dark magic. However, in one particular moment, Newt meaningfully looks at one particular shred of the Obscurus, indicating that we haven't seen the last of Credence.
Before we dive into the Obscurus' future in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series, let's delve into how Credence and the Obscurus offer insight into another character within the Harry Potter mythos.
Ariana Dumbledore Was (Probably) An Obscurus
The story of Albus Dumbledore's family is largely unknown within the original Harry Potter books up until the last installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when the titular wizard learns more about his deceased mentor's life -- including Dumbledore's brief friendship with Grindelwald in the summer of 1899 (27 years before Fantastic Beasts takes place). While speaking to Albus' younger brother Aberforth toward the end of the final novel, Harry, Hermione, and Ron learn about that summer from a new perspective. Outsiders, after all, knew very little about the youngest Dumbledore child, Ariana.
As Aberforth explains, Dumbledore had just graduated from Hogwarts, but was forced to return home to Godric's Hollow to care for Ariana -- who was 14 at the time -- because his mother had been killed in a magical accident that included his sister (his father was in prison for attacking a group of Muggle boys). Dumbledore struck up a friendship with Grindelwald in which the boys began planning Grindelwald's revolution to establish wizards as benevolent overlords of Muggles. However, their friendship came to an end when they got into a three-way duel with Aberforth that wound up killing Ariana.
But, why did Ariana need to be cared for at all? As Aberforth revealed to Harry, Hermione, and Ron, she was attacked by a group of Muggle boys when she was six-years-old, and it had a lasting effect on her. In fact, here's how Aberforth specifically describes the attack and his sister:
“It destroyed her, what they did: She was never right again. She wouldn’t use magic, but she couldn’t get rid of it; it turned inward and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it, and at times she was strange and dangerous. But mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless.”
Aberforth continues to explain that his and Albus's father sought revenge on the boys that attacked Ariana, but never confessed his reasons to the Ministry of Magic despite being sent to Azkaban. Aberforth said:
"If the Ministry had known what Ariana had become, she'd have been locked up in St. Mungo's [Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries] for good. They'd have seen her as a serious threat to the International Statute of Secrecy, unbalanced like she was, with magic exploding out of her at moments when she couldn't keep it in any longer."
Given the language Aberforth uses to describe Ariana repressing her magic to the point that it "exploded out of her" and that she would be considered a danger to the Statute of Secrecy, there are too many parallels to ignore between the youngest Dumbledore child and Credence Barebone. Both Credence and Ariana suffered trauma at a young age, both attempted to repress their magic, and both seemed to be sweet and kind but could prove to be dangerous if provoked. So, it follows that Ariana was an Obscurus.
Furthermore, it's implied in Aberforth's recount that Ariana's Obscurus accidentally killed her mother (similar to how Credence accidentally kills Mary Lou), and Ariana's Obscurus emerged during the duel between her brothers and Grindelwald. Considering the fearful reaction of the MACUSA to Credence's Obscurus that caused them to destroy him, a similar situation likely arose during the three-way duel, leading to Ariana's death. Dumbledore was always afraid he accidentally killed Ariana, and if she manifested as the Obscurus during the duel, she may have gotten in the way or inspired enough fear in the three men that they all (or some) of them turned their wands on her.
Additionally, Grindelwald witnessing an Obscurus first-hand in Ariana would explain why he-as-Graves is knowledgeable enough about the creature to seek out the one terrorizing New York City in Fantastic Beasts -- that is, if Grindelwad did witness Ariana's Obscurus and if he knows the creature in the city is an Obscurus. Furthermore, Ariana being an Obscurus may explain how Newt learned of them; he may have learned of them from Dumbledore. The student and teacher did have a close relationship while Newt was at Hogwarts. Although, if Dumbledore did teach Newt about Obscurus, it's likely the professor never revealed how he learned about the creatures considering he kept his family life a secret from Harry during the Harry Potter series.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) release date: Nov 18, 2016
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald/Fantastic Beasts 2 (2018) release date: Nov 16, 2018