It once seemed like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was only going to be a Harry Potter prequel in a very loose sense, a film series that shared the same universe as its predecessors, but without any meaningful connection to the original story. Sure, Newt Scamander and his seminal work (his book on magical creatures, which gives the film its title) were mentioned in the novels, and Dumbledore’s fondness for Newt came up in one of the first Fantastic Beasts trailers, but it didn’t seem like the relationship between the stories would go much beyond that. What could a bunch of magical creatures loose in New York in the 1920s have to do with Voldemort’s reign of terror in England decades later?
But boy-oh-boy-who-lived has that changed with a heap of new information that suggests that not only will Albus Dumbledore be an important character in the prequels, but that Fantastic Beasts might all be leading up to his famous duel with Gellert Grindelwald.
If you only vaguely remember the name Grindelwald from the seventh and final book, The Deathly Hallows, or his very brief appearances in the movies, let’s take a quick look back at the history of one of the most dangerous Dark Wizards who ever lived, how he terrorized Europe with his ambitions to rule both the magical and Muggle worlds, how his former friend Dumbledore was the one to finally stop him, and why Fantastic Beasts might ultimately be about what their final showdown.
Grindelwald, born circa 1882, was a highly skilled, brilliant wizard that was kicked out of Durmstrang (that’s where Victor Krum went), a Scandinavian school that still embraces the Dark Arts more than almost any other magical institution. Following his expulsion he relocated to Godric’s Hollow in late 1898/early 1899, where he became fast friends with Albus Dumbledore, himself an ambitious and supremely talented young wizard.
Dumbledore was living there, like a bird trapped in a cage three sizes too small, taking care of his troubled sister Ariana, who had been attacked as a young girl by Muggle boys. It left her broken and unable to control her magic, and ultimately destroyed the family. Her father struck back against the Muggle boys and was sent to Azkaban for it (though he didn’t reveal his motives, in an effort to shield his daughter from being committed). Later on, Ariana accidentally killed her mother during one of her fits. Ariana’s other brother, Aberforth, believed he was best suited to care for her and he was okay with not finishing his education at Hogwarts to to do so, but Albus insisted his brother go back to school.
It was a noble attempt by Albus to do what he thought was right, but one that wasn’t best for anyone, because he wanted so much more from the world than little Godric’s Hollow and the responsibility of caring for his unwell sister could offer. That’s why when Grindelwald showed up it changed everything for Albus forever.
The two realized they had much in common. They spent the next few months plotting how to gather the famed three pieces that made up the Deathly Hallows so that they could lead a worldwide revolution, one that would bring peace, but would also end the International Statue of Secrecy and see a magical government in place that would rule over Muggles.
Dumbledore wished to gain power to make the world safer, greatly influenced by what had happened to his sister, and Grindelwald believed only they could be trusted to fix things. “For the greater good” was his ethos, and it would prove to be as dangerous as it sounded ominous, since he would do anything to implement it.
Dumbledore, who later came to realize how horribly misguided his thoughts of a revolution were, would admit to Harry he knew in his heart Grindelwald’s motives were not as seemingly well-intentioned as his, but he didn’t accept it until it was too late. (It could be because, as J.K. Rowling has since said, he was in love with Grindelwald.)
It became too late one night when Aberforth, angry at how his brother Albus had been neglecting their sister while plotting with Grindelwald, confronted the ambitious young boys about their plans for world domination, about their quest to unite the Deathly Hallows and become Masters of Death, and especially about their plans to take sick Ariana with them on their endeavor. A fight broke out, with Grindelwald attacking Aberforth with the Cruciatus Curse. Albus stepped in to defend his brother and all three began to duel.
To this day, no one knows who of the three accidentally killed Ariana, but after her death Grindelwald fled back to continental Europe, and Dumbledore realized the error of his ways, though he would feel tremendous guilt for the rest of his life.
Albus would become Professor Dumbledore, turning down multiple chances to become the Minister of Magic because he knew the desire for power was his weakness and he was not to be trusted with it.
Grindelwald had no such qualms, and in his quest to lead that magical revolution at all costs, he obtained the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in the world and one of the three items constituting the Deathly Hallows. He acquired it by stealing it from the wand maker Gregorovitch, not by killing him. He and his army then began terrorizing Europe, and while the details are sparse, he was considered the most dangerous Dark Wizard of all time until Voldemort came along. Genocide, mass-killings of Muggles, a prison for his enemies, his rise was most likely kept hidden from the Muggle world because World War II was raging. While there are obvious differences between the two, his rise mirrors Hitler’s in many ways, right down to when they were both defeated.
Because that came in 1945, when Dumbledore, after long ignoring pleas for him to face his former friend, finally accepted something had to be done, and he was the only one capable of stopping him. What took place is considered the greatest duel between wizards of all time, a three hour fight that saw Dumbledore best Grindelwald, who was then jailed in his own prison, where he stayed until being killed (in the books) by Voldermort, himself seeking the Elder Wand, in 1998.
Which brings us back to Fantastic Beasts. In the last week that tenuous relationship between the world of Newt Scamander and Harry Potter has become far stronger. First there was the announcement that the planned trilogy would be five movies instead, with J.K. Rowling saying that the story we thought we were getting, about Newt’s issues with some rogue creatures and a hostile America, wasn’t the actual story they are telling with these movies.
Then there was the new poster of Colin Farrell’s character, the high ranking American Auror, Percival Graves, featuring, in plain sight, the symbol for The Deathly Hallows. That’s it near the top, the line in the circle, encased in the triangle.
And that was nothing compared to the new featurette for the film, where Grindelwald’s growing threat in Europe is on the minds of the American president of MACUSA, Seraphina Picquery. Pay special attention starting at 3:10.
Is that man seen from behind with the blond hair Grindelwald himself?
Newt Scamander’s loose creatures on their own threaten to reveal the magical world to the Muggle/No-Maj world of America, but there’s a new world order led by Grindelwald threatening to do the same in Europe during this time. Combine that with Farrell’s Graves, who (as we already theorized) seems ready for the secrecy of the magical world to come to an end, and plenty of elements for a catastrophic war are in place.
And since we know what truly ends that threat, the famous Dumbledore/Grindelwald duel, it would be reasonable to assume Dumbledore himself will need to eventually show up during the five movies to help bring him down.
But why wait? It seems like the Professor might show up in the first film this November. At Slashfilm they covered a Fantastic Beasts fan event last week in London, where director David Yates, when asked about the roles of Dumbledore and Grindelwald going forward, seemed to indicate that Dumbledore is in this November’s film.
“We can’t tell you too because we’d have to kill you all, but we do mention Dumbledore and he features in a wonderful scene between Colin [Farrell] and Eddie [Redmayne]. Grindelwald does feature in the background and is going to become a much more prominent feature moving forward.”
So it seems as though Grindelwald himself might be the big bad of these five movies. Newt arrives in New York in 1926, and releases his book the following year, so unless all five films take place in roughly 12-18 months, the “actual” story must be much, much bigger. Like world war big. The kind of story that carried seven novels and eight movies in Harry Potter.
Something else happened in 1945 that also connects what happens here to the Harry Potter novels: Tom Riddle finished his last year at Hogwarts. He would have known about Dumbledore’s victory over Grindelwald; he would have known how close the Dark Wizard had come to achieving his goal of a magic revolution. By the time of Grindelwald’s defeat, Voldemort had already made his first Horcrux, and had opened the Chamber of Secrets, killing a fellow student. Did Grindelwald’s defeat help him grow into a much more evil wizard, killing needlessly in his quest, whereas Grindelwald seemed to kill out of what he thought was necessity? Voldemort had all the ambition of Grindelwald, but was even more evil and sinister. Grindelwald had once had a friend; Voldemort never knew love.
Being a budding evil Dark Lord, and seeing another one come close to pulling off your dream, might have hardened Voldemort’s belief in doing whatever was necessary, no matter the costs, without care or concern for anyone or anything.
It also might be why he always feared Dumbledore, because he was the only person that was capable of stopping Grindelwald.
Fantastic Beasts might start with some creatures getting free in New York and threatening to expose the secret world of magic, but it might end with the most famous wizard duel in history, when the first Dark Wizard threatened everything, which just might be when Voldemort’s plans for his own world domination began.
What do you think? Are we going to end up seeing the famous duel? What connections do you think will exists between the movie franchises? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Images: Warner Bros.