Episode 168: DH 18 – What’s Dumbledore’s Deal?

Dumbledore was a teenager once? It’s a short but beautiful chapter that helps to fill in some gaps in the greater story, including giving us some tantalizing hints on the now gone headmaster’s past, but also that causes Harry to feel alone and lied to. Join hosts Kat, Michael, and Alison, along with guest host DeAnna, as they explore “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.”

On Episode 168 we discuss…

→ Episode 167 Recap: Did Voldemort consider Snape’s request?; Effective house memorial; What caused the Horcrux to burn on Harry?; Incompetent Death Eaters
→ PQOTW Responses
→ The unknown dangers of Godric’s Hollow
→ Harry’s lost a big part of himself
→ #HermioneLove
→ What is Aberforth’s deal?
→ Grindlewald and Albus
→ Question of the Week
→ Check out the Alohomora! store

To listen to the show, simply click the player below or direct download the episode. You can also subscribe to us on iTunes. For more information about the podcast and to find out how to be on the show, check out our Be On The Show! page.

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  • Hermione’s right. The information in this chapter is irrelevant. The man who Dumbledore became, though influenced by the actions of his past, should not be judged by this information. Kids make mistakes and better themselves as a result.

    • While I very much agree with this in the general perspective of life, I think it is unrealistic to expect that Harry (at his age, having been through what he has, and under his current state of duress) is going to think this way. It is important that Hermione says this but it will take Harry a lot of time to actually internalize it.

      • I’m not expecting Harry to get that. Not at all. There is too much going on for him to think that way. But for the readers who question how great of a man Dumbledore truly was, it is important to remember him as Hermione tells us to. People do question Dumbledore as the question Snape and I believe there shouldn’t be a question

  • I agree with Kat that Dumblerdore didn’t want Harry searching for the Hallows. In fact I’d go so far to say Dumbledore didn’t really want all three of the Hallows reunited considering he gave one of them to Harry as a gift, left him another in his will and then was buried with the third. I feel like if he had wanted Harry to have them all he would’ve found a way to get the wand to Harry and not had himself entombed with it.

    • MartinMiggs

      agreed and he also intended to have the Elder wand’s power die with him

  • Casey L.

    On Aberforth – Actually, I agree with Alison that he was neglected, at least by those in his family who could have helped him. His father was in Azkaban and eventually died there, his mother’s time was devoted to Ariana, and his brother seemed to keep to himself at home. The only one, from his own account, who seemed to pay attention to him was Ariana, and she wasn’t in a position to give him much guidance. I think it says a lot about his regard for her that after their mother’s death, he was more than willing to stay home and take care of her.

    Also, what does everyone think about Aberforth’s abilities? Albus calls him “unlettered,” and Elphias Doge says he is not “bookish,” but he does seem to have at least reasonable magical ability – we know he can conjure a patronus, in the Battle of Hogwarts, he defeats Augustus Rookwood and survives the battle, and he can be trusted to be a member of the Order, something that clearly isn’t for the faint of heart (or head). Is Aberforth a case of talent but not book learning? Someone who had interests outside a “conventional” magical education? Was he just determined not to be in his brother’s shadow? Or is there something else entirely going on with him?

    • I think you are quite right to come back to the idea of neglect for Aberforth, for all the reasons you mention as well as the fact that as an older kids, he was once again neglected by “the new head of the family” -his brother Albus – probably at one of the most important times of his life, when he is truly to care for Ariana without the help of his mother.
      Really interesting question about him as a wizard. I would say that Aberforth is adequately skilled and magically talented. The “unlettered” and not “bookish” comments come in distinction to his brother. That’s just life when you have sibling that is noteworthy. But I think Aberforth is much more socially adept (odd phrasing but I think it gets the point across) than Albus. As a barman, albeit a slightly odd one, he would have had more casual interactions with people and his relationship with Ariana attests to the fact that he is a very caring person. The relationship that he struck up with Neville and likely Seamus and other members of the DA, calling him Ab, etc. suggests that he can develop these (at least casual and mutually beneficial) social relationships that Albus either turned himself off to after Grindelwald or just was less natural at developing in the first place. Doge mentioned that Albus was pretty insular as a kid and while was well-liked didn’t have many friends so perhaps he just wasn’t naturally social. It seems that Aberforth may have got more of those genes, though due to the tragedy of his early life he developed a strong affinity to goats, as Allison said because animal companionship can often seem more comfortable or palatable when someone feels that humans do not understand or cannot imagine the pain one is harboring. On that subject, I think the goat thing is a bit of comic relief as Kat mentioned but also meant to demonstrate his eccentricity (in line with the rest of the Dumbledores – despite his brilliance,etc. Albus is quite eccentric just as a character) and his choice to favor animal companions over human likely stems from the fact that the close relationships he has principally experienced were either neglectful, ended too soon, or were wrought with torment, grief, and mistrust.

      • Ya know this makes me think more about Ab’s relationship with the DA members hold up in the RoR and that he takes over (at least partially) caring for them by feeding and watering them and developing a sort of protective escape system that harkens back to his care and protection of Ariana. In a similar way to his social nature as I mentioned in the comment above, I think Aberforth is a “carer” in the sense that some people are just better at being caregivers and helping others in that way. I suppose it makes a lot of sense that he went into the “hospitality” trade and set up an inn and bar that provides sustenance, refuge, and care for people in the general sense. I guess I’m coming to realize that the are many important qualities that Aberforth has in spades that Albus could not have compared to, in a similar way that Aberforth could not pretend to match Albus intellectually.

      • Oh MY GOD. They called him Ab… just like Al.
        Oh, and goats:

        Q: In the Goblet of Fire Dumbledore said his brother was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms [JKR buries her head, to laughter] on a goat; what were the inappropriate charms he was practicing on that goat?
        JKR: How old are you?
        Eight.
        JKR: I think that he was trying to make a goat that was easy to keep clean [laughter], curly horns. That’s a joke that works on a couple of levels. I really like Aberforth and his goats. But you know Aberforth having this strange fondness for goats if you’ve read book seven, came in really useful to Harry, later on, because a goat, a stag, you know. If you’re a stupid Death Eater, what’s the difference. So, that is my answer to YOU.

        • skgai

          I don’t know how you can read these books and not consider his goat charms to be sexual in some manner. It’s the oddest thing JK Rowling has included in the books. I don’t mind that, but dammit I need confirmation. But really, it’s obvious.

    • It’s a very interesting point you make here – how did he learn a patronus?! The producing of the Patronus Charm seems a very meritorious achievement, how could he have mastered it to a degree of corporeality, etc. But I think it makes sense that someone who is not bookish can produce a better Patronus then someone who is, because someone who is bookish will expect a book to be the key (Hermione) instead of just feeling the charm, as you’re supposed to (Harry). As for Rockwood, well, we have no inkling of his magical ability. He could be a completely useless dueller, or he could be in Voldemort’s inner circle. (*coughs: Pottermore!)

      • Casey L.

        It’s true we don’t know much about his magical ability, but I’m guessing he was at the very least, intelligent. When Igor Karkaroff is giving names of Death Eaters in Goblet of Fire, we learn Rookwood worked in the Department of Mysteries and was a spy for Voldemort, possibly with a fairly large network of informers. That suggests something closer to inner circle status to me than useless.

        Good point about the patronus charm, and I’ll add, if Aberforth was as fond of his sister as he seems in the book, he probably has very definite happy memories to use to produce one. My guess is that one of the keys to producing a patronus is to have very definitive emotional moments in your life, and to recognize the positive moments and draw strength from them. Along with the bookishness, it might explain why someone who’s lived a pretty even-keeled life (Hermione) would have a harder time with the spell than someone with more ups and downs (Harry).

        • Again, good point about the intelligence of Rockwood… but you spell it Rookwood? (Sorry, this is probably the speed-reading of my seven-year-old self. ‘Order of the Poxin’ would be my worst) but Pettigrew didn’t need to be intelligent… at all.

          • Casey L.

            I just looked it up in Goblet of Fire, and yes, he is Rookwood!

            True about Pettigrew. My guess with him is that having him close (at least once Voldemort returned) was more to keep an eye on him and keep him from potentially putting other Death Eaters in danger than because of anything he could give Voldemort. If Rookwood really was a spy, he was useful to Voldemort – give him information on what is happening inside the Ministry. Once Pettigrew gave up the Potters’ location in the first war and then brought him back at the start of the second, it seems Voldemort didn’t think there was anything more Pettigrew could do for him.

            Truthfully, the Death Eater I’d like to know more about (before he switched sides) is Snape. How did he, at such a young age, get close enough to Voldemort for him to even consider not killing someone – seemingly because Snape asked him to?

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            Good point, what value did Snape have to Voldy that he could make any requests of him at all? This really suggests that he had done some truly heinous things probably. Do we ever find out if he actually committed any murders or torture during Voldy’s first rise to power? Or maybe it was Snape who convinced Pettigrew to become a traitor?

          • Lisa

            I thought it was just the fact that Snape was the one who told Voldemort about the Prophecy. That’s enough for Voldemort to be grateful to him and grant him his wish. Especially since the wish itself was all the same to Voldemort who only wanted Harry dead.

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            Oh yeah, you’re probably right, I forgot that bit for a moment.

          • Ask @SnapesManyButtons. He is Jo/a professional on the psychology of the many motivations of Severus Snape.

  • ISeeThestrals

    I just gotta say this:
    Not counting the epilogue, I can’t believe we’re halfway into the final book already. Man it got here fast.

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      Noooooooooooo!

      So given we’ve all read the books a bazillion times, does that mean we’ll start all over again? Alohomora, round 2!
      Cue the hosts murdering me…

    • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

      you’re so right. I was just flipping through the chapters and countring to 18 to find the mirroring chapter to this one and ended up in chapter 19.

  • I think the nightmares Harry had took place because a) he was asleep/unconscious, b) like Micheal said, he was physically very close, and c) because anger de la mort.

  • Efthymia

    I am SO happy Deanna was there, because she said everything I wanted to on the subject of Harry knowing this -personal- information about Dumbledore. “They’re not buddies” -EXACTLY!

    I’m often annoyed by Harry’s expectations of people. Dumbledore is a much older person and his headmaster, he doesn’t owe Harry friendship, and it’s not as if Harry ever wanted to grab a cup of tea and chat with him; he only thought of Dumbledore when he had a problem he wanted solved -and even then, half the times he has to be convinced by others to consider asking his help! And as I said in a past chapter, he hasn’t been a very good friend to Ron, but he expects him never to put a foot wrong. Reasons can be found for his attitude, but so can they be for everyone else’s.

    • Septumseverus

      He doesn’t owe harry friendship no, but it’s not like all of the information Dumbledore kept from harry didn’t concern or impact him; Dumbledore had no obligation to tell Harry about his childhood etc I agree (although whether or not hiding these similarities from Harry was the “right” thing to do I’m not so sure). Harry looked up to Dumbledore massively, he was an authority and parental figure whom Harry trusted implicitly. Dumbledore had positioned himself as Harry’s coach and mentor in building him up to go out there and risk his life countless times in the name of what is right, not because harry was obligated to, not because he had to but because it was the right thing to do; Harry at 17 is doing all he can to end voldermorts reign of terror and oppression because morally nothing else sits right with his conscience . For harry to be out there fighting again and again with the temerity he has shown I can completely understand why finding out that the man who set him out on this task had withheld from harry that he once dallied in the idea of muggle dominance and oppression would feel like a massive betrayal. I’m team harry 100 percent Dumbledore withheld much more information then just his family history. Yes they weren’t buddies but Dumbledore has basically asked Harry to trust in him and the plan without telling him the whole story and without showing him the same respect.

      Sorry if that turned ranty, god I just adore these books

  • Noah moment:
    What if Voldemort’s mind was unconsciously prompted to set up Bathaldagini when Harry felt the emotion of ‘oh my god we’re going to see my parents house, sentimentality, sentimentality, etc. etc.’

    *poof

    • MartinMiggs

      the pain of being inside Harry’s mind in book 5 meant he would never try such a thing

      • I know… Brain is still in OotP, which I’m also listening to and reading :-z

  • Bathildagini lighting the candles was quite silly and superfluous if you are thinking just in terms of what Voldemort would have planned but in terms of the narrative as a story, Jo needed to put in all those bits about her fumbling with the matches and almost lighting her sleeve on fire and her ignoring Hermione so that when you come to thr revelation that it is a snake animating this already deceased body that you feel it makes sense and at the same time, you were tricked into thinking it really was Bathilda. If we were in a perfectly ideal Voldemort world, Bathildagini would have sensed Harry, intercepted him, and immediately ensnared him with her sleeper hold until Voldemort arrived (remember she was not supposed to kill him but “hold him”) but that would not have worked for the narrative and for us to feel the creepy eeriness of mysterious magic and “the old crone” sort of theme so Jo takes the license to embellish and stretch our belief a bit to ensure that the story is entertaining and a path that we can all understand (at least after a couple read-throughs).

    • Your points about the narrative aspect of the candle lighting are all spot on.

      I guess I find the logic of it in the story less silly than everyone else. After all wizards don’t really use electricity. How else are they supposed to light their homes in the middle of the night?

  • While it is very unpleasant to think about, I think Grindelwald’s “experiments” refer to (at least in part) things he was inflicting on muggles (or even squibs) as a direct parallel to the atrocities inflicted on Jews, Gypsies, and other groups by the Nazis. Some of the content of the Nuremberg trials that Michael mentioned related to the “experiments,” often perpetrated at concentration camps, that involved very horrific “tests” carried out on those innocent people. So he may have also been working on the magic of the hallows and things but I think we are supposed to make another link to Nazi atrocities and Grindelwald. I’ve heard many historians asked whether Voldemort is supposed to be an analogy to Hitler but many of them make the case that Grindelwald is a much more direct parallel to Hitler, his Nazi doctrine, and deeply prejudiced practices during that period in Europe.

    • This makes a great deal more sense than the ‘trying to construct replicas of the Hallows’ idea. But we simply can’t know.

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      Yes! I totally thought of this too. It maker me wonder how Grindelwald’s experimentr might have compared withthose of the Nazis in terms of moral depravity. I would hope less so, for Dumbledore to have written them off so easily. Being young, naive, and in love only excuses so much. How much detail did Dumbles even know about the things Grindelwald did?

      • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

        Regarding his dilemma with Gellert, I suppose Albus did not care too much about learning what exactly his old friend did. If there was a trial before Grindelwald was locked up in Nurmengard, I doubt that Dumbledore stayed to hear what crimes he was sentenced for.

        • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

          True. I’m sure he heard plenty of nasty rumours over the years to give him something of an idea of what Gellert had been up to.

      • Well, he said that he knew that he had done something at Durmstrang, but he might not have known what, and tried not to find out… ignorance can be a bliss.

    • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

      One of the other groups that you mention who suffered from prosecution, imprisonment, torture, horrific tests and more were homosexuals. I just read the comic Triangle rose by Michel Dufranne and Milorad Vicanovic-Maza, it tells the story of several homosexual men in 1930 Berlin, from the viewpoint of the only survivor of the group of friends. Put into context with the not explicitly stated crimes of Grindelwald it sheds another light on his shared time with Dumbledore.

  • SocksAreImportant

    On the comments about last weeks episode, I want to talk more about Lily being given the option to live. It might be because I am a big “fan” of Snape, but I always saw this thing as being one of the main foundations of the entire series. I recall from early interviews with Jo that James was not given the choice to live, but Lily was and this made all the difference. Mothers sacrifice themselves for their children all the time, but it is not that often that they are given the choice to live and have their children die. Again any mother would happily die to save their child, but most aren’t given the choice. This is the love, “power that the Dark Lord knows not” that Harry has. And it is not just Lily’s love for Harry that the Dark Lord knows not, it is also Snape’s “love”, whatever you want to call it”, for Lily that he doesn’t know as well. This is reiterated in the final showdown when Harry tells Voldemort that Snape was never his. Because Lily died to save her child, the killing curse rebounded. There can be an argument that the curse rebounded because of the prophecy, but I don’t think the prophecy makes things happen, I think things happen that make the prophecy. Interpreting the prophecy is always tricky and fun.

  • DisKid

    I don’t blame Harry for feeling like all was lost after his wand broke. And that’s not just because of wizards dependency on wands (which I do agree they are far too dependent on wands. I wonder if after the trio created the new world anyone ever started a cause for wizards to learn how to use muggle tools saying they were too magic reliant). I think it also had to do with not only could Harry not get another wand so easily, that wand had an important connection to Voldemort. He knew the reason why Voldemort couldn’t kill him so easily in the graveyard fight was because his wand and Voldemort’s wand are brothers, Dumbledore revealed that to him. Harry probably feels like even if he could get another wand from somewhere, he had no shot against Voldemort because it’s highly unlikely he’ll find another wand that’s brother to Voldemort. After all, Harry only won the fight against Voldemort at the end because the elder wand refused to kill it’s own owner. If Harry had not, by luck, became the master of the elder wand and he didn’t have his own brother core wand….well use your morbid/or another wizard saves the day imagination.

    Speaking of wands; Grindelwald was expelled from Durmstrang (which I agree he must have done something pretty bad!) what happens when you get expelled from there? If you get expelled from Hogwarts the ministry snaps your wand in half and you’re banned from practicing magic. I don’t know if the ministry gets involved in Durmstrang at all (seems like a grey area as Durmstrang is a Dark Arts school), but I would think that if a wizard is bad enough to get expelled from Durmstrang; snapping their wand would be the least the headmaster could do for the wizarding world, if not for self-preservation! I’d be afraid for a wizard who got expelled from Durmstrang to have a wand.

    • MartinMiggs

      shout out to SocksAreImportant because wands are important too. They are the best instrument for a witch or wizard to channel their magic through. Living as a muggle for most of his life, I’m sure Harry is fine without one for menial tasks but without his wand he is defenceless and like you said the wand connection to Voldemort that protects him is gone. It would be near impossible for him to carry on the Horcrux hunt without a wand and near impossible to just buy another one.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    When discussing what we learn about Aberforth’s character in this chapter it is important to keep in mind our sources of this information. Firstly, this is Rita Skeeter we are dealing with. We know she tends to craft the story she wants to tell and then searches for sources that corroborate her version of truth, rather than searching out the actual, unbiased, true story. So we already know to take her writing with a grain of salt.

    Then we have the unknown character, Enid Smeek, as one of Rita’r sources. Enid’s account of Abe portrays him as this wild and crazy kid. Enid also refers to Bathilda as being completely nuts. Knowing nothing about Enid, how much stock can we put into these accounts? Bathilda was a well known academic, whn had a personal and working relationship with Dumbledore. While she may have been going senial in her old age, it seems a bit harsh and even disrespectful to call her “nutty as squirrel poo”.So is this some sort of personal bias entering her judgement on the character of others? I have to wonder if Ab’s goat dung throwing incident was somehow provoked by Enid. There are multiple sides to every story, so what is Ab’s? Given how at odds this account seems with the real Aberforth we meet later, it is fair to question this sources validity. Maybe it reveals more about this Enid person than actual fact about Ab or Bathilda.

    • UmbridgeRage

      Good point. In GOF Rita’s source is Malfoy, who is less than objective when it comes to all things Harry Potter but gives her all the stories she wants to hear.

      • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

        Exactly. She doesn’t fact check that story either- the whole flobberworm bite thing, and Malfoy certainly bends the truth. She really is a terrible journalist, ethics wise.

    • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

      Enid Smeek is the Petunia Dursley of Godric’s Hollow.

      • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

        Omg yes. I was also thinking she might be similar to Aunt Muriel.

        • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

          In her preference for verbally abusing others, yes. But Enid Smeek told Rita some details about Dumbledore’s family, while Muriel didn’t. Muriel seems to know quite a lot about them even before she has read Rita’s book, so she learned it from other sources. If Rita had talked to Muriel, she might have gotten some more interesting details, but either Rita didn’t bother to ask her or Muriel decided not to tell her. I believe the former, because Rita wrote to book so fast that she did not take the time to interrogate many people.

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            Yeah, Muriel certainly seems to be a fan of gossip mongering, like Petunia and, apparently, Enid. She definitely would have made a good source for the story Rita was telling. Rita is just a crappy journalist who doesn’t look for multiple sources necessarily. She got what she needed from Enid and settled there. Time, as you say, surely was part of it.

            Seriously, this read through I’m finding I have a lot more problems with Rita’s bs reporting than with Dumbledore. I feel like Harry’s experience with her should have made him second guess the reliability of what he read rather than let it sway his opinion of Dumbledore so easily. The only things that can be taken as fact are Bathilda’s account (which is still only one person’s perspective) and the letter to Grindelwald, which is a huge blow, but still isn’t accompanied by any context except that which Rita chooses to provide. I feel like if Harry weren’t already feeling so frustrated with Dumbledore and had not been so full of unanswered questions for him, he may not have even bothered to read the book.

          • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

            that’s right. And if he had more reading experience he’d see the source-problem himself. Hermione recognized it, and didn’t trust the book as much as Harry did.

      • Petunia couldn’t have come up with something as clever as that… hey, what if –
        Enid – ‘Purity’ or ‘Soul’
        Smeek – (Primarily Scottish) to clean, cure, dry, drive out, or fumigate by means of smoke or fumes.

        I thought I was being all clever by thinking that Enid was invented by Rita to add another ‘witness to the crime’ but the etymology suggests nothing… 🙁

        • …but there are still vocabulary checks!

        • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

          That is actually a very interesting find. Maybe the idea of purity and purifying are supposed to lend credibility to Enid’s statements? Although the idea of cleaning or driving out via fumes… or in other words “smoking them out”, could refer to forcing out the truth, or hidden secrets, for all to see. Is this another of Jo’s character descriptions through names?

          • Woah, you’re good – I thought it just seemed like a off-the-top-of-the-head name.

  • Septumseverus

    I think the way Harry handled hermione whilst unfair was entirely understandable. Unless I have the timeline wrong. Harry has within the last 24 hours visited his parents grave for the first time in his lire, visited this old home and the place In which his parents were murdered. Been attacked by a snake hiding in a dead lady’s neck. Been forced to witness in pretty graphic detail the murdering of his parents from the perspective of the perpetrator. He had been unconscious and having something that sounds similar to a seizure and then regained consciousness and found out that his wand, the wand he’d had since he was 11, that has twice saved him from voldermort, has been destroyed. Man Harry’s had a rough day! I don’t really blame him for being unreasonable with hermione. And I think it speaks to Harry and Hermiones friendship that she chose not to challenge him on any of his rudeness, I think she handled Harry with sensitivity and compassion because she recognized that Harry had just been through an extremely traumatic experience both physically and emotionally an in my opinion rightly so

  • TickleThePear

    Can we talk about Dumbledore’s defeat of Grinlewald?

    How unimaginably painful it must have been for him. He’s dealing with the guilt that he not only avoided facing him until now but that he was complicit in his rise to power. Then he must face the man he loved in battle. I can only assume he hadn’t seen him since they parted ways, what was this reunion like? Was there words exchanged during their duel or just a flurry of spells? I assume Dumbledore was not fighting to kill, but was Grindlewald?

    Would love everyone’s thoughts on this.

    • UmbridgeRage

      I would think that it’s the first time they have seen each other since they parted ways. Let’s not forget that the thing Albus was most afraid of was that Gillert knew who had ultimately been responsible for his sister’s death, and that it was him. Albus may have avoided talking for that very reason. Grindlewald probably realized that he would have to kill Dumbledore to stop him since (according to Dumbledore) Albus was more magically talented than himself. He would also only want to have to face him once.

      Those are my thoughts on your questions.

    • Alnwickist

      I would *love* to read a novel of the Dumbledore/Grindlewald relationship.

      From point of meeting, their developing relationship to final showdown, what a great 3-Act novel or film that would make.

      Or a play. A prequel! Ha ha! xA

      • TickleThePear

        Absolutely!!!

    • skgai

      Aside from how to make a Horcrux I want the entire story of Dumbledore v. Grindelwald the most from JK Rowling. The story lends itself to a great narrative. I really, really, really want it.

  • ronsauntiemuriel

    So much great discussion this week. Lots of points I could make, but I wanted to talk about Rowling and her reveal of Dumbledore’s homosexuality. (Full disclosure: I’m a Johnlock and Wolfstar shipper, so I really get into this stuff.)

    Rowling not revealing Dumbledore’s homosexuality within the text is an interesting and, I think, understandable choice. It allows for the story to be read with a “normal” (i.e. heteronormative) perspective, and doesn’t distract from the narrative. Personally, I don’t think it should distract from the narrative, but that was/is the world we live in. If she had revealed it in any of the text, critics would have latched onto the fact and used it as ammunition against the books. It was not necessary information for the narrative, and leaving it as subtext allows for astute readers to pick up on it, and enriches both the character and the narrative as the story unfolds. The fact that her reveal showed that she always considered him a gay character, shows that she was not looking at her characters with a narrow, heteronormative lens. I think, as our culture continues to evolve on this subject, we will have future generations of readers that will pick up on the subtext, without JKR having had to reveal anything.

    To me, when re-reading the series with that information about Dumbledore, it really fleshes out his character and explains a lot about his decisions. We don’t have information from JKR about wizarding attitudes about homosexuality at the time of Dumbledore’s youth, or in fact at all. But for the sake of argument, let’s say it was/is similar to our world. If Dumbledore struggled at all with his feelings, for fear of rejection and alienation, that could certainly be a factor in his decision to withhold information from and withhold affection towards Harry. He may not have been out to anyone, for fear of the fact taking over recognition of his accomplishments. I’ve written before about how I feel that his relationship with Elphias Doge was possibly an unrequited romantic relationship on Doge’s side. Dumbledore kept him in the friend-zone, possibly out of fear for what a romantic relationship might mean. Certainly his experience with Grindlewald taught him that his romantic feelings could be dangerous. That’s a lesson that he carried with him for the rest of his life. That secrecy that he learned from his mother (according to Aberforth), whether consciously or unconsciously, kept him in the closet, kept him from revealing his feelings, kept him from revealing information to all around him, except for Snape. It really paints a fuller picture of Dumbledore.

    Lastly, what really makes these books so good is the levels on which they can be read. I can read them with my kids, and they just love the stories. I read them as a young adult and marveled at the literary prowess. I read them now in my middle age, and see so much more texture and nuance that I can still find new things that amaze me. In some ways, I welcome extra information from JKR, as it adds to our understanding. In other ways, I appreciate how she is quiet on things like “circle theory” so as not to shut down discussion with her author omniscient perspective. This reveal was one of the times that I wanted to stand up and cheer. (Your mileage may vary.)

    • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

      I concur with everything you said (and appreciate that your username has Auntie Muriel in it, who would certainly have a different opinion on the matter)!
      Sometimes people say that Jo should have made Dumbledore an icon for the gay community, and I understand why this is important to some people. As far as I can formulate my views on this, I think there is still a lot that can be gained from talking about Dumbledore as a homosexual person both in-universe and in analyzing the series and YA literature in general.

      For example, assuming that a person is heterosexual if not stated otherwise is so common that lots of people never notice that they’re doing that. Someone who reads the HP series and then learns about Albus’s secret love might move on to care more about not making assumptions about people’s preferences, but asking politely in appropriate situations.

    • Alnwickist

      An all American crew this podcast? So maybe a different perspective.

      Perhaps I missed something, but here in the UK, where the books were written and set, the response to the ‘revelation’ seemed to be more, “Of course he is. So?”

      I remember when reading that chapter for the first time it was the ‘ah-ha’ moment which explained so much about Dumbledore.

      Interesting to hear from other countries if it was much of a deal. Or was it mostly in the US?

      • UmbridgeRage

        Feel like it was the same here in Australia. I remember that the all the “big deal” about this was coming out of the U.S. Maybe I’m just miss-remembering or Western culture is so U.S centric that it just felt that way. With you on the “Of course he is.” sentiment but since you never really think about his sexuality at all while reading the books I’d add a “Wow” before that, which speaks to the heteronormative world we still live in.

      • Mischief Managed

        I’m from the US. I remember wishing, at first, that Jo had never revealed that he was gay, because everyone made such a big deal about it that for a while it seemed it was going to be made to completely define everything about his character. While I eventually came to realize it is an important aspect of his character in regard to his relationship with Grindelwald, I did not want Dumdledore to essentially be defined as “the gay character” and have all other aspects of his personality pushed into the shadows.

        Luckily, that has not happened. And the more it is discussed, the more I realize that it is almost the only thing that makes the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald as it is make sense.

        Since we’re on the subject, I was quite surprised by it. But at the time it was revealed I think I had only read DH once, and that once was in less than 6 hours so I hadn’t had much time to really pick up on subtle hints! (Or in some cases, even not so subtle).

      • Argh, where’s Rosie when you need her?

      • MartinMiggs

        it wasn’t a big deal in Canada either. Same-sex marriage was made legal in 2005 and the book was first published in 2007.

      • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

        I’ve been trying to remember for days what kind of reaction the news got in Germany back then. But I can’t remember anyone else but the HP fandom talking about it, if there were news articles, I missed them, so I believe it was not regarded as a big deal. The fans I conversed with at the time were more thrilled that Jo continued to give us information about the books even after the series had ended than concerned with Dumbledore’s past. I’ll ask someone who is part of a queer community what they remember.

      • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

        Honestly, I think most of the “big deal” about it here in the US was mostly down to the media getting carried away. All the Potter fans I knew at the time had a similar “oh ok well that makes sense” reaction.

        All the major hoopla about it, from what I remember, seemed to stem from a few ultra conservative Christians who tried to get the books banned in schools. Keep in mind, this was already something they were attempting so it was just added ammunition. I live in Georgia where one of the most publicized cases of this was occurring, however I don’t know of a single school in my area that ever actually took these people seriously or removed the book from shelves. The media totally made it out like parents all over the country were losing their minds over this, when really it seemed to be the minority. In the U.S. the hateful, ignorant, and religious zealot few so often yell the loudest and the media totally caters to it.

  • SpinnersEnd

    Regarding Aberforth: I don’t think he was “neglected” in the sense of child abuse. I think he was neglected in the sense of “Oh, he’ll be fine, we’ll just let him do his own thing” leaving him a lot of time alone to entertain himself.

    • RoseLumos

      I agree. Just think that as a fairly average middle child in between two very special other siblings, his parents were more focused on Albus and Arianna. It’s like the classic Middle Child Syndrome, but to more of an extreme.

      • SpinnersEnd

        You hit it on the head. Thank you for pairing down what I was trying to say.

  • Roonil Wazlib

    Thanks for all the love this week, Kat! 😛 #bathildagini4ever

    • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

      Kat repeatedly refering to you as Harry made me lol. Brilliant.

    • So are you a nicknamed Harry or a spellchecked (wait, literally ‘spell’ checked) Ron?

      • Roonil Wazlib

        Lol definitely a nicknamed Harry!

  • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

    Until DH Aberforth can be regarded as an example of the trope of the grumpy old man who nobody really knows. I envisioned him like the Alm-Uncle in Johanna Spyri’s “Heidi”, living alone with his goats and only dealing with people when he has to. His reasons for being angry at the world are not known until usually an encounter with a child will break the ice and re-introduce him to the locals.

    That Aberforth is the barman of the Hog’s Head and therefore kind of sociable and nurturing when approached in the right way also fits into this stereotype. Helping Neville may be a way for Aberforth to connect to someone who is also an underappreciated Gryffindor who saves the day while everyone is busy watching the hero.

  • There was a lot of interesting horcrux talk in this episode and it got me thinking. When somebody is hit by the killing curse is it safe to say their soul is being destroyed / being sent into the beyond? When Ol’ Voldee’s curse backfires and he destroys himself he also splits his soul again. There is the soul that goes on in the world to hide in Albania and then there is the soul that latches onto Harry. Is there also a bit of soul that moved into the beyond? Why would that killing curse not actually kill Voldee? Do his horcruxes tether the soul he is using to life? If he had not had any horcruxes, would his backfired curse simply kill him for good?

    Harry was protected from the curse. The curse backfired and caused Voldee’s soul to split. One piece latched onto Harry. I’m trying to picture this in my head. If a person is hit with the curse, is their soul blasted into pieces? It seems like this is what happened to Voldee.

    • UmbridgeRage

      I would think that “normally” the rebounded curse would have simply killed the attacker. Voldy is a special case because his soul is so damaged at this point and he has horcruxes keeping his “main soul” here on Earth. Had Voldemort only made one horcrux then I very much doubt the Harrycrux would have been created (although the damaged is caused by murder and I assume he would still have done a lot of that so maybe). I don’t believe the Avada Kadavra curse blasts the soul into pieces since Harry’s soul and the piece of Voldy’s soul are both intact during the “Kings Cross” scene. The soul is ment to be indestructible and only the horcrux spell can split it in two, except in the case of Voldy at Godric’s Hollow because, as I stated before, his soul is already so damaged. Does that clear it up for you?

      • It helps! The idea of a “main soul” clears things up I think. But I do t believe the Kings Cross scene is happening anyplace other than in Harry’s head, so we are not seeing any actual souls there. But that’s besides the point I suppose!

        • UmbridgeRage

          Glad I could help. I also think “Kings Cross” is inside Harry’s head, that he is basically “putting it all together” for himself and Dumbledore is his subconscious telling him what he already knows. It’s open for interpretation however and I like that.

          Everything I’ve ever read about “souls” is that they are indestructible which is why I don’t think what was left of Voldy’s was “blasted apart” rather just too damaged to survive death intact.

  • Roonil Wazlib

    Okay, as a mostly straight person I am definitely not an authority on this, but I think it’s important, so here I go…

    I understand that the political climate was slightly different ~10 years and whatnot, but let’s not pretend like that is an actual legitimate excuse for keeping Dumbledore in the closet and having exactly zero openly queer characters in Harry Potter.

    It seems that Rowling has always known that Dumbledore is gay, but she made the conscious decision throughout all of the books not to talk about it, probably out of fear of political backlash. The problem is that refusing to acknowledge queerness IS political–because doing so actively perpetuates harmful stigma against queer people. Only straight people get to see sexuality as a non-issue in a book that has no queer characters.

    Visibility matters. Rowling could’ve made queerness an actual non-issue, by having an out character who was readily accepted by their friends and community without question. The wizarding world already seems more progressive in terms of gender, why not with sexuality too?

    And in my opinion, arguing that having one queer character/relationship would change the message of the entire series is homophobic. There are an endless number of hetero relationships in the series, yet we still say that Harry Potter isn’t just about romantic love. If all the straight relationships in the series don’t change the overall message, how would one queer relationship do that? (Answer: It would not.)
    In addition, the books being about Harry’s character arc and Harry’s feelings and written from Harry’s perspective don’t stop us from seeing the nuances of Hermione and Ron’s relationship, or the fights that Dean and Ginny have, or the emotional problems that Remus and Tonks deal with. So that’s also not an excuse for excluding details about the truth of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship.

    Yes, keeping Dumbledore’s sexuality out of the text made queerness a non-issue for Rowling. She saved herself from political backlash. It let all her straight readers continue to live in their strictly heteronormative world. I understand why she made that choice. It’s also a huge cop out that deserves our criticism. To me, it feels like she took the easy way out, and it is one of the biggest failures of the series.

    On that note, I’d like to recommend An Open Letter to Harry Potter by Rosie from the tumblr Fandoms and Feminism, whose argument on this topic is much more articulate and well thought out than mine:
    http://fandomsandfeminism.tumblr.com/post/50098447346/an-open-letter-to-harry-potter

    • Caroline Cannistra

      The main thing that bothers me about the Dumbledore/Grindelwald subplot is how it closely parallels how gay people are portrayed by homophobic religious writings, specifically Catholic writings. Under Catholicism, gay people aren’t considered inherently sinful, but their desires are referred to as “intrinsically disordered” by the Catechism, and they are asked to either remain celibate or enter a “traditional marriage”. In a lot of the writings I’ve read by Catholic leaders that are intended for teenagers, gay people are sorted into two categories: the “good” gay people who recognize their disorder and employ strategies to avoid temptations, and the “bad” gay people who reject Catechism and have relationships with other gay people even though it’s supposed to be a sin. Straight Catholics are called to embrace all gay people despite their sinful desires, help the “good” gay people practice celibacy, and evangelize to the “bad” gay people so that they may also begin to practice celibacy.

      Dumbledore’s behavior in the Grindelwald period of his life reminds me a lot of how the figure of the “good” gay person is discussed. He is an otherwise good person, but when he meets the temptation of power through Grindelwald, he becomes corrupt and gives in to Grindelwald’s dangerous, radical ideas. We aren’t supposed to hold this against Dumbledore, because he can’t help that he has this irrational attraction to something he shouldn’t have, but we see that Grindelwald’s influence causes Dumbledore to neglect his family, and eventually causes Ariana’s death. At this point, Dumbledore realizes the error of his ways, and vows to avoid all situations that might cause him to be tempted by power again, for the sake of his family and society as a while. (For some reason, this also means that Dumbledore remains celibate for the rest of his life.) We celebrate Dumbledore’s ability to control his temptations as a sign of good character, just as Catholic leaders celebrate celibate gay people for controlling their apparently sinful temptations.

      Also, Grindelwald can be read as an allegory for the “bad” gay person who doesn’t agree with Catholic teachings. He has the same weakness as Dumbledore for power, but he doesn’t bother trying to resist it. He has radical ideas about how society ought to be organized, and cares little for the welfare of Aberforth or Ariana. He attempts to indoctrinate Dumbledore into agreeing with his beliefs, which works until Ariana’s death. We don’t know if his beliefs ever changed, but if they did, it wasn’t until he was defeated by Dumbledore many years later. Members of the LGBT community are often portrayed like this, as dangerous predators who indoctrinate young, vulnerable gay teenagers into believing that their desires are justified without actually caring about the wellbeing of these teenagers.

      I’m not sure if this subplot is troubling just because of JKR’s reveal or if it was already troubling. Either way, I wish she had confirmed Wolfstar instead of addressing this.

      • Roonil Wazlib

        Whoa, yeah that is very troubling. I don’t have experience with the Catholic writings you are referring to, but from what you’ve said the comparison seems spot on. I do think Dumbledore should’ve been out in the text, but I also take issue with him being the only queer character in the series exactly because of the reasons you stated. If we got to see a several queer characters whose life experiences vary, then maybe this wouldn’t feel so blatantly homophobic. (Maybe. It’s pretty bad though.) Instead, we learn that straight people get to fall in love and have happy endings, but if you’re queer your one relationship results in the destruction of your family, and you never get to find the real love that is so strong and hopeful and life-giving for everyone else. Wolfstar would’ve been way better.

        • Caroline Cannistra

          These are my thoughts exactly! It’s especially frustrating since this story is immediately followed by The Prince’s Tale, where Snape’s obsessive, selfish love for Lily still brings out the best in him towards the end. Why shouldn’t Dumbledore’s love bring out the best in him if all the straight characters become better people through love?

          • Roonil Wazlib

            Yessss great point! UGH.

      • Caroline Cannistra

        Also here’s an article that sort of describes the difference between “good” gay people and “bad” gay people http://lifeteen.com/blog/catholics-care-about-gays-the-myth-debunked/

      • SnapesManyButtons

        I just wanted to note that straight people are held to the same standard, either remain celibate or enter a “traditional marriage”. The big difference being that straight people can marry, but if they never marry or end up divorced/widowed, the standard applies. Few seem to follow this standard, so straight people could be divided into “good” and “bad” as well. (Although the terms “good” and “bad” are not found in the sources.)

        • Caroline Cannistra

          Yeah, that’s true. I definitely don’t mean to imply that gay people are the only ones who are negatively affected by this stuff. But as you said, while straight people are restricted in the types of romantic/sexual relationships they can have, gay people are not allowed to have any kind of romantic/sexual relationship (or at least any kind of romantic/sexual relationship they would enjoy). In HP, the only possibly canon same-sex relationship is portrayed as an unhealthy infatuation that turns Dumbledore into the worst possible version of himself, which we don’t really see with any of the other characters except maybe Snape.

  • The Half Blood Princess

    I always felt that Voldy doesn’t really care, one way or another, whether Lily lives or dies. He offers to spare her because Snape asked him to, and Snape’s request is worth more to him than Lily’s death. Which doesn’t mean that Voldy values Snape’s request, just that he values Lily’s death less.

    What if Voldy pushed Lily aside though? Would that still count as Lily sacrificing herself to save Harry?

    • UmbridgeRage

      No, because the choice would have been taken away from her.

      • MartinMiggs

        how is the choice taken away? Stand aside now and if she doesn’t Voldemort is forced to kill her or forcibly move her out of the way. Being willing to die as we see with Harry is enough to enact the love protection/charm/whatever it is

        • UmbridgeRage

          Good point but I think it’s different with Harry because he is actually hit by the curse and (even tho I think it’s all in his head) could have died if he choose to. If Voldy pushed Lily out of the way then he didn’t mean/intend to kill her in the first place. it’s a small but I think important detail.

          • Casey L.

            But that’s just it – Voldemort didn’t automatically intend to kill her. We see in his inner thoughts in the last chapter that, “as long as she was sensible, she, at least, had nothing to fear.” He gives her three chances to stand aside and very briefly considers forcing her out of the way before he kills her. She also was given a choice and offered herself in Harry’s place.

          • UmbridgeRage

            She needs to be hit by the curse or it wont count. Harry is hit by the curse not saved at the last second by someone pushing him out of the way. Only Harry hit by a curse from Voldemort could have survived that A.K, replace either of them and it all goes very differently. Voldemort did intend to kill Lily at that crucial moment when he fired the spell. Pushing her out of the way to get to Harry changes everything because the choice of whether or not to die for Harry becomes Voldy’s instead of Lily’s. It may seem like I’m splitting hairs here but without these important destinctions there would be love protection spells all over the Harry Potter series.

          • Casey L.

            My only real disagreement here is that I think Lily’s situation is unique enough as we see it that it precludes love protection throughout the series. This isn’t a hypothetical “I would die for my child.” This is a case of Voldemort truly intending to murder Harry, and telling Lily to let him do it. She makes her own offer – kill me instead – which he ultimately accepts. It’s almost as if the two of them have negotiated a deal, and it can certainly be argued that once Voldemort accepts Lily’s terms, he can’t touch Harry. If that’s the case, that’s something we don’t see anywhere else in the books, and if that’s the way the love protection works, not even a parent jumping between a killing curse aimed at their child would enact it, because the killing party isn’t being given a choice in the process.

          • UmbridgeRage

            Yes. A magical contract as it were. I’m with you on that. There is still no way Lily can live however as she needs to “take the bullet”. A third party saving the day would void the contract as would Voldemort deciding at the last second to shove her out of the way.

            There were exceptional circumstances involved with Voldemort and Harry in the Forrest that allowed him to both die and live at the same time. He “took the bullet” and that is what my argument stands on.

          • MartinMiggs

            We don’t know that for sure because there is no example of someone being in the same position and not being hit by the curse. If the hosts brought this up on the show and since we all know Jo is listening perhaps she would answer this on twitter.

          • UmbridgeRage

            This is all my opinion of course. I think I’ve made a fairly logical argument with help from Casey to refine my position. Jo can prove me wrong if she likes but I don’t have Twitter so let me know if she does.

          • MartinMiggs

            I just don’t know if that matters. if Lily believes she has to die to save Harry and Voldemort moves her out of the way its the same thing. She is sacrificing herself for Harry when she had a choice to get out of the way, but she makes the choice to let Voldemort kill her.

          • UmbridgeRage

            Going off Casey’s magical contract comment then it does matter. Everyone has to keep their part of the deal. Voldy can’t agree to take her life for Harry’s then not take her life and go after Harry.

      • Ah, but she could’ve tried to get up and throw herself in front of Harry. It’s the effort that counts… that felt sooo out of place but there it is.

        • UmbridgeRage

          It’s not the effort that counts or James’ death would have protected Lily and Harry.

    • Casey L.

      Hard question, and one I’m honestly not sure about. I asked a slightly different question based on this same moment last week and got two responses – one person essentially said ‘maybe’ and the other ‘no.’ Both seemed to think a death needed to take place in order for the protection to take hold, in which case the answer depended on whether or not Harry dies at the end of this book. The person who answered ‘no’ seemed to think Harry did die, while the person who answered ‘maybe’ didn’t seem as sure.

      After thinking about it some more, I think the answer depends on when exactly the protection is implemented. In Lily’s case, there are, I think, definitely three and maybe four moments when this may have happened, and the earliest comes when Voldemort first enters the room. She’s holding Harry, sees Voldemort, puts Harry in his crib and “throws her arms wide,” according to the book. I think this is the least likely moment, though, because she hasn’t been given any choices yet. The second and third moments come when Voldemort tells her to stand aside, and she actually says “Kill me instead,” and a couple seconds later, “I’ll do anything.” At this point, Voldemort has given her the choice to stand aside, and she’s actually making a counter-offer. The fourth is of course, when Voldemort points the wand at her and says, “Avada Kedavra,” because essentially, he’s accepting her terms – yes, I’ll kill you in exchange for your child’s life.

      Now, on to Harry. Voldemort makes Harry an offer in “The Prince’s Tale,” when he gives Harry an hour to meet him in the Forbidden Forest, saying if he does not, “I shall punish every last man, woman, and child who has tried to conceal you from me.” So at any point in the hour after that, Harry has the choice to refuse or to give himself up to Voldemort. In the end, he gives himself up, Voldemort says the words, and . . .

      That’s where it gets a little murky. Reading the conversation in “King’s Cross, specifically pages 707-708 and 712 in the U.S. paperback version, it can be argued that Harry does not die, but in one small instant, it could be argued that he does. First, Harry asks Dumbledore if he’s dead, and Dumbledore says, “on the whole, dear boy, I think not.” Shortly afterwards Harry says “I didn’t defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!” To which Dumbledore says. “And that will, I think, have made all the difference.” (a line worth remembering) Just a few lines after that, though, Harry says “I let him kill me. Didn’t I?” and Dumbledore tells him, “You did.” But then, on page 712, Harry says, “He killed me with your wand,” to which Dumbledore tells him, “He failed to kill you with my wand. I think we can agree that you are not dead.”

      Based on the weight of the evidence in the book, it seems that Harry did not die, although, as I wrote above, it’s not completely definitive, based on one moment. If he didn’t, though, the second exchange in King’s Cross becomes interesting, because it might suggest that Lily didn’t have to die, either. In the four steps I listed in her encounter with Voldemort, that rules out the last one as a point when the protection could have been implemented. If you also believe, as I do, that it didn’t take place in the first moment, that leaves the second and third ones, with the second being most likely in this scenario, because the third 1. is less specific and 2. only reiterates the second. So, when Lily says “Kill me instead,” she, like Harry later, means to sacrifice herself. If the protection is enacted at this moment, it seems if Voldemort had forced her aside, she still might have done enough to save Harry.

      So, given how the situation plays out, if Voldemort forces Lily out of the way, I don’t think you can exactly call it a sacrifice, but it might not have to be if you believe intent is what matters.

  • Mischief Managed

    OK I have so many thoughts. This will probably be my longest post ever.

    Thoughts on the recap:

    I’ve always had a problem with the way Bathildagini understood Harry. It’s always explained as “parseltongue”, but Harry has literally no reason whatsoever to speak in parseltongue. In some instances, Hermione is in the room when Harry talks to her, and she seems to understand him (although she apparently does not understand Hermione, as the hosts discussed). Obviously Harry isn’t speaking Parseltongue because Hermione would notice immediately, even if Harry didn’t. But even when they go upstairs, Harry still believes he is speaking to a human…so why would he speak in Parseltongue? Is this suggesting that snakes can understand a parselmouth even if they are not speaking parseltongue? Or did Harry instinctively switch after hearing Bathildagini speak it (which still leaves me the problem with the times Hermione was in the room, but admittedly does help).

    Also, the hosts discussed Lily’s sacrifice. I’ve been sitting on some ideas for a while and am not sure when else I’ll get a chance to say them, so I’m just going to go with now. It’s always been interesting to me that it’s because of Lily’s specific sacrifice. We see, in the Potter’s final moment, that James too sacrifices himself for his family. But it is not James’ sacrifice that is referred to as saving Harry, it is Lily’s. JK even said in an interview with Mugglenet: . “Don’t you want to ask me why James’s death didn’t protect Lily and Harry? There’s your answer – you’ve just answered your own question – because she could have lived – and chose to die. James was going to be killed anyway. Do you see what I mean? I’m not saying James wasn’t ready to; he died trying to protect his family, but he was going to be murdered anyway. He had no – he wasn’t given a choice, so he rushed into it in a kind of animal way. I think there are distinctions in courage. James was immensely brave. But the caliber of Lily’s bravery was, I think in this instance, higher because she could have saved herself.” Lily truly had the option to live, which has, I think been discussed at length. But something that I, at least, can never remember having been discussed, is the implication this gives to the fact that there was another possible child that Voldemort could have chosen: Neville.

    I really think that Neville never could have survived an attack by Voldemort. If Voldemort had decided the prophecy was referring to him, the prophecy itself would not have come true, because Neville could never have had the “power he knows not”–the power to defeat Voldemort–the sacrifice of a willing victim who didn’t have to die but chose to. The only reason that anything came true in the prophecy is because Snape loved Lily, and without that love (not going to debate if it was true love or not), the child that Voldemort chose would not have survived. The “power he knows not” is not just generic “love”. It is the love of Snape for the mother of this child that Voldemort thinks the prophecy is referring to, and the power that it gives Harry over one of Voldemort’s followers, and therefore Voldemort himself.

    Quick note on Aberforth: I never thought he actually threw goat dung at anyone. I chalked that up to Rita Skeeter style journalism. Honestly what i think happened is he did a few transfiguration experiments (perhaps trying to live up to his brilliant brother), and one went badly wrong and he became infamous for them. From what we see of Aberforth, he honestly seems a fairly reasonable individual so I don’t think that all of what people say about him (especially Rita) is entirely true. Much like the rest of the rumors that surround the Dumbledore family.

    • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

      great post, short answer: Nagini can have offspring. Can the soul-piece “move over” to one of them?

      • Do you mean that the soul-piece will split itself to the two forms, or..?

        • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

          I don’t think a soul-piece can split itself. Maybe it can move from one living vessel to it’s offspring, so the death of the parent does not affect the horcrux.

          • No, I don’t think so. Though to put a real-world spin on it, substance abuse by a pregnant mother can affect a baby in the their womb, so maybe a Horcrux could affect the snake in a similar way.

      • Mischief Managed

        That’s not an answer, just another question! 😉

        However, my initial reaction to that is no. Though we know little about horcruxes, what we do know is that they seem to be strongly tied to the object that houses them. It doesn’t seem as if any sort of transference would be possible in any circumstance.

  • WhoDoYouKnowWho’sLostAButtock?

    I thought the discussion about Aberforth and the goats was very interesting, as the goat symbolism is as important a part of his character as the stag is to Harry’s or the phoenix to Dumbledore’s — which is why it’s his Patronus.

    Rowling uses a lot of medieval Christian symbology in her books — if you are familiar with that, you recognize Harry’s stag Patronus as a Christ symbol, and there’s a TON of symbolism in the Hallows (saving that for later). A lot of art symbology as well. So Aberforth is associated throughout his life with goats, which symbolizes a certain heart condition — particularly, a lack of faith or a turning away. We also associate goats, obviously, with stubbornness.

    If Dumbledore is the phoenix, the symbol of resurrection and hope and life (although having to die and all that that entails is of course necessary for that), it is fitting that Aberforth, who stubbornly refuses to be caught up in the kind of ambitions which attract his brother, is positioned as his counterpoint. It makes sense that he is the one who seems to have lost faith in the Order of the Phoenix, in fighting for the cause, and in his own brother.

    Now, I find it interesting that Aberforth’s goat-like nature is redeemed through his love for Ariana. It seems that feeding the goats and caring for them was something they did together, especially as she grew more fragile, and it is something that he forever after associated with her, although he already had an affinity for them. So it’s not just stubbornness or faithlessness that informs Aberforth’s goat-like spirit, but stubborn loyalty to his sister.

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that Albus is a phoenix, such a beautiful, soaring, unworldly creature, and Aberforth is a goat — a pedestrian, everyday, hardy animal. I believe that Aberforth refused to allow Dumbledore to fly too high. He fought to keep his brother on the ground, fought to force him to ‘face reality’ in the pragmatic way he did — they had Ariana to care for, and that was that. That difference in perceiving reality caused as much of a schism between the two brothers as did Ariana’s death.

    But of course, though Aberforth is a goat, he is not condemned in the way that goats often are in the Christian sense — and again, I believe that his love for Ariana redeems his nature and brings him ultimately to rediscover his faith, or something like it.

  • WhoDoYouKnowWho’sLostAButtock?

    I have been wanting to parse this out with people for years, so don’t let me down, Alohomora commenters!

    I have always been desperate to know what the connection was between Grindelwald’s rise to power and his reign and the actual events of World War II, which were happening simultaneously. Grindelwald is defeated in 1945, the year of victory for the allies and liberation of the camps. I cannot help wondering if part of Grindelwald’s feats involved Imperius Curses, or similar manipulation or use, on a young German fellow with delusions of grandeur and a massive inferiority complex. Really, how convenient is it for Grindelwald if Hitler’s actions are a smoke screen for his own — or worse, are tied up part and parcel in Grindelwald’s plans?

    How much of what was happening in Muggle history was caused or affected by Grindelwald? I cannot believe that the two things existed independently of each other.

    (And yes, I know that Grindelwald’s story is meant to parallel Hitler’s in many ways, and many aspects of that era are reflected in the magical world, like Nuremburg / Nurmengard, the Hallows symbol appropriated to signify fear from a more mystical meaning as the swastika was, the aryan / pureblood mania, etc… But let’s pretend that instead of one standing in for the other, plotwise at least, both happened.)

  • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

    Some Jedi feel the same way about losing their lightsaber as Harry feels about his broken wand. (“This weapon is your life.”)

    • Michael Harle

      How topical of you. ;{ )

  • RoseLumos

    I wonder if Harry’s thought that Dumbledore doesn’t love him is really something deeper – as it’s often pointed out, Harry lost his parents and his godfather. Dumbledore was almost like a grandfather to him. I think that part of Harry’s feelings come from the fact that he really misses Dumbledore, not only for his information, but for that guardian feeling he had. Dumbledore made him feel safe, indulged his wildest theories, and in many ways is one of the only people who vocally believed that Harry actually has a chance against Voldemort. However, Harry has lost so many people who loved and believed in him it might make Harry feel better if he pretends that there was no love between them. In a way, I think Harry’s thought of “Dumbledore doesn’t love me” is actually Harry’s way of saying, “I miss and love Dumbledore, but it makes the grieving process easier if I say he doesn’t love me, because it means I had one less loved person die for me.”

    Also, let me clarify when I say “love,” because our language uses this word a lot for a variety of different purposes. The love between romantic partners, parents and children, siblings, and friends is all different, but just as powerful. I really can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I think Family Guy actually had the best quote about this. In the episode where Brian and Stewie are trapped in the bank vault Stewie says, “I like you lot. I guess you could say I… really like you. I would… even dare to go a little further, perhaps. I… care a great deal about you. Very great deal. Maybe even… deeper than that. I… I… I love you … but I mean, I mean, I love you as one loves another person whom one simply cannot do without… You give my life purpose, and maybe, maybe that’s enough. Because that’s just about the greatest gift one friend can give another.” I think that’s what Dumbledore and Harry have.

  • SocksForDobby

    I think the reason that we didn’t know that Dumbledore is gay in the book is because it’s not something that Harry had discovered about him. Harry saw the relationship that dumbledore has with grindlewald as similar to his relationship with Ron. He doesn’t see the longing in dumbledore’s letter, he can only see a man that he doesn’t recognize and he is not sure if he likes. If Harry realized that dumbledore is gay he may have read the letter differently, he may have seen that dumbledore was going along with grindlewlad as an attempt to gain the love and respect of a man he was developing feelings for. I don’t want to give the impression that dumbledore is the kind of person who would change who he is because of someone he likes, but as the hosts noted, sometimes we do things to impress the people we like that we wouldn’t normally do.

  • FullFlamelAlchemist

    For the longest time, I’ve searched for video of JK Rowling announcing Dumbledore as gay and, for the life of me, I can’t find it anywhere. So, in lieu of that, it would be really great if Cat(I think Cat was the one who said she was there) could talk about it in depth? How did she phrase it? You mentioned that the people on stage reacted quite a bit. What was the reaction? How did the crowd take it? Did the interviewer/questioner follow up on the announcement or was it moved on from? I’ve always wanted to know how it went down and I can’t seem to find out how, no matter how hard I try.

    • SnapesManyButtons

      I don’t know if there’s a video, but this was first revealed during a reading and interview at Carnegie Hall in 2007. The transcript of the relevant passage is:

      Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?

      JKR: My truthful answer to you… I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] … Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But, he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that’s how i always saw Dumbledore. In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying I knew a girl once, whose hair… [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, “Dumbledore’s gay!” [laughter] “If I’d known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!”

      It looks to me like they then moved on to other questions.

  • skgai

    This is one of the more clever chapter titles by Rowling: “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.” Of course the chapter is about the Life of Dumbledore, but it’s false description is by the liar Rita Skeeter. We get what at first seems like Dumbledore’s lies to Harry, but they turn out to be Dumbledore’s lies to himself. (He’s lying to himself about the greater good. I don’t think he ever could have followed through on such rhetoric) Then on a wider scale, Harry determines Dumbledore lied about ever having cared for him. Which we find out later (and Hermione points out here) is in fact a falsehood. It’s interesting, at the beginning of this book, we get Dumbledore’s history built up as glorious by Doge, but it’s not the truth. Then smack dab in the middle we get Dumbledore’s history rained upon by Skeeter, but it also is not the truth. Finally, at the end of the book we get the truth, but not from Dumbledore’s vantage point. From Harry’s. (To me, Harry is talking to himself at King’s Cross) Harry reasons it all out and then forms his own feelings on Dumbledore out of faith and belief, two things that truth can never prove and lies can never defeat. Rowling is a master a ring composition, but this book is just ridiculous.

  • skgai

    Rowling does indeed paint a beautiful picture with words at the start of the chapter, but did you notice she’s describing Dumbledore’s color: white? “…the pure, colourless vastness of the sky stretched over him.” “…watch the sun rise over the sparkling snowy hillside…” “…a valley blanketed in snow….” “…they stood looking at each other in the whiteness and the emptiness…”

    Oddly, this chapter is filled with the inner turmoil of Harry, but has the imagery of the blank canvas color of white. White contains an equal balance of all the colors of the spectrum, representing both the positive and negative aspects of all colors. Its basic feature is equality, implying fairness and impartiality, neutrality and independence. We know this chapter is chock full of biases, but I think the point is to tear everything the reader thought about Dumbledore down, so that they can start with a blank slate. White is totally reflective, awakening openness, growth and creativity. You can’t hide behind it as it amplifies everything in its way.

    White also has the connotation of death. Dumbledore is already dead, but the Dumbledore Harry tought he knew dies in this chapter as well.

  • skgai

    On a personal note, I felt this about the first reading and I still feel this now, Rowling missed a big opportunity in this chapter. This is the chapter where Harry looses everything. He’s already lost Hedwig, Ron, his wand and now his belief in Dumbledore. This should have all been amalgamated into a false horcrux search. One of the objects Dumbledore thought was a Horcrux should have been proven false here, and at a great loss as well. How much more powerful could this have been had they just got out of Gringotts, had the cup, but then discovered it wasn’t a horcrux. Not a fake horcrux (Dumbledore was correct about the locket even if it was a fake). That’s the one thing that’s always bothered me. We are meant to see Dumbledore as the fallible character here, but aside from one thing he said as a teenager he never does anything actually wrong. He never screws something up about Voldemort or the horcrux search. I guess he does put on the ring, which killed him. Well my argument is fail safe, but I still like it all the same.

  • Carapace

    I’d just like to remind the hosts what a dubious source wiki pages can be. In the episode Michael quotes an excerpt from the page that speculates that nurmengard is a parallel to Nuremberg. It is correct that some parallels do exist, such as the Nuremberg rallies and laws being sites of non-aryan persecution and then later on being the site of the Nuremberg trials, where several high ranking nazis were tried for war crimes. However, the article also mentioned that the name similarities were a part of this parallelism. Although I am not a German speaker, I feel that “Nurem” and “nurmen” would be root words that have different meanings. I will admit my ignorance that I may be wrong. The important thing though would be to remember that if we are to assume that Grindelwald comes from Bulgaria (since that is krum’s home who has relatives who were persecuted under grindelwalds rule), and created (and named) nurmengard, his native tongue would be Bulgarian, a Slavic language more similar to Russian than German. Just a thought.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    What do you guys think Rita had to do to procure the Veritaserum she used on Bathilda? I get the impression that she had Ministry approval or she wouldn’t have mentioned it in the book, but, I feel like her methods probably weren’t totally legit. I can totally see her doing going up dirt to blackmail a Ministry official with so as to gain approval.

    How common might it be for journalists to use Veritaserum anyway?Seems highly unethical to me.

    • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

      she does not explicitly mention Veritaserum, even though we are given to understand that she used it on Bathilda. Maybe as long as she pretends to play by the rules of ethical journalism and is not caught in the act of absuing a witness the Prophet and by extension the ministry let her do what she wants. They let a lot of unethical things happen, especially lately, so why bother dealing with a journalist of doubtful methods when they’re actively prosecuting innocent people to put them into their unethical prison?

      Other journalists may shy away from using Veritaserum, Rita sure has excellent connections to whoever sells that stuff.

      • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

        Rita writes that the info she got was “well worth the effort I put into procuring Veritaserum”, so that is pretty explicit.

        Good point though, the Ministry’s general ineptitude and misguided ethical sense would certainly work to her advantage.

        • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

          you’re right, I should have looked more thoroughly at the text, I only found the line where she talks about her “combination of tried and tested reporting techniques”.

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            ah ok. Yeah that line coming from anyone else might sound credible, but from her it is suspicious.

  • IamHuffeldorhearmeroar

    I love how J.K, Rolling wrote this evolving relationship Between Harry and Dumbledore. It reminds me of classic literary relationships between the Hero and Mentor in any coming of age story. Dumbledore has always been the mentor. He was the man that could do no wrong for the Hero/Harry. Harry always had the man up on a pedestal right up to the moment Dumbledore died. Even the way Dumbledore dies was so symbolic of the impending fall off the pedestal Harry was going to be experiencing. It wasn’t until after
    Dumbledore’s death does Harry even begin to get to know Dumbledore as a man. He always had hero worshiped him in a way, which is a very child like perspective of another person. This is also why it is so hard for harry to react when he learns more about Dumbledore’s past.

    It also is the only time that we learn that Dumbledore is no longer a two dimensional character that helps harry and the reader process the adventures harry has been on. He is now a person who had thoughts and feelings. He was now a man who had to experience tragedy and growth. By reading that letter Harry is experiencing this younger person before he was able to grow into the man that Harry eventually came to know. Dumbledore had to learn right from wrong. His definition of “greater good” had to evolve.

    Things that Harry did not naturally feel a draw to such as seizing power was something that did come to Dumbledore as a young man. This is also why he has so much trouble processing this new information about Dumbledore. He was shocked that Dumbledore was capable of being fallible. He was a flawed man and had to learn the hard way that there was a price to his actions of trying to pursue power.

  • Yo Rufus On Fire

    When I heard the hosts talk about Grindelwald doing experiments, all I could think about is the Nazi’s human experiments. It’s easy to compare Grindelwald to Hitler and the Nazi’s because they are very similar and I think that this experimentation is another connection. The book doesn’t go into what Grindelwald’s experiments are, but the way that it’s written makes me think that his experiments are far from good. In Germany, (I won’t go into detail. it’s gross) there were all kinds of human experimenting going on. They would experiment mostly on the Jews to test out combat situations, weaponry, and aid in those who have been injured. Most of them died during the experiments, or were permanently disfigured and disabled.

    The reason why I bring this all up is because to me, Hitler tried to conquer the world, tried to eliminate a race, tried to create the perfect race, and experimented on humans for the greater good. He wanted to rule the world, but he firmly believed that what he was doing was in the best interests of everyone else. Grindelwald, also wants to rule over the Muggle world because he believes that he was given this power for a purpose and that purpose is bring order into the world. I would not put it past him to experiment on Muggles, or Wizards, or both! Maybe he was trying to figure out how someone becomes a wizard, or if you can turn a wizard into a muggle? Yes, it is all very outlandish, but a lot of the testing done in Nazi Germany was very outlandish too.

    In the book, Rowling describes that wizards were going to Dumbledore and asking him to confront Grindelwald because he was getting out of hand. Maybe part of the reason why they were going to him was because there could have been disappearances in the wizarding world, and word got out that Grindelwald was experimenting on humans. Crazy thought, but another parallel to Nazi Germany.

    • RoseLumos

      It kind of reminds me of the beginning of the book when the Ministry is convinced that Muggle-born wizards or witches can’t exist and if they can’t prove that they have a close magical relative it must mean that they stole magic. I can see how this thought process could role into the experiments you described. Someone could decide to find out how magical blood is passed on (of course, they will probably just “prove” that it can’t to fit with their agenda). I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is what JKR was hinting at, and I’m sure the parallels where intentional.

      Also, a few years ago I saw a woman online talk about the Nazi “experiments.” She was a child prisoner and was a victim of many of these experiments. She survived and started a charity to help other survivors and to fund people to research what they actually did to people, since many of the survivors suffered various side effects and later, many illnesses, from these experiments, and they have no idea what they were injected with to this day. I can’t seem to remember her name or the charity’s name, but it was amazing how strong and brave she was in the face of everything that happened to her.

  • Claire Marie

    I may be the only one, but I when I read Dumbledore’s letter, I really didn’t think it was that bad. I was 16 at the time and while I knew that his ideas were wrong, it didn’t seem malicious to me. I did wonder what his thought process was behind his “right to rule” but he did seem to have compassion for those over which he would be ruling. I mostly ended up questioning why he thought muggles needed to be ruled over and why he thought he should do the ruling. Once Ariana’s story was fully exposed, I thought that Dumbledore had a great deal of resentment towards muggles because of what happened to his sister. It wasn’t until later in life that he lost that resentment towards the muggle community and became the equality champion that we know. Trauma often causes us to be unable to conduct what others would deem as a rational thought process when we encounter a subject related to that trauma.

    **WARNING SENSITIVE AND CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC**

    I’m just curious if anyone read Ariana’s attack as a sexual assault. The first time I read it, I really thought that the worst might have happened to Ariana and being so young, the assault may have had such horrible consequences that it altered her brain as well as her ability to control her magic.

    • RoseLumos

      I have wondered that too. It’s such a horrible thought, but I don’t know what else it could be to have such an affect on someone mentally.

    • Lisa

      Yes, it’s a fairly common interpretation in the fandom that it could have been a sexual attack. We know she was very young but we don’t know how old the boys were (I don’t think we’re ever told that). If the boys were about 11 years old themselves, then I doubt the attack was sexual.

      • Claire Marie

        I always thought Ariana was a good bit younger than 11. I can’t remember if Aberforth says how old she is when we finally get to talk to him.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    Shout out to the girl in an Alohomora shirt at Star Wars last night ! I love when fandoms converge!

    • NOSPOILERSNOSPOILERSNOSPOILERSNOSPOILERSNOSPOILERSNOSPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

        haha…I would never dream of it.

        • Good. Anyway, I saw it last night and rate it 9.5 because

          Kylo Ren didn’t get his hand chopped off, and flouted Skywalker family tradition.

  • Griff

    I just want to shout out to Michael for making the arguments that are tough re: lgbtq issues. JKR’s choices were most def related to political backlash, and in a vacuum/from a story standpoint, it would have made sense to at least make it more clear how Dumby felt (without necessarily knocking us over the head with it). I do agree with the choices she made…her books are beloved, and I know as a kid with internalized homophobia, I wouldn’t have appreciated the books in the same way. Heteronormativity sucks. But I appreciate you bringing up the topics that should be discussed, and arguing for greater visibility. Keep fighting the good fight!