- The villain in the “Fantastic Beasts” movies is Gellert Grindelwald, who played a small but crucial role in the “Harry Potter” series.
- He was the wizarding world’s biggest villain before Voldemort came along.
- In his youth, Grindelwald was friends with Albus Dumbledore, who was in love with him.
- The two planned a revolution together, but eventually split. Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in an epic duel.
- In the five “Fantastic Beasts” movies, we’ll learn about their arc and how Newt Scamander is involved.
- Johnny Depp plays Grindelwald while Jude Law is cast as Dumbledore.
With 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” J.K. Rowling set the stage for a new saga of good vs. evil. And the villain of her story is Gellert Grindelwald.
We’ve seen Grindelwald before. He appeared in the main “Harry Potter” saga, which is set a few decades after the “Fantastic Beasts” movies. And while we only caught a glimpse of Grindelwald in the first “Fantastic Beasts” movie, he’s front and center in the new one, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
Grindelwald played a major part in the “Harry Potter” series
In the “Harry Potter” series, which takes place decades after “Fantastic Beasts,” Grindelwald plays a big role and helped shape the course of world events in the 20th century. He was Albus Dumbledore’s closest friend before turning into a Hitler-like figure who threw the magical world into turmoil in an attempt to dominate non-magical folk.
Grindelwald’s first mention in the “Harry Potter” series is inconspicuous. He’s simply a name dropped on Albus Dumbledore’s chocolate frog card in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”: “Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945.”
It’s not until several books later in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” that he plays a bigger role. As Voldemort searches for The Elder Wand, which he believes will make him invincible, he traces its path to Grindelwald. Voldemort finds Grindelwald in Nurmengard, a prison Grindelwald built during his rise to power and was locked in after his fall. But he finds out that Grindelwald doesn’t have the wand anymore, and kills him. (It turns out that Dumbledore obtained the wand after defeating Grindelwald in 1945.)
Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger learn about Grindelwald by accident.
At Bill and Fleur’s wedding in “Deathly Hallows,” Xenophilius Lovegood wears a necklace with the Deathly Hallows symbol on it. Viktor Krum, one of the wedding guests, instantly recognises it as Grindelwald’s sign and is upset. Krum attended Durmstrang, the Scandinavian magical school which Grindelwald attended. Grindelwald carved the symbol into a wall at Durmstrang when he was there, and it inspired – or horrified – some later pupils. Krum’s grandfather, for his part, was killed by Grindelwald.
Later, Harry and the crew find out Grindelwald’s sign is that of the Deathly Hallows – a trio of objects consisting of the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility. If a wizard or witch were to possess all three Hallows, they were said to be the Master of Death.
Grindelwald used to be best friends with Dumbledore
Grindelwald was expelled from Durmstrang when he was 16 for “twisted experiments,” according to the tabloid wizard journalist Rita Skeeter. After his expulsion in the late 19th century, he went to live with his great-aunt, the wizarding historian Bathilda Bagshot, in Godric’s Hollow in England. (It’s also the place where the Potters lived, decades later.)
Bagshot happened to be neighbours with the Dumbledore family. Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald – both ambitious, talented, and idealistic teenage wizards – quickly became friends.
The two also expressed interest in the Hallows, but both teens had different reasons for seeking them out: Grindelwald wanted power, while Dumbledore thought the Ressurection Stone might bring back his dead parents.
When Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay, after all seven “Harry Potter” books were published, she also said that Dumbledore loved him, but Grindelwald didn’t necessarily love Dumbledore back.
“Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was,”she said. “To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent?”
The two planned a revolution
In his youth, Dumbledore wasn’t entirely full of good intentions. His portrait told Harry in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” that he was filled with anger and wanted to shake up the world.
“You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me,” Dumbledore’s portrait said at the end of the book. “Muggles forced into subservience. We wizards triumphant. Grindelwald and I, the glorious young leaders of the revolution.”
According to Skeeter, who also wrote a not-entirely-accurate biography of Dumbledore shortly after his death, Dumbledore and Grindelwald planned to overturn the Statue of Secrecy, which keeps magical folk secret from non-magical folk, and establish a wizarding ruling class over Muggles.
They had different reasons. For Grindelwald, it was because he was an evil dude. For Dumbledore, it was a reaction to his sister Ariana being tormented by Muggles until she went mad.
The two coined the phrase Grindelwald used on his crusade decades later: “For the greater good.”
Dumbledore and Grindelwald planned to leave Godric’s Hollow to pursue their ambition. Aberforth, Albus’s brother, confronted him, saying he needed to take care of their sister Ariana. Grindelwald, enraged, attacked Aberforth, and Albus defended him. In the three-way duel, Ariana was killed.
After that, Dumbledore stayed home to take care of his brother. Meanwhile, Grindelwald fled from the duel and went on to find at least one of the Hallows on his own.
Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in a legendary duel
Grindelwald stole one of the Hallows, the Elder Wand, from the Eastern European wandmaker Mykew Gregorovitch.
From here, he dabbled more in the dark arts and rose to power. The details of his rise aren’t clear, but we do know that he killed a lot of people (like Viktor Krum’s grandfather) and established a prison, Nurmengard, for his enemies. He thought it was impregnable.
As Grindelwald became more infamous, Dumbledore faced him down. In 1945, in a duel for the ages, Dumbledore defeated him, leaving Grindelwald imprisoned in Nurmengard.
“In a list of Most Dangerous Dark Wizards of All Time, he would miss out on the top spot only because You-Know-Who arrived, a generation later, to steal his crown,” Rita Skeeter wrote. Voldemort might also be the more powerful wizard. He’s the only known person who ever broke into Nurmengard.
In “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Grindelwald tries to start a war
Let’s get some of the timeline straight.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” takes place in New York City in 1926. Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s whirlwind summer at Godric’s Hollow took place around 1899. And we know Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in a duel in 1945.
So by the time “Fantastic Beasts” takes place, Grindelwald is in his 40s and his power is on the rise. But he never became a significant part of British magical history, so his activities must have been mostly confined to Eastern and Central Europe.
At the end of “Fantastic Beasts,” Percival Graves – the head auror at MACUSA and seemingly the second-most-powerful person in the American wizarding community – turns out to be Grindelwald in disguise.
Throughout the film, Graves enlists Credence Barebone, an orphan who appears to be a No-Maj, into helping him find an Obscurial. An Obscurial is a hard-to-control magical force that’s unleashed when a wizard or witch doesn’t express their magical powers.
There’s a big showdown between Graves, Newt Scamander (the movie’s main protagonist), and Barebone. Graves is brought to his knees, and Scamander performs a “revelio” charm to reveal him as Grindelwald.
“Will we die, just a little?” Grindelwald tells Scamander as he’s hauled away.
But he lives, and makes a dramatic return
While American wizards, unlike British ones, use the death penalty, Grindelwald makes it to future installments of the series.
Grindelwald breaks out of his prison and remains at large in Crimes of Grindelwald.”
In the series, we’ll likely find out how he evades capture and increases his power over the wizarding world.
Rowling herself said the series’ five movies will span “19 years,” meaning it will end in 1945, the same year Dumbledore dueled Grindelwald.
So the rest of the “Fantastic Beasts” movies will take place just as Grindelwald is rising to power, and may end in a Dumbledore-Grindelwald showdown.
In the first movie, we also briefly meet Hector Fawley, the Minister for Magic from Britain, who recognises Scamander.On Pottermore, Rowling tells us that Fawley “did not take sufficiently seriously the threat presented to the world wizarding community by Gellert Grindelwald,” and lost his job in 1939 to Leonard Spencer Moon, who “enjoyed a good working relationship with Winston Churchill.”
Grindelwald is played by Johnny Depp – which a lot of fans are unhappy about
David Yates, who’s directing the “Fantastic Beasts” movies and who directed the final four “Harry Potter” ones, told Jason Guerrasio at Business Insider that Depp is one of the only actors who can play Grindelwald.
“Grindelwald is a major character and it’s pretty big shoes to fill,” Heyman said. “So you want someone who is charismatic, who is brave as an actor, who can stand up and is iconic. Johnny [Depp] is one of the few actors who has created several iconic characters and he’s brave, he’s a great artist, he’s a great actor. So we went to Johnny and he said yes.”
Fans aren’t happy about it. As the allegations against Harvey Weinstein exploded into public view last fall and sparked the #MeToo movement, Depp came under renewed criticism for allegedly assaulting his ex-wife, Amber Heard. The charges were dropped amid their divorce settlement.
“Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies,” Rowling said in a statement in December.
But fans are still split on the issue, and even Daniel Radcliffe was sympathetic with them.
“It’s a very hard thing for me,” Radcliffe said in January. “I can see why people are frustrated.”
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