“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!”
We all know Dumbledore as the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and a mentor to Harry Potter. But this immensely powerful wizard lived a lifetime before Harry ever stepped onto Hogwarts’ grounds. So, where did he come from? What made him so powerful? Read on for 40 facts about one of the greatest wizards to ever live.
SPOILER WARNING: FACTS 5 AND 7 CONTAIN SPOILERS FROM FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
1. He Had A Mouthful of Names
The iconic Hogwarts Headmaster’s full name was Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Which begs the question, who needs three middle names? The best wizard ever, that’s who.
2. Where He Came From
Though he was born in the village of Mould-on-the-Wold, Dumbledore grew up in the town of Godric’s Hollow, the same place as the founder of Gryffindor, Godric Gryffindor, and Harry Potter. There must be something in the water there…
3. His Power Was Immense
Dumbledore was such a powerful wizard that he had no need for an Invisibility Cloak. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore tells Harry that he does not need one of those fancy cloaks if he wishes to be invisible. Dumbledore most likely could perform such a powerful Disillusionment Charm that it made him impossible to see.
4. He Believed In Prophecy
Before Harry was born, there was a prophecy made about the boy who would be able to bring down Lord Voldemort. Professor Trelawney gave Dumbledore the prophecy at the end of her job interview for a position at Hogwarts. That certainly got her the job!
5. He Knew How To Say Know
Dumbledore hated politics. He was apparently offered the job as Minister for Magic multiple times in his life…but always turned it down.
6. Fawkesy Patronus
According to J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore website for Harry Potter fans, Dumbledore’s patronus was a Phoenix. This makes sense, as Dumbledore keeps a pet phoenix named Fawkes which saves Harry’s life in the Chamber of Secrets.
7. A Muggle Lover
Also according to Pottermore, Dumbeldore’s wizard card lists his hobbies as ten-pin bowling and chamber music. I guess when you’re a great wizard you need a break from all that magic.
8. His Very Handy Scar
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore claims that he has a scar on his left knee that is a perfect map of London’s Underground system. That sounds like it could just be a witty comment to an 11-year-old, but with Dumbledore, you never know…
9. Go, Go Gryffindor!
When Dumbledore was a student at Hogwarts he was a member of Gryffindor house, and who can blame him? He was a clever and courageous wizard who was loyal to those he cared about.
10. A Range Of Other Interests
Besides being an incredibly powerful wizard, Dumbledore was also very smart. He is credited with discovering the twelve uses of dragon’s blood. He also dabbled in alchemy with his friend Nicolas Flamel, who went on to invent the Philosopher’s Stone.
11. Dumbledore, The Inventor
Dumbeldore invented the Deluminator, the device that can turn out lights from a distance and appeared in the opening scene of the first Harry Potter film. After his death he leaves it to Ron Weasley in his will. The Deluminator helps Ron find Harry and Hermione after he leaves them following an argument in the Deathly Hallows book and movie.
12. Underwater Languages
Dumbledore spoke the language of Mermish. This is shown in the book of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire after the second task when Dumbledore confers with the leader of the Merpeople about what Harry did to save Ron and Fleur Delacour’s younger sister. Wonder where he learned that!
13. Starting to Teach
Of course, Dumbledore didn’t start off as Hogwarts’ headmaster—he needed to work his way up the ladder. After attending the school in the late 19th century, he returned first as professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts. However, after a run-in with an auror named Torquil Travers, Dumbledore was barred from teaching DATDA, and he became a professor of Transfiguration.
14. A Long Life
According to J.K. Rowling’s website, Pottermore, he was born in 1881 and died in 1997. Yet, despite living to 115-years-old, I’m sure we’d all agree that the great wizard still died too young.
Dumbledore was given many awards during his lifetime, including the Order of Merlin First Class. The prize is given to witches/wizards who perform an outstanding act of bravery or distinction in magic. He was given the honor for defeating the dark wizard Grindelwald.
16. Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Wands
Dumbledore had the ability to do magic without the use of a wand. For example, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore saves Harry without his wand when Harry falls off his broom in a game of Quidditch. He could also change the colors of the banners in the Great Hall without a wand, among many other feats. The guy was just that good.
17. Not Like His Old Man
Dumbledore’s father, a wizard named Percival, was sent to Azkaban for attacking a group of Muggle boys that had attacked Dumbledore’s sister Ariana. His father was never released and spent the remainder of his life in the wizard prison.
18. Ominous Wand
Dumbledore’s wand, the infamous Elder Wand, had a Thestral hair core. He earned the wand in his duel with Grindelwald, and it remains unclear what he had before it came to into his possession.
19. Resting Place
There is only one grave at Hogwarts: The White Tomb, where Dumbledore was laid to rest. The old Headmaster wanted to be buried at Hogwarts because it was the only place that he considered to be his real home.
Dumbledore was the first wizard to have possession of all three of Deathly Hallows. He never had all three at once, but he was the first to encounter all of them. He had the Invisibility Cloak after Harry’s parents were killed, the Resurrection Stone when he tracked Voldemort’s ring Horcrux, and the Elder Wand when he defeated Grindelwald.
21. The Best of Enemies
Dumbledore and Grindelwald were friends when they first met. After finishing school at Hogwarts Dumbledore was introduced to Grindelwald by the latter’s great aunt, Bathilda Bagshot. Both were the best wizards of their age and they quickly became friends.
22. Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Dragon Pox
Dumbledore befriended the young Elphias Doge, the man who would write Dumbledore’s obituary nearly a century later, while the two of the were at Hogwarts. Doge apparently had caught a brutal case of the Dragon Pox, which made all the other students avoid him. Dumbledore, though, was known for his ability to look past the surface, and he quickly befriended the pock-marked Doge.
23. Snake Tongue
Dumbledore could understand Parseltongue. Evidence of this is given in the book of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore shows Harry a memory from Bob Ogden, an employee of the Ministry of Magic. In it, Ogden visits the house of the Gaunts, Voldemort’s relatives, all of whom speak in Parseltongue to each other. Dumbledore seems to have understood the conversation the family members had.
Dumbledore was gay. JK Rowling made the announcement of the Headmasters sexuality around the time that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie was being filmed. This prompted the writers to make alterations to the script. Allegedly, there was a scene where Dumbledore was reminiscing about his past loves, and while reading over the movie, Rowling crossed out that line and simply scrawled “Dumbledore is gay” over it.
25. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
Given the revelation about his sexuality, it is widely believed that Dumbledore was in love with his closest friend, Gellert Grindelwald. There is no proof that Grindelwald ever reciprocated Albus’ feelings though, and it has been argued that Grindelwald could never have loved anyone, because all he cared about was power.
26. Quiet as a Mouse
When most wizards apparate, it made a loud popping noise, yet when Dumbledore does it, he does so completely silently. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but keep in mind that only one other wizard seems to possess this ability: Voldemort himself.
27. Post-Traumatic Stress
When forced to drink the potion in the cave to get the locket Horcrux in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore begins to weep and say “it’s all my fault” over and over. This is believed to be because the potion made him relive the death of his sister.
28. Star Student
It’s hard to imagine, but the wise, ancient Headmaster was at one time a student at Hogwarts. As might be expected, he’s said to have been the most brilliant pupil that the school has ever seen. He won every important prize that a student could win, and apparently when he took his NEWTs, he “did things with a wand [the examiner had] never seen before.”
29. Busy Bee
Ever wonder how Rowling thought up a wacky name like Dumbledore? Well, she apparently imagined the Headmaster as a great music lover. She saw him walking around humming to himself like a bumblebee. So she took his name from an Old English word for the musical insect: “Dumbledore.”
JK Rowling saw Dumbledore as a sort of way to insert herself into the world of Harry Potter. Dumbledore, like Rowling, knew everything about the magical world, so often times, when he speaks, he speaks for her. She also realized that this immense knowledge could be a burden on him, admitting that there were times where he would “rather not know.”
The first actor to portray Dumbledore on screen was the beloved Richard Harris. The elderly actor apparently wanted to decline the role because he knew that his health was in decline, but he accepted when his 11-year-old granddaughter said that she would never speak to him again if he turned down the chance to play the great wizard. After Harris passed away, the polarizing Michael Gambon took on the role.
32. Anyone But Him
Before he died, Richard Harris was determined to appear as Dumbledore for a third time, going so far as to tell David Heyman, a producer on the series, not to recast the role. Sadly, time was not on his side, and Harris passed away before getting the chance to film Prisoner of Azkaban, so a new actor was needed. Initially, the part was offered to Sir Ian McKellen, but he turned it down for two reasons. First, he had already played Gandalf, so it felt a little silly to play such a similar character, but secondly, he refused the Dumbledore role because he would have felt awkward filling Harris’ shoes. Why? Because Harris had previously called McKellen a “dreadful” actor.
33. Tragic Accident
An 18-year-old Dumbledore was preparing for a post-grad trip around the world with his friend Elphias Doge, when tragedy struck. His sister Ariana, who was unable to control her magical abilities since the brutal attack years earlier, accidentally killed their mother, Kendra. With his father in prison and his mother dead, the young Dumbledore was left to take care of his family, a role he resented.
34. It’s All Relative
SPOILERS FOR FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GELLERT GRINDELWALD AHEAD
The film Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them introduced the terrible beings known as Obscurials, young witches or wizards who suppress their magical powers and develop a parasite called an obscurus. Through the course of the film, it is revealed that a teenaged orphan named Creedence Barebone is, in fact, a remarkably old obscurial (they almost always die before their tenth birthday). In the sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald, the dark wizard claims that Barebone has secretly been related to Dumbledore the entire time! He says that a child named Aurelius Dumbledore was shipped off to the US as a baby, where he was adopted by the No-Maj Mary Lou Barebone and raised completely unaware of his magical origins.
35. Secret Goal
While Dumbledore seems like an obvious choice for a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, he had a secret reason for wanting to take the job: As a one-time ally of the evil Grindelwald, Dumbledore knew it was only a matter of time before the Dark Wizard rose to power, so he also knew that the young witches and wizards he was teaching would one day need the Defence Against the Dark Arts abilities that he was teaching.
36. Signed in Blood
SPOILERS FOR FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD AHEAD
If Dumbledore was such a powerful wizard, and if he knew the threat that Grindelwald posed, one might wonder why he didn’t try to stop him earlier? Well, when the parted ways as young men, the two of them made a Blood Pact, a magical agreement that they would never fight each other. This meant that Dumbledore was physically incapable of battling Grindelwald, and vice versa. However, during The Crimes of Grindelwald, Newt Scamander’s niffler manages to steal Grindelwald’s Blood Pact vial, which allows Dumbledore to destroy it, end the pact, and set the stage for their historic duel.
37. Troubled Youth
It’s not hinted at much in the books, but Grindelwald managed to turn a 17-year-old Dumbledore onto the idea of wizards ruling Muggles for the greater good. After Dumbledore graduated from Hogwarts, he had to go back to his home and look after his sister, Ariana. Going from Hogwarts to be a stay-at-home caretaker did nothing to encourage Dumbledore’s mind—until he met Grindelwald. Their equally gifted minds rejoiced at meeting each other, and Dumbledore was only too receptive to ideas that he later found appalling and evil.
38. Family Man
We all think of Dumbledore as an honest character who would never deceive his friends… except that he lies to Harry about what he sees in the Mirror of Erised. Dumbledore tells Harry he sees himself with a new pair of socks. In a 2007 interview, Rowling revealed what Dumbledore really saw was, “his family alive, whole and happy.”
Dumbledore may have killed his own sister, Ariana while dueling with his younger brother, Aberforth and his friend at the time, Grindelwald. The three wizards had an argument, which escalated into a full-scale duel and Ariana was killed in the crossfire. Her tragic death would have an immense effect on both brothers, and would forever scar their relationship.
40. Dark Creatures
When confronted with a Boggart, a shape-shifting creature that transforms into someone’s worst fear, Dumbledore would see the corpse of his dead sister Ariana. Dark Stuff. And you thought Ron Weasley’s fear of spiders was bad…