One generation before You-Know-Who, there was Gellert Grindelwald, one of the most feared and dangerous dark wizards in wizarding history. His goals were not very different from Lord Voldemort’s. Like the Dark Lord, Grindelwald believed wizards were superior to Muggles, and he wanted to exert control over those he deemed to be less than him.
Interestingly enough, some of the disturbing things Grindelwald has done are also things Albus Dumbledore has done. As many fans of the Harry Potter series know, before Dumbledore became a professor at Hogwarts, he and Grindelwald were very close. They had big dreams for the wizarding world—big, disturbing dreams like controlling Muggle-kind. However, everything changed when a tragic event created a rift between the two wizards.
So who is Grindelwald? Read on to find out, and get ready to cast obliviate because spoilers abound for the Harry Potter series and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
He Manipulated and Abused a Child
While impersonating the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Percival Graves, Grindelwald manipulated Credence, a quiet young boy who was already suffering under the abusive care of his adoptive mother, the witch-hating Second Salemer Mary Lou Barebone. Grindelwald promised Credence a place of honor in the Wizarding World if he helped him find the Obscurial terrorizing the city. However, once Credence’s usefulness appeared to have run out, Grindelwald discarded Credence and struck him.
He Cast the Cruciatus Curse on Aberforth Dumbledore
The duel that led to the death of Ariana Dumbledore started as a heated argument between the Dumbledore brothers and Grindelwald. Aberforth criticized Albus for throwing his lot in with Grindelwald and for neglecting his family, namely his sister. Ariana had become emotionally and magically unstable after being attacked by a group of Muggles when they found her practicing magic. During this duel, Grindelwald cast an Unforgivable Curse, the Cruciatus, on the then-17-year-old Aberforth.
He Was Partially Responsible for Ariana Dumbledore’s Death
One of the most famous duels in the wizarding world is the one that took place between Grindelwald and the Dumbledore brothers, Albus and Aberforth. After a heated exchange, spells began to fly and a stray curse hit and killed Ariana Dumbledore, Albus and Aberforth’s younger sister. No one knows whose curse hit Ariana, but given his ramblings while drinking the Potion of Despair, it’s clear that it is something that haunted Albus until his last days.
There is no doubt that Ariana’s death changed and shaped Albus as, shortly after, he abandoned Grindelwald’s cause and began his tenure at Hogwarts. As for Grindelwald, he fled to Europe to amass an army for his cause and carry out deeds that would eventually lead to him becoming one of the most powerful Dark Wizards of all time.
He Broke Albus Dumbledore’s Heart
From the lips of the goddess herself, J.K. Rowling said this about the heartbreak suffered by everyone’s favorite twinkly-eyed Headmaster: "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."
That said, in his final moments, Grindelwald exhibited some remorse, which may have stemmed from his loyalty to Dumbledore. When Voldemort demanded the whereabouts of the Elder Wand, Grindelwald, knowing that Dumbledore possessed it, didn’t give up his old friend and flame, as he tells Voldemort, “Kill me, then! You will not win, you cannot win! That wand will never, ever be yours.” Voldemort wasn’t too pleased with his answer and killed him shortly after.