How 'Fantastic Beasts' Provides Insight Into A Pivotal Moment In Albus Dumbledore's Life

One of the most satisfying things about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is being able to watch a movie set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter where we don't know what's going to happen. Just like when we used to read the latest installment of J.K. Rowling's book franchise, we're meeting new characters, discovering new details and seeing a story unfold for the first time. Even though the first film in this new franchise has some shortcomings, it certainly sets the stage for a promising series.

Another interesting aspect of Fantastic Beasts is that the movie introduces us to a new creature called an Obscurus that may help explain a certain event in the life of Albus Dumbledore that hasn't been explored in the movies yet. Let's dive into the Fantastic Beasts Obscurus connection to the Harry Potter series after the jump, but beware of some major spoilers for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Though we initially discussed the introduction of the Obscurus in Fantastic Beasts earlier this week with regards to a deleted scene that would have more obviously set up a sequel, we'll catch everyone up again just so we're all on the same page.

What Is An Obscurus?

One of the key plot points in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a mysterious dark force that keeps wreaking havoc on New York City in the 1920s. It's something that's been happening since even before Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrived in the city, so we know that it's not his escaped magical creatures who are behind this destruction. However, Scamander is in possession of a creature called an Obscurus, a dark cloud that is housed in a kind of bubble inside his magic suitcase full of creatures.

From Scamander, we learn that the Obscurus is a dark force that manifests itself inside a witch or wizard who is suppressing their magical ability. The Obscurus in Newt's suitcase came from a little girl in Africa who he tried to save, but ended up dying because the force was too great for her to endure. Apparently those who have an Obscurus inside them don't live very long because the dark enegry becomes so great that they can no longer contain it. It turns out that another Obscurus is in New York, and that's what's causing all the damage around the city.


Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) seems hellbent on finding this force, and working off some kind of vision he had, he thinks that the No-Maj named Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is the key to finding the Obscurial (this host of the Obscurus) in question. Graves comes to believe that it's Credence's younger sister who has this power inside of her, but it turns out to be the abused Credence, suppressed by his adopted mother, Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton), an anti-witchcraft activist. With Credence being much older than any previously encountered Obscurial, the force inside him is great, and turns into a massive swirling cloud of energy that can destroy almost anything in its path.

In the end, Percival Graves wants to use this force for some reason, and we learn that it's because Graves is actually Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) in disguise, and he's been hoping to use the Obscurus to spark a war between the wizarding world and the non-magical world so that wizards might finally rule over everything and show their superiority to humankind.

Though you might thing this is the first time Harry Potter fans have encountered the Obscurus, it turns out that we might have heard about this before, though not in any of the Harry Potter movies. Instead, we should look to the books for this information.


The Friendship of Albus Dumbldore and Gellert Grindelwald

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, Harry, Ron and Hermione meet Aberforth Dumbledore (played by Ciaran Hinds), the brother of Albus Dumbledore. He runs the Hog's Head Inn, which ends up giving them a way back into Hogwarts undetected when they need it most. However, in their brief exchange with Aberforth, they learn there's a considerable amount of bad blood between the brothers, so much that he cautions Harry and his friends from trusting Albus at all. The movie never explains why, but fans of the book know exactly why.

The book of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows provides much more detail on the life of Albus Dumbledore and the tumultuous relationship he had with his brother, and the source of their bitterness actually has ties to none other than Gellert Grindelwald.

After being expelled from Durmstrang Institute (the same school Viktor Krum attended in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) for some disturbing work in the dark arts, Gellert Grindelwald went to Godric's Hollow to live with his aunt Bathilda Bagshot (who appears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I and is mentioned as providing Rita Skeeter with information for her book, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore). It's there that he sparks a friendship with a young Albus Dumbledore.

The two became friends because they both were fascinated by the prospect of finding The Deathly Hallows (The Elder Wand, The Cloak of Invisibility and The Resurrection Stone), though each was interested in them for differing reasons, and also because they wanted to overturn the Statute of Secrecy that kept the wizarding world secret from Muggles, resulting in fear and persecution in some cases. Grindelwald wanted this so he could rule over them and control everything while Dumbledore's hope was to avoid persecution of witches and wizards by Muggles when they happened to discover them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Ariana Dumbledore

Ariana Dumbledore

Dumbledore's motivation came from the fact that his sister Ariana (seen above in a portrait from the Hog's Head Inn in Deathly Hallows: Part I) was attacked by three Muggle boys when they stumbled upon her practicing her magic as a young girl. They frightened her so much that she became scared of using her power ever again, and it changed her forever. An excerpt from the book features Aberforth explaining this to Harry, Ron and Hermione:

"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."

It is believed that one of these outbursts is what caused Ariana to accidentally kill her mother. That sounds an awful lot like what happens to Credence Barebone in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Which means that Ariana Dumbldore was likely an Obscurial, and she could be the reason that Gellert Grindelwald is seeking out another one in New York City. Grindelwald used to lecture Aberforth about how his and Albus' plans for changing the world would have meant that Ariana didn't have to be kept secret any longer, and she would be free of this burden.

Of course, she ended up being free of that burden in a tragic way because Albus, Aberforth and Grindelwald ended up getting into a duel that resulted in Ariana being killed at 14 years old. However, it's never revealed which of the three wizards cast the spell that accidentally killed her, and it's something that has haunted Albus Dumbledore his whole life.

The Future of Fantastic Beasts

This all sets the stage for what Grindelwald is doing during the timeline of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, and it also provides some context as to how this will tie into the larger Harry Potter film universe by filling in some gaps that weren't explored by the movies.

With Dumbledore poised to play a big part in the Fantastic Beasts sequels, we're bound to learn much more about the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, which might be why these details were left out of the Deathly Hallows film adaptations. After all, J.K. Rowling consulted on the film's scripts, and now that she's writing the Fantastic Beasts franchise, maybe she intentionally had writer Steve Kloves exclude those details so that she could explore them in her own screenplays. Plus, now that we know the movies are supposed to span 19 years, that takes us right up to 1945, which is when Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald according to his Chocolate Frog trading card.

ScreenCrush has a video that offers up a theory as to why Newt Scamander is caught up in this story when it doesn't really seem like he's all that important to the larger narrative at hand, and that includes an interesting detail in the faux textbook that was published all the way back in 2001:

So there you have it. J.K. Rowling has had all these ideas and story elements in her head that it sounds like we should just trust that she knows what she's doing. While I'm still not sure how the story of Newt Scamander will be integral to this franchise, and this theory doesn't really sell me on it either, I'm going to put my faith in Rowling and see where this takes us.

What do you think about all this?