Crimes of Grindelwald: Queenie’s Quest

Jan Voetberg wrote this originally as a response to my post on ‘Crimes of Grindelwald: Interior Texts‘ but I thought it important enough to give it its own place as a Guest Post. As you’ll see, Queenie’s situation is its own interior text — and one with so many mysteries that we surely have not been told what her mission to Paris is all about. [For more on the absurdity of the Queenie surface story see ‘Crimes of Grindelwald: The Deleted Scenes‘ and the discussion there on ‘Is Queenie Out of Her Mind or Crazy like a Fox?’ and ‘After Scene 51.’]

Crimes of Grindelwald: Queenie’s Quest by Jan Voetberg

Crimes of Grindelwald: Interior Texts’ was a delightful read, as always, John. My thought on reading it, besides being impressed by the number of stories Rowling has embedded in the series, was that you missed one, namely, the Queenie story, what we’re told versus what is actually happening.

I think the embedded text and the mysteries circling around Queenie springs from the torn postcard. There’s something strange about it from the start.

Queenie says to Newt in his London flat that “Tina and I aren’t talking.” Which doesn’t correspond with Tina’s loving words on the postcard, ending with “X,” a kiss. The loving words don’t correspond with the postcard having been torn up, and it being torn up doesn’t correspond with keeping it in her case. The suggestion is for the careful reader that she has artfully dumped it on Newt’s floor for him to discover, reassemble, and decide he needs to head to Paris immediately — just as Dumbledore wants him to do.

I do not remember any sign of Tina opposing a Magic-No Maj relationship between Queenie and Jacob in the first Fantastic Beasts film. Queenie’s reaction when Newt tells her that not he but Theseus is engaged, is not: “Oh, but that’s wonderful! I will inform Tina as soon as possible!” but “Oh! Oh dear….” She tells the disappointed Magizoologist that Tina is now dating an auror by the high-powered name of Achilles Tolliver (scene 36, p 66). That name is a macho push because in the Iliad there is a heavy fight between the river Scamander and Achilles, greatest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan war, and ‘Tolliver’ is the anglicization of the Italian Taliaferro, ‘iron cutter,’ “a nickname for a metal worker or a fierce fighter.”

What is Queenie up to here? She must know that Newt had written harsh words about aurors being thugs in a letter to Tina that had upset Queenie’s sister as much as the mistaken Spellbound announcement about Newt’s engagement to Leta Lestrange. It seems to me that Queenie wants to bring her sister and Newt together — per Dumbledore’s direction? — so she gives him the ‘Achilles Tolliver’ challenge and the card clue, a clue he is that much more ready to believe because he has “discovered” it himself (see Raphael’s alibi trick in Lethal White). Here I think is the reader of an embedded text like the ones you described in your post, a reader-mirror inside the story making a mistake we are being warned not to make ourselves as we read or watch the larger story.

Queenie was counting on Newt’s doing the right thing per Jacob, because, as Dumbledore tells him, that is what Newt does as an unbreakable reflex. She has only brought Jacob to London to be sure these two come to Paris to help her and Tina in their missions to defeat Grindelwald. Newt’s “discovering” that she has bewitched Jacob quite literally and freeing him from that charm gives her the excuse she needs to dump him at Newt’s home and go by herself on her secret mission to Paris.

I think she has a mission because of the events in Paris involving Queenie that are at least as bizarre as her time with Newt and Jacob in London.

First, she goes straight to the French Ministry of Magic (how does she know where that is?) and, as Newt and Jacob do, she is treated once again as a clueless ditz by the official she asks there about Tina’s whereabouts. That official almost certainly contacts Grindelwald’s gang because how else does Rozier stumble upon Queenie a short time later crying in the street? We know, though, from a deleted scene that was in the trailer that Queenie wandered through the Ministry and probably was able to read Abernathy’s mind as Rozier and he, in disguise, enter the elevator with the Lestrange suitcase. Queenie knows, then, the details of the trap being laid for Newt, Jacon, and the Aurors, if Dumbledore hadn’t told her already. Hence her desperation to catch up with them when she recognizes Jacob’s thoughts on the street.

Speaking of Queenie’s unique capacity as a Legilimens — not having to look into someone’s eyes up close to read their minds — it struck me that in her contact with Grindelwald and his followers she doesn’t give any sign of mindreading (to Rosier: “Oh, are you married?”). This trouble might be attributed to her difficulty with French and “accents” as she put in the first film, but she hasn’t lost the ability; in her finding Jacob again at the rally; the script clearly says “reading his mind” (scene 111, p 241). And that at the Underground Amphitheater rally she doesn’t give any sign that she wants to speak to Tina (what she had told Jacob she was going to Paris to do: “I’m gonna go see my sister,” in scene 37).

I think she was also delighted to see Jacob again there, because his presence with her confirms her supposed motivation for wanting to listen to what Grindelwald has to say; their being together gives the impression to Grindelwald that she believes his talk about loving freely. We read in the script (scene 112) that when Grindelwald says the words ” … and for love” his eyes meet Queenie’s. I think he opens the fire ring for her; he wants her to join his service with her remarkable abilities. 

Or it could just be she is relieved that she’ll be able to protect Jacob from what she knows is coming.

Why does she scream to Jacob “Walk with me!”? It gave me the creeps. If she knew, though, from her mind reading among Grindelwald’s followers (Abernathy!) that Grindelwald was going to open the circular blue fire of death for her and that Gellert planned on killing everyone left behind, of course she would beg Jacob, helpless No-Maj that he is, to follow her lest he be destroyed, unable to escape the way Newt, Theseus, Tina, and the Aurors could.

This story-behind-the-story explains Queenie’s defection to Grindelwald’s team. She is playing the “crazy” card to fool Jacob, Newt, and us in the theater seats, not to mention Grindelwald, in order to help defeat him, the man Queenie has not forgotten sentenced her sister to death in the MACUSA black pool execution chamber.

Of all the embedded texts in Crimes of Grindelwald, then, I think the most important and most neglected is Queenie’s postcard from Tina. Newt falls into the story-interpretation trap she has laid for him in his flat (on Dumbledore’s direction?) to bring him and Jacob to Paris despite the Ministry’s travel ban so they can find and help Tina. Queenie is freed thereby to spy at the French Ministry and to infiltrate herself into Grindelwald’s inner circle. Rather than being the blonde ditz she seems, Queenie is the high powered player and most important agent on the ground for Dumbledore’s Golden Book Alliance of Alchemists.

Thank you, Jan Voetberg, for this excellent example of an embedded text and how Rowling is teaching us how to read with penetration — and avoid the mistakes of characters inside her stories! I hope HogPro readers will share their thoughts about ‘Queenie’s Quest’ in the comment boxes below (click on ‘add comment’ up by the post title).


  1. Beatrice Groves says:

    Jan, thanks very much for a post that helpfully tries to make sense of so many of the aspects of Queenie’s story! The problem with any reading of Queenie as a clued-up double agent, rather than hopeless stooge, however, is her passing through the fire. We know that even someone who is 90% behind Grindelwald but has doubts – Krall – is consumed by it. So if Queenie were against Grindelwald surely it would destroy her too? There is no evidence of G. opening up a path for her – she has to walk through the fire (s.d. ‘walks through the black fire’).

    I also think that the stage directions are lying to us if Queenie is not taken in by G. (which passes over from allowable ‘narrative misdirection’ to non-allowable ‘con’ in my book!). Rowling writes in the ‘omniscient’ voice of the s.d.: ‘Queenie, now heart and soul his’. I don’t think Rowling can give us that s.d., and have Queenie as a double-agent, and be playing fair.

  2. Melissa D Aaron (Moonyprof) says:

    I actually was going to write something on this, and I probably will later, but according to Alison Sudol, she definitely cannot “read” thoughts. She is, consequently, overcome with thousands of emotions with no explanation in a busy city she doesn’t know.

    I don’t think she is in an intentional plot, but there’s no doubt that Grindelwald has assessed her (not the same thing), figured out what she can do for him and how she could be useful, and then plans to acquire her.

  3. Kelly Loomis says:

    Rowling has also said that Queenie sometimes makes wrong conclusions or interpretations based on what she “reads”. For instance, her pronouncement of Leta as a taker to Newt. I have an increasing awareness that no matter how much we analyze and make “educated” guesses, Rowling always has something up her sleeve that we may never have imagined.

    I have seen conflicting “evidence” for both scenarios playing out – Queenie as Dumbledore’s secret agent and Queenie as taken in by Grindelwald. I think Rowling does this to us. Sometimes I wonder how much she pays attention to fan posts on different mediums chuckling to herself that she has hoodwinked us???

  4. Jan Voetberg says:

    I do not think that the ring of fire automatically, mechanically, selects Grindelwald’s followers: “half a dozen aurors lose their heads and run through the flames to Grindelwald.” These are not devoted (or, as Rosier had put it, “deeply committed”) followers. And: “The black flames are coming towards them (i.e. Queenie and Jacob, JV) fast.” The flames also pursue fleeing aurors. I think the exact explanation of what the flames do, is in two sentences: “He spins and draws a PROTECTIVE circle of black fire around himself.” And, the most important one: “Grindelwald conducts the flames as though leading an orchestra.” Both mean: the flames do his bidding.

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