Did the end of The Crimes of Grindelwald leave you reeling? Same here. We’re exploring all possible options for that dumbfounding Dumbledore identity crisis.
This article contains spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Like, all the spoilers. Seriously.
You might say that The Crimes of Grindelwald ends with a bang, that bang being the bomb going off in the hallowed fields of Harry Potter canon. Yes, Credence Barebone is actually Aurelius Dumbledore, and we’ve got some theories to make sense of it.
Having finally been swayed to the side of the dark Wizard Grindelwald, Credence Barebone at long last receives the information he has been desperately seeking. He is not a Lestrange, not a nameless castaway, but the subject of an ominous poetic prophesy referenced frequently throughout the story. According to Grindelwald, Credence is really Aurelius Dumbledore, long-lost brother of Albus, greatest wizard of the age.
“Uh,” said fans, “Say what?”
This shocking revelation has left Harry Potter fans scrambling for explanations as to how this could be possible. Here are our top theories at Hypable, but be sure to share your ideas in the comments below.
Aurelius Dumbledore theories
Grindelwald is a lying liar who lies
The simplest, most Occum’s Razor-ish answer to Grindelwald’s claim about Credence’s true identity is that the powerful dark wizard is doing what comes naturally: Lying.
It makes a sneaky sort of sense that Grindelwald would want to boast of a Dumbledore brother on his side of the coming fight. It’s hardly a secret that Albus Dumbledore is the only wizard capable of defeating him, and regardless of his parentage, Credence is clearly possessed of powerful magical abilities.
Grindelwald is also profoundly gifted at telling his followers exactly what they want to hear, and manipulating them with that information. It seems like Credence’s “identity” as the long-lost Aurelius Dumbledore might be just the lever Grindelwald needs to control him.
But there are a few problems with this simple explanation. Though not irrefutable proof, the phoenix that comes to Credence undeniably suggests a connection with the Dumbledore family. So does his transformation into an Obscurial, which some Harry Potter fans speculate was the same fate that beset Ariana Dumbledore.
And then there is the metatextual issue. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald cuts out immediately following the jaw-dropping revelation that Credence is Aurelius Dumbledore. The information is presented in a way that suggests that the audience is being told the truth — why else the eleventh-hour reveal, and careful juxtaposition with the OG Dumbledore back at Hogwarts?
But is that enough to confirm Grindelwald’s otherwise hard-to-believe conclusion? Is there evidence we haven’t yet seen? (Yeah, probably.) For now, it’s up to fans to decide.
We do not know the full stories of Percival or Kendra Dumbledore
But let’s take Grindelwald’s word for it that Credence is, in fact, Aurelius Dumbledore. If this is the case, we have (unfortunately) some math to do.
According to the timeline on the Harry Potter Lexicon, Dumbledore family patriarch Percival Dumbledore was imprisoned in Azkaban in 1891 or 1892, and died there soon after. Dumbledore’s mother Kendra died in 1899, accidentally killed by her daughter Ariana.
Meanwhile, The Crimes of Grindelwald tells us that baby Credence was sent to America in 1901 (Source: Rowling’s screenplay). His birth certificate made for the film states his birthdate as 1904 (this is from the official book The Archive of Magic: The Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald):
Either the 1901 or the 1904 date might be a mistake. Clearly he couldn’t have been on the ship before he was born.
If all (or even most) of these dates are accurate, it is mathematically impossible for Aurelius Dumbledore to be the child of Percival and Kendra Dumbledore. So what are some alternate possibilities?
Percival Dumbledore fathered Credence after escaping Azkaban
One potential explanation could be that Percival Dumbledore did not die in Azkaban as reported, but instead escaped and had Aurelius with another woman some time around 1901.
Evidence is (unsurprisingly) thin for this theory, but JK Rowling certainly has established a pattern of escapes from and faked deaths in Azkaban (see: Sirius Black, Barty Crouch Jr.) And it’s logical to assume that Percival Dumbledore must have been an extremely powerful wizard, potentially capable of a jailbreak.
This theory would explain how Credence would bear the name Dumbledore, as well as his affiliation with the phoenix. It also suggests how he might have remained a secret from the rest of his family. But this doesn’t speak particularly well of Percival (what kind of dad escapes from prison, never to contact his needy family?) and leaves quite a few complicated machinations to be explained.
Kendra Dumbledore had a secret pregnancy
Another, probably less likely option, is that Credence is the son of Kendra Dumbledore by an as-yet-unknown father. (Technically this could be Percival if he did, in fact, escape from Azkaban, but like… who does that?)
Obviously, this theory goes out the window if Kendra’s death in 1899 and Credence’s infancy in 1901 are accurate. But 1899 and 1901 are close enough that this could be within the forgivable range of error. At the very least, Ariana’s tragic accident that resulted in her mother’s death may be later dated than we think.
If Albus and Aberforth were away at Hogwarts during their mother’s pregnancy, it’s possible that Kendra could have hid this development from the brothers. And Kendra, frequently described as a “proud” woman, might have been inclined to have “the son cruelly banished,” as the prophetic poetry says.
If we speculate further, it’s even possible that Mrs. Dumbledore had family in America whom she intended to raise her son. Harry considers Kendra to bear a resemblance to Native Americans when he sees her picture, and there is already a strong thread of Native American mythology in the Fantastic Beasts series. (Let’s cross the bridge of casting Ezra Miller as a descendant of Native Americans if we come to it, which hopefully, we will not.)
Either way, it is this theory that relies most heavily on the timeline as we know it, and we’ll have to wait for clarification to tell how likely this may be.
Of course, there are still other possibilities…
Grindlewald is using the term ‘brother’ loosely, and means another relation of Dumbledore’s
Grindelwald is definitely a lying liar who lies, but we also have to consider the possibility that the dark lord is bending the truth about Aurelius Dumbledore, rather than inventing it wholesale. Though he definitely keeps harping on the idea of Credence as a “brother,” we can’t neglect the idea that he is taking a loose definition of the term.
Conveniently, we don’t know much at all about Dumbledore’s extended family. But what if Credence’s identity originates closer to home?
The short, sad life of Ariana Dumbledore hardly needs another helping of tragedy, but it may have gotten one. Ariana is referenced as a source of Dumbledore’s regret in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but perhaps we don’t know the whole story. The subject of that infernal prophesy is known as “the despair of the daughter” — could that daughter be Ariana? The long seclusion of Dumbledore’s sister was arranged for her own protection, but it also could have served to hide a pregnancy.
This theory certainly would explain the affinity between Credence and the phoenix, but it also opens a slew of potentially vital questions. Did Albus know of his nephew’s existence? Did Aberforth? Was either young man responsible for the “banishing” of the child, or could that have been Kendra’s doing?
And once again, the timeline makes this complicated. As we currently understand it, Ariana would have been born in about 1885, making her no older than 15 at the time of her death. While it’s not impossible that Ariana had a child as a young teenager, the circumstances around that possibility are incredibly dark to contemplate. So dark, in fact, that I almost hope the next theory is true.
The timeline is wrong, or just doesn’t matter
The fact is, while Harry Potter fans are working off of solid extrapolation for the current timeline of events, there isn’t much to say that JK Rowling is beholden to even very well-informed fanon.
We need only look toward the thrilling-but-confusing inclusion of a young Professor McGonagall in The Crimes of Grindelwald to know that is a strong possibility. (McGonagall isn’t even due to have been born by 1927, much less be teaching at Hogwarts when Newt and Leta were students.)
So it is eminently possible that the importance of the dates of Percival’s imprisonment in Azkaban, as well as Kendra and Ariana’s deaths are just… not important. All this math can go into the kelpie pond, and JK Rowling can craft whatever story she is interested in, unbound by the assumptions fans have made. Credence can be a true Dumbledore brother, or literally anyone’s child; anything is possible.
(There could even be a Time-Turner involved… but let’s please, please not go there.)
This isn’t the most satisfying of potential answers to the mystery of Aurelius Dumbledore. (Who am I kidding, it’s a straight-up bummer.) But this simple possibility can’t be ignored; sometimes, perhaps, a brother is just a brother.
Other things we know about Credence
Written by John Trasher. A couple other key items to keep in mind as we try to solve this mystery:
The woman on the boat was not Kendra Dumbledore
Near the end of The Crimes of Grindelwald we get the real story behind the brother of Leta Lestrange. Leta recalls when she was younger, heading to America, she was holding her brother Corvus, who was crying. She admits she wanted a respite from the crying infant, so she swapped him with one who was peaceful and sleeping. During this moment, the ship becomes troubled, and Leta is led away on a lifeboat with who was actually Aurelius Dumbledore (Credence).
A woman can be seen coming to protect who she thinks is Credence. Most would believe that this is Aurelius’s mother. And if Aurelius is Albus’ brother then that woman should be Kendra Dumbledore, right? Well the original screenplay book confirms that it’s not Kendra Dumbledore, it is “Credence’s Aunt.” Here are some lines straight from the screenplay:
CHILD LETA, IRMA, and BABY CREDENCE are in one boat, CREDENCE’S AUNT and BABY CORVUS in another.
A huge wave is approaching. CHILD LETA watches as the lifeboat bearing CREDENCE’S AUNT and BABY CORVUS is overturned.
CLOSE ON THE SURFACE OF THE WATER. A few survivors reappear, including CREDENCE’S AUNT, but not BABY CORVUS … CREDENCE’S AUNT pulls off her life jacket so she can dive too…
She does not reemerge. We close in through the surface of the water, past the drowning woman, and see the dark shape of a drowning baby trailing bubbles of magical light as he sinks …
There’s a lot to unpack in this scene. We know that Kendra Dumbledore was killed by Ariana (accidentally by her obscurus) in 1899, a mere two years before the events of this ship. With Credence being a newborn in 1901, it’s safe to say that Kendra is not his mother. With Percival Dumbledore in Azkaban around the 1890s, and with no confirmed death date, the only living Dumbledores are his supposed siblings Albus and Aberforth.
So who is Credence’s aunt? Is she also a Dumbledore that we don’t know anything about or could she be from Kendra’s side of the family? Interestingly, she resembles the description that we know of Kendra Dumbledore. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry sees a photo of Kendra and describes her as having jet black hair and high cheek bones, similar to the Native Americans he had read about in school.
The name Aurelius connects to Credence’s story
The name Aurelius was likely inspired by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. A quick Google search will reveal that Aurelius ruled Rome from 161 to 180 AD with his — are you ready for this — adoptive brother. And his adoptive brother also has some Wizarding World ties with his name: Lucius Verus. Is Grindelwald the Lucius in this metaphor?
Marcus Aurelius also has many connections to other Harry Potter and Wizarding World themes. Marcus Aurelius had earned a name of “philosophy king” in his lifetime and wrote a series of philosophical writings known as Meditations. Knowing that he was to be one of the great philosophers of his time, will this connect to the Philosopher’s Stone, which we saw a glimpse of in Flamel’s cabinet?
J.K. Rowling herself was hiding the Aurelius name from us in plain sight. Just as her website was a hotspot of mysterious hints and clues when the Harry Potter books were being released, she once again showcased the name Marcus Aurelius on a header image on her website.
There’s also the theory that Grindelwald is only using Aurelius to turn against Albus. The very name Aurelius comes from the Latin word for “gold” meaning “golden” or “of gold.” Could Grindelwald be convincing Credence that he is the golden child? The chosen one to lead the rebellion on his behalf? (Thanks to MuggleCast listeners Doug and Nicole for the Latin tip.)
Aurelius Is Immensely Powerful
In the final moments of The Crimes of Grindelwald we see Grindelwald give Aurelius a gift. The gift is a wand; a place for him to channel his uncontrollable obscurial magic. We watch as Credence casts a spell (without an incantation) through the glass window and destroy the mountainside opposite of Nurmengard castle.
This moment is significant for multiple reasons. First, it showcases that the newly formed Aurelius Dumbledore has extreme magical abilities. Aurelius, in the persuasion of Gellert Grindelwald, will be an enormously significant threat in the forthcoming Fantastic Beasts movies.
Which brings us to the next thought. Let’s assume Aurelius Dumbledore will be a huge presence in the Wizarding World in the next few movies. Why haven’t we heard of Aurelius at all, even in lore? We’ve heard of Voldemort’s stories. We’ve heard of Grindelwald’s stories. How then did Aurelius and whatever happens next never make its way to the events of the Harry Potter books?