It’s been a week since the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (see our review), so most fans would’ve seen it already. But just in case, this is your warning because this post has MAJOR SPOILERS.
As the movie revealed, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) had been in disguise as MACUSA Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) all this time. No one knows exactly how long the deception had been going on, but what is clear is that Grindelwald managed to infiltrate the highest magical office in North America and had become familiar with its inner workings.
Whether this will be addressed in a later movie remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the sudden reveal took many fans by surprise and left some people puzzled as to who Gellert Grindelwald really was.
Grindelwald was integral to the back story in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but it’s been some time since then and it’s natural to have forgotten some of the details . So here’s a quick recap of what we know about Grindelwald in the Potterverse so far.
1Grindelwald went to Durmstrang.
Grindelwald went to Durmstrang Institution, said to be located somewhere in Europe. The school had a reputation for teaching the Dark Arts to students, but apparently his “twisted experiments” proved to be too much even for Durmstrang, and he was expelled from the school when he was 16.
2He became fascinated with the Deathly Hallows while still at school.
The Deathly Hallows consist of the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility. It is said that the wizard who possesses all three of them will become the Master of Death and be powerful beyond measure. They are often represented by a runic symbol that
Graves Grindelwald wore on a chain.
Grindelwald was obsessed with finding them, and even carved the symbol of the Deathly Hallows into a wall at Durmstrang.
3His great-grandaunt was Bathilda Bagshot.
After he was expelled, he went to Godric’s Hollow in England, where his great-aunt Bathilda Bagshot (and author of A History of Magic, textbook of choice for Hogwarts) lived. Other residents of Godric’s Hollow you might know include Lily and James Potter, as well as Albus Dumbledore.
4He was Albus Dumbledore’s best friend.
As noted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Albus Dumbledore had a troubled past. His sister Ariana was born a Squib (though Fantastic Beasts has given rise to an additional theory), and his father was imprisoned in Azkaban after he attacked three Muggles who had targeted Ariana.
Branded a Muggle-hater like his father, it was forgotten once Albus made a name for himself in Hogwarts. However, after his mother died suddenly, Dumbledore became the breadwinner of the family and had to return home to take care of his sister and brother, Aberforth. The summer he went back home was when Gellert Grindelwald visited his great-grandaunt.
The two boys grew close, and JK Rowling herself confirmed that Dumbledore was absolutely smitten with the charismatic Grindelwald.
5His ideology was a dangerous one.
Grindelwald’s ideas influenced those of young Dumbledore’s. Before long, the two of them had the same dream of overturning the Statue of Secrecy (as mentioned in Fantastic Beasts) and building a new order of their making where wizards would rule over the entire world. Together, they coined the phrase “For the Greater Good” which Grindelwald adopted as his slogan.
While Grindelwald merely wanted power, Dumbledore subscribed to these ideas in the hopes that wizards and witches (including his loved ones) could co-exist in a world free of xenophobia. Think of it as the wizarding equivalent of X-Men: First Class.
6He had a part to play in Ariana Dumbledore’s death.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald decided to leave Godric’s Hollow in order to begin their revolution, but when Aberforth Dumbledore found out, he confronted them, reminding Albus that Ariana still needed his care and attention.
Enraged, Grindelwald cast a Cruciatus Curse on Aberforth, setting off a three-way duel that ended up accidentally killing Ariana. In the aftermath, Grindelwald fled the country and would not come into contact with Albus Dumbledore again until their duel in 1945. While on the run, Grindelwald built up an army of followers who were keen on implementing his vision of a more authoritarian wizarding world.
7He stole the Elder Wand from Gregorovitch.
Grindelwald’s quest for the Hallows brought him to wandsmith Gregorovitch, who was rumoured to be trying to replicate the power of the Elder Wand.
During one of the times Harry had access to Voldermort’s mind in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, we see a young Grindelwald stealing the Elder Wand from Gregorovitch in a flashback.
8In 1945, he was beaten by Albus Dumbledore in an epic wizard’s duel.
It’s been a long time since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but sharp-eyed readers would’ve remembered that Dumbledore’s Chocolate Frog card mentioned him defeating the dark wizard in 1945 (the date is not a coincidence).
Then the Transfigurations professor at Hogwarts, Dumbledore cemented his place in wizarding history by duelling the most powerful dark wizard in the world (before Voldemort came along) and besting him, making him the new master of the Elder Wand.
9He was imprisoned in Nurmengard.
Grindelwald had established Nurmengard as a prison for his enemies, but after his defeat at the hands of Dumbledore, he was sent there to live out the rest of his days as a prisoner.
We don’t know much about him after that, except that Voldemort broke into his cell during the period that Deathly Hallows took place in, with the intention of asking him where the Elder Wand was. In the books, Voldemort then kills him with an Avada Kedavra, but for some reason, movie Voldemort just left Grindelwald alone after getting the information he needed.