Featured in the November 2021 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine.

How Dumbledore and Grindelwald might meet before their legendary duel

1009 words.
By Cameron Werner.

After September’s surprising title reveal for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ (FB:SoD), many fans have begun to speculate about the plot of the upcoming wizarding world movie installment. While magizoologist Newt Scamander and the gang are certain to take centre stage again, the Fantastic Beasts films have increasingly drawn upon the conflict arising from the anti-muggle sentiment whipped up by Big Bad Gellert Grindelwald. Central to this clash is Grindelwald’s relationship with his nemesis, none other than our favourite Hogwarts headmaster Professor Dumbledore. As book readers will know, the ‘Grindeldore’ rivalry culminates in an epic showdown between them in 1945. Much less, however, is known about the period leading up to that momentous event. Often, both fan speculation and fansite articles make the widely accepted claim that Grindelwald and Dumbledore do not meet from their first falling out in Godric’s Hollow to their legendary duel. In this article, we examine this assertion, briefly putting forward the alternative theory that Grindeldore may yet meet at some point prior to their final battle.

Book readers will be aware that Grindelwald and Dumbledore first met in their youth, in the fateful first summer they spent together in Godric’s Hollow. Without going into detail, their relationship and the fallout from this relationship ending, changed them both (and indeed the fate of the entire wizarding world) forever. While we have very little information to go on about their backstory, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows provides some small insights in the form of Rita Skeeter’s book on the topic. In addition to this, Elphias Doge’s obituary and several brief conversations between Harry and Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore provide some further tidbits. Where, though, did the notion that Dumbledore and Grindelwald did not meet between their summer at Godric’s Hollow and their final showdown stem from? At first glance it would appear that Rita Skeeter is the originator of this particular piece of information. Indeed, we are told as much in the excerpts from Skeeter’s Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, where she writes:

Dumbledore and Grindelwald parted, never to see each other again until they met for their legendary duel’. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 18)

Skeeter makes this claim again at a later point in her book, stating:

‘[Grindelwald] fled the country hours after the girl’s [Ariana’s] death, and Albus (out of shame or fear?) never saw him again, not until forced to do so by the pleas of the Wizarding world (…) there can be no doubt that Dumbledore delayed, for some five years of turmoil, fatalities, and disappearances, his attack upon Gellert Grindelwald.’ (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 18)

However, it is important with any of these quotes to bear in mind the source of the information. As any fan worth their salt will tell you, Rita Skeeter is unreliable at the best of times and makes a number of wildly inaccurate and blatantly untrue claims, both in her prior written works and in The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. It seems odd, therefore, that many have chosen to take this piece of information as gospel truth, given her tendency to fabricate and embellish.

Having pored over all of the relevant passages in Deathly Hallows, it seems there is only one further reference to this lack of a meeting between Albus and Gellert. In this instance the source is Albus Dumbledore himself in the form of Kings Cross Dumbledore, whom Harry meets in limbo. Speaking of this time, he states:

‘I delayed meeting him until finally, it would have been too shameful to resist any longer. People were dying and he seemed unstoppable, and I had to do what I could.’ (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35)

At first glance it would appear that Dumbledore’s quote corroborates what Rita alleged, implying a long amount of time had passed before they finally met again to duel. This information is from Dumbledore personally, so it would certainly seem to be incontrovertible evidence, to paraphrase the man himself. However, upon closer inspection of the quote, it is notable that Dumbledore referred to having delayed meeting Grindelwald, while never explicitly stating he had not met him at all between their first summer together and final battle. Interestingly, both Dumbledore and Skeeter hint at a final period of high casualties, presumably the point at which Grindelwald consolidates his power. Notably, Skeeter explicitly refers to a period of five years of turmoil during which Dumbledore avoided confronting Grindelwald. Could it be that when Dumbledore speaks of delaying his meeting with Grindelwald, he is referring to this time rather than, as many have assumed, the entire period between their summer at Godric’s Hollow and their final battle?

This leaves open the possibility of Grindelwald and Dumbledore canonically encountering each other prior to their momentous duel, either in the upcoming ‘Secrets of Dumbledore’ or the yet unnamed fourth installment of the series. One of the most interesting disclosures in Crimes of Grindelwald was the revelation of the blood pact young Albus and Gellert made. In addition to the guilt Dumbledore felt at his past relationship with Grindelwald, it would appear that there is an additional barrier to him confronting his nemesis in the form of this pact. Albus’ reluctance to challenge Gellert is both emotional and magical. It seems likely that Secrets of Dumbledore will centre around Dumbledore seeking to break this pact, allowing him to take a more prominent role in fighting Grindelwald. In Crimes of Grindelwald he says as much, claiming ‘I cannot move against Grindelwald (Crimes of Grindelwald Screenplay), hinting at these barriers. However, just because he is not yet able to actively move against Grindelwald himself does not necessarily mean he cannot encounter him and even speak with him. Only time will tell whether Grindeldore really will meet before their final showdown. One thing is for certain though, going by its title alone FB:SoD seems likely to ruffle some phoenix feathers and may reveal more than a few uncomfortable home truths for Albus Dumbledore.