Wizards Unite: Character Profiles
The place where you can learn the good, the bad and the ugly about the magical world’s most prominent figures.
Today’s profile: Gellert Grindelwald
Gellert Grindelwald’s childhood is largely a mystery. He was born around 1883 and attended Durmstrang Institute, a school famous even then for its unfortunate tolerance of the Dark Arts.
Grindelwald excelled in various fields, but always showed a especial interested in Dark Magic. He was an extremely talented wizard who possessed an attractive and winsome personality. This, coupled with a “merry, wild” disposition, made him quite popular amongst fellow students and quickly earned him quite a following.
The Deathly Hallows
Keenly interested in history, lore, and the powerful mystique of magical artefacts, Grindelwald became fascinated with the Deathly Hallows. In fact, he appropriated their runic symbol as his own personal emblem, engraving it on the walls of Durmstrang prior to his departure.
At age sixteen, even the Durmstrang Institute felt Grindelwald was taking his Dark Arts leanings too far. Grindelwald excelled at -and consistently used- dark magic. After years of turning a blind eye to his behaviour, Durmstrang Headmaster finally expelled him as a result of several twisted, dark experiments and near-fatal attacks on students.
This was an ominous and troubling sign. It meant that Grindelwald performed experiments that were too disturbing even for a school with notably high tolerance of the Dark Arts.
Grindelwald and Dumbledore
After his expulsion from Drumstang, Grindelwald’s quest for power led him to Godric’s Hollow, in England, in a search for the Cloak of Invisibility. His great-aunt Bathilda Bagshot, famous author of A History Of Magic, lived there and provided him with a place to stay.
In the summer of 1899 Grindelwald met Albus Dumbledore. Both incredibly powerful and highly idealistic, they quickly became very close friends. There were rumours of their relationship being deeper than a friendship, but neither of them ever confirmed or denied those claims.
Together, they endeavoured to find the Deathly Hallows and lead a Wizarding revolution to end the International Statute of Secrecy. They would then create a benevolent global hierarchical order led by wise and powerful witches and wizards that dominated Muggles.
In the words of Albus Dumbledore himself:
“Grindelwald. You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me. Muggles forced into subservience. We wizards triumphant. Grindelwald and I, the glorious young leaders of the revolution. Oh, I had a few scruples. I assuaged my conscience with empty words. It would all be for the greater good, and any harm done would be repaid a hundredfold in benefits for wizards. Did I know, in my heart of hearts, what Gellert Grindelwald was? I think I did, but I closed my eyes.”
Their friendship ended in tragedy at age seventeen. A three-way duel between the two of them and Albus’ brother Aberforth resulted in the death of Albus’ sister, Ariana, and an end to their relationship.
The Lone Journey
The Elder Wand
After Ariana’s death, Grindelwald fled the country. He followed whispered rumours and stories as he continued his search for the Deathly Hallows on his own. Eventually, he uncovered the owner of the Elder Wand: renowned Wandmaker Mykew Gregorovitch.
Grindelwald broke into his workshop and lay in wait for the wandmaker. When the wizard arrived Grindelwald stunned him and stole the wand, thereby becoming its new master. Gregorovitch later recounted the event:
“It was stolen from me… it was a boy, it was he who took it. I never saw it again.”
The Rise of Grindelwald
Grindelwald soon began amassing an army of followers.
Still pursuing his original goal to end the Statute of Secrecy, he and his legions of “fanatics” launched several devastating attacks across Europe. These attacks garnered international attention from wizarding authorities and the Muggle world alike. In response to Grindelwald’s actions, and the risk of exposure they presented, an international wizardhunt ensued.
As Grindelwald’s power grew, he began to make plans for the confrontation he knew was coming. He believed there was only one wizard in the world powerful enough to defeat him: Albus Dumbledore.
Although Grindelwald and Dumbledore couldn’t fight each other directly as a result of a Blood pact they had formed in their youth, he still perceived his former friend as a threat.
Believing the powerful Obscurus that was terrorising New York was the only thing other than himself that could stop Dumbledore, Grindelwald left Europe for America to find and recruit the child to his cause.
Across the pond
Grindelwald infiltrated MACUSA by impersonating Percival Graves. There, he used the government’s resources to search for the Obscurus. However, once he found it, he was unable to control it or use it against Dumbledore.
Eventually, Newt Scamander managed to reveal his true identity and restrain him long enough for the Aurors to arrest him. Grindelwald was then imprisoned, but he soon managed to escape and amassed an even larger following.
Dumbledore: Grindelwald’s Fall
Grindelwald and his followers continued their reign of terror for many years. All through those years, Dumbledore hesitated to confront Grindelwald, and not only because of their Blood pact.
“…while I busied myself with the training of young wizards, Grindelwald was raising an army. They say he feared me, and perhaps he did, but less, I think, than I feared him… It was the truth I feared. You see, I never knew which of us, in that last, horrific fight, had actually cast the curse that killed my sister… I think he knew it, I think he knew what frightened me. I delayed meeting him until finally, it would have been too shameful to resist any longer. People were dying and he seemed unstoppable, and I had to do what I could.”
But the Blood pact itself was unimaginably difficult to abolish, and Dumbledore felt his lack of action was what prolonged the Global Wizarding War.
Eventually, he was finally able to destroy the Blood vial that prevented him from taking on Grindelwald. By then Dumbledore was 63 years old and Head of Transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Convinced by people who suffered from his former friend’s actions, Dumbledore decided it was time to track down Grindelwald and end the War.
The Final Duel
In 1945 Grindelwald finally confronted his old friend Albus Dumbledore.
They engaged in a duel of legendary proportions. Eyewitnesses stated that it was the greatest duel ever fought between wizards.
Despite Grindelwald’s mastery of the Elder Wand, Dumbledore ultimately triumphed and became the new master of the Elder Wand in the process.
After the duel, Dumbledore brought Grindelwald to the authorities of the magical world. Ironically, they decided to imprison him in the topmost cell of Nurmengard, his former stronghold. That cell would serve as his residence for the remainder of his life.
A Bigger Foe
Towards the end of his life, Grindelwald re-evaluated his actions. He expressed shame and remorse for the horrors he and his followers had inflicted on both the magical and non magical worlds.
In 1998, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named infiltrated the prison searching for the Elder wand. By then Grindelwald had been imprisoned for fifty-three years.
Grindelwald refused to share the location of the wand. His taunts infuriated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named enough that he finally ended Grindelwald’s life with the Killing Curse.
“Kill me, then. Voldemort, I welcome death! But my death will not bring you what you seek… that wand will never, ever be yours!”