Is Newt Scamander a Dumbledore?

Last night I was re-reading a post that a reader had told me in the comment boxes had two undecipherable sentences. I found a link in that Fantastic Beasts 1 deleted scenes discussion to Rowling’s having said in an interview that the Demiguise was her favorite fantastic beast: “They have the ability to become invisible at will, which is a power that has always appealed to me, so I love the Demiguise.”

I wondered, “Could the Demiguise be Newt’s Patronus?” That would be a nice surprise and appropriate somehow, given Newt’s private nature and that he baby-sits all his magical creatures the way Dougall does the baby Occamy in the first Beasts film. I googled “Newt Scamander patronus” to see if anyone else had thought of this before I shared it here.

No, no one had written it up online at least. But I learned through that search that Rowling had been asked the question on her Twitter feed and she had responded that telling us Newt’s Patronus would be a “Big Spoiler.” I sent this information to my private cadre of Potter Pundits along with my Top Ten list of probable Patroni (Patronuses?) for Newt and the request that they share any beasts I left out that would be “Big Spoilers.”

Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, immediately responded with, “I feel like a phoenix would make the biggest spoiler…!” When pressed for her reasoning, i.e., was she suggesting that Newt was a Dumbledore,  she shared,

I wasn’t meaning anything too wild – just that Newt was also a Dumbledore! (given that Dumbledore’s patronus is a Phoenix – so in this case it can be about who you are, not just who you are in love with). Given the phoenix imagery in Crimes of Grindelwald – and the idea that this bird proves you are a Dumbledore, I’d have thought it was one of the beasts with the most symbolic potential in the series hence the one with biggest spoiler potential *and* we don’t know anything about Newt’s parentage?

I wasn’t working from the ‘who might Newt be?’ end of things, just from the ‘what animal might be the biggest spoiler?’ end of things!

Huh. Newt Scamander a Dumbledore? … That would be a big reveal if Rowling’s telling us Newt’s Patronus suggested that. Join me after the jump for discussion of this “Big Spoiler” theory, ‘Newt Scamander-Dumbledore.’

We were told in the very first edition of Fantastic Beasts, the red slim paperback ComicRelief edition with Harry and Ron’s annotations, that his mother was a hippogriff breeder (FYI, that ‘About the Author’ page has not appeared in any subsequent versions of Newt’s book). We weren’t told anything about his father. The only other thing we know about Newt’s mother comes from Inside the Magic: The Making of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in which it is said she was “not impressed” with her younger son’s career in Magizoology.

The ‘About the Author’ page also tells us Newt was born in 1897, which means Kendra Dumbledore was still alive (d. 1899) but that her husband Percival was either in Azkaban (imprisoned c. 1890) or dead. Albus would have been 16 in 1897 and Aberforth 13 or 14. It is ‘conceivable,’ then, but unlikely that either brother could have fathered a child at that age. Kendra, however, if she birthed Albus at age 25, would have been 41 and pre-menopause.

I’m going to assume consequently that, if Newt is a Dumbledore, he is the son of Kendra Dumbledore, a child born out of wedlock. If she is the default candidate to have been Newt’s biological mother, what do we know about Kendra that suggests this possibility is more or less probable?

We know that Kendra was intensely private, that she moved her family to Godric’s Hollow after Percival’s incarceration, and, we are told in Deathly Hallows, that she lived apart from her neighbors to protect Ariana’s condition from becoming public knowledge (and the girl being institutionalized at St Mungo’s). Remember Aberforth: “I knew my brother, Potter. He learned secrecy at our mother’s knee. Secrets and lies, that’s how we grew up…” It’s plausible, therefore, that if she did become pregnant, Kendra could have and would have kept the affair a secret, delivered the baby, and sent it abroad to conceal its origin and protect her children from further stigmatization.

Harry Potter thinks, after seeing a photograph of her in Deathly Hallows, that Kendra looked Native American. Elphias Doge tells Harry that she was Muggle-born. Let’s assume that these two points are correct and that Kendra was not only a Muggle-born First Nations witch, but also that she was from North America, was educated at Ilvermorny, and that she came to the attention of Percival Dumbledore because she was, a la Hermione, a Muggle-born witch we know, the smartest witch of her generation. That’s a real reach, I know, but not quite baseless speculation.

The Dumbledores marry, settle in Mould-on-the-Wold, and have three children. Ariana is attacked by three Muggles when she was six years old; the language Rowling uses to describe the attack and the violence of Percival’s response has caused Patrick McCauley to theorize in Into the Pensieve that she was raped. After Percival is imprisoned (c. 1890), Kendra and her children move to Godric’s Hollow where they live in near isolation except for the boys’ education at Hogwarts until Kendra’s death in 1899. As the Harry Potter Lexicon puts it, “Kendra was accidentally killed by Ariana’s out-of-control magic.”

What if she had a fourth child in 1897, though, the boy who would become known as Newt Scamander? How does that bizarre possibility fit into the story we learn in Crimes of Grindelwald and the first Fantastic Beasts film?

First, we have to figure out how Newt, son of Kendra Dumbledore, became a Scamander. The obvious course is that his biological father was Theseus’ father. Newt’s integration into the Scamander family couldn’t have been easy because Theseus is eight years older than Newt; the older brother had to have known, even if his brother didn’t, that this was not the son of his mother the hippogriff trainer. Newt and Theseus, from this view, are only half-brothers — and Newt’s mother doesn’t really care for him, given her husband’s infidelity. Hence the “not impressed” line. Theseus is protective of his half-brother but they’re not especially close despite his efforts. Both mother and brother keep Newt’s illegitimacy out of the public domain, perhaps even outside his knowing.

Newt according to this line doesn’t go home for vacations at Hogwarts not because of wounded birds needing his care but because there isn’t much of a home there for him at the Scamanders. Mom and dad may have divorced, in fact, when she learned of Newt’s existence but she takes the boy in, Petunia-style. Theseus, for obvious reasons, older and legitimate, is the maternal favorite.

Albus Dumbledore, despite Kendra’s attempts to conceal the facts, is aware of his mother’s love child, the second great family secret, and tells Gellert about his younger half-brother Newt during their no-secrets, closer-than-brothers summer together. Hence Grindelwald’s cryptic comments to Newt as GrindelGraves about Dumbeldore in the MACUSA interrogation room, and as he is led off to prison after Newt subdues him, and in the Lestrange Crypt Auditorium at the end of Crimes. 

Another obstacle is, if Dumbledore knows all this, why doesn’t he just tell Newt after his graduation from Hogwarts (assuming that happened) that they, too, are half-brothers? It seems borderline sadistic to hold on that secret just to protect the Dumbledore family honor. Newt, like Credence, must want to know who his real mother is if his brother or mother ever revealed the truth of why Daddy Scamander left home.

Well… Newt tells us in the latest edition of Fantastic Beasts that “Albus Dumbledore was something more than a teacher to me” and that he cannot say more lest he break both the Official Magical Secrets Act and Dumbledore’s “confidences” (p xvi). Perhaps that means that Newt will be told sometime in the coming adventures.

As it is, Albus thinks the world of Newt Scamander, which high estimation would be a mystery explained if the older man knew they were related. He shares with the young Magizooligist the family legend of a phoenix coming to help a Dumbledore in need. We see a phoenix at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald at Nurmengard, a chick that appeared to Credence in Paris, but did it come as fulfillment of prophecy on its own or by Grindelwald’s machinations to foster Credence’s belief that he is the lost Dumbledore brother, ‘Aurelius’?

We are told in the Lestrange family drama a Gothic story of illegitimate children, confused identities, and lives of remorse, regret, and revenge on the part of separated half-siblings. Beyond the puzzle and confusion of Leta’s recall of her Titanic-esque adventure (one that we will have to learn more about to decipher), could this aptly named ‘le strange’ tale be also a suggestive parallel and foreshadowing of another family’s half-sibling and their reconciliation with him in time?

Credence is striving to find his family roots and discover who he is; perhaps the great turn-around ending will involve his discovering his identity at the same time Newt learns his. I’d guess that will be when Fawkes rescues the Magizooligist and Credence but because Newt is the Dumbledore, not ‘Aurelius.’

Ask yourself this: “Rowling has told us the revelation of Newt’s Patronus would be a ‘Big Spoiler.’ If Newt Scamander’s Patronus is a phoenix, can you think of a bigger story twist consequent to this reveal than it serving as a pointer to Newt’s being a Dumbledore?” I can’t.

Fan fiction or a reasonable theory? Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below! Hat-tip to Beatrice Groves for the suggestion that Newt could be a Dumbledore and his Patronus a Phoenix. [Yes, I know that Aberforth’s Patronus is a goat!]

 

Comments

  1. Josh Richards says:

    At the behest of John, I provide the following comment originally from an email:

    So, I saw Crimes of Grindelwald (against the advice of a written review and at the behest of my brother and sister-in-law). While I was very much pleased with it as a film experience (and think that its understanding of post-war Europe is deeply underrated–it got that note-perfect), I did dislike that I felt the tale was growing in instead of out.

    One of the things I most enjoyed about Fantastic Beasts was the way that the story was an expansion of the world of the Harry Potter series without a teleological bent. In other words, the first film didn’t always feel like it was an over-embroidered set-up. While, yes, there was, as you point out, the feeling of foreshadowing, it didn’t have the sense that the events of HP were the culmination of all wizarding world history. The nods to HP in the first film felt like winking asides for the cognoscenti but without being dependent on prior investment in HP. Crimes of Grindelwald very much felt dependent on HP for understanding and impact, which was the bane of the Star Wars prequels; we are being given a story whose culmination lies outside itself.

    One thinks of G. K. Chesterton’s comment on Greek mythology in Everlasting Man; that it “was the young world’s riot with images and ideas like a young man’s riot with wine or love-making; it was not so much immoral as irresponsible; it had no foresight of the final test of time. Because it was creative to any extent it was credulous to any extent. It belonged to the artistic side of man, yet even considered artistically it had long become overloaded and entangled. The family trees sprung from the seed of Jupiter were a jungle rather than a forest; the claims of the gods and demigods seemed like things to be settled rather by a lawyer or a professional herald than by a poet.” Thus, the Dumbledore family tree begins to grow less like an oak and more a banyan. Perhaps, the Greek example shows the irresistible allure of this on the part of the author, a temptation to write fanfiction of one’s own world, which is what Crimes of Grindelwald felt like at times. This seems, on the part of J. K. Rowling, less immoral than irresponsible. I sigh, but I’m not righteously indignant.

    Thus, I felt like, to quote Horace, that the Beasts series promised better things.

    Josh Richards
    Assistant Professor of English
    Williams Baptist University
    Occasional Hogwarts Professor Contributor

  2. Sharon Leighton says:

    We’re told that one of J. K. Rowling’s favorite authors is E. Nesbit. Would it be possible for her phoenixes to be so utterly different from E. Nesbit’s phoenix that it would be possible for Grindelwald to manipulate or entrap one into entering Credence’s life? E. Nesbit’s phoenix, in case you’ve forgotten, would, upon finding itself in unpleasant company, burn itself up and, instead of being reborn as a chick at that moment, would take shape in an egg that would only hatch when it again found itself in favorable company, even if that took thousands of years. Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix was so magical that it could disapparate – and take Albus with it – from a magically guarded place from which no one could disapparate. And he disappeared after singing his lament over Albus. They really cannot be held against their will.

    One comment about Percival Dumbledore. Given that he was a Dumbledore, is it impossible that a phoenix appeared to him in Azkaban and removed him as effectively as Fawkes removed Albus from Hogwarts? Why is it assumed that he was doomed to remain in Azkaban for the rest of his life just because he went there? If Sirius could get out, surely a Dumbledore could!

    The scenario described in the post would not make Newt a Dumbledore. It would make him Albus’ half-brother, which is quite possible, but it would not make him a Dumbledore. Being born of a woman who was married to a Dumbledore and a man who was not a Dumbledore cannot, legally or genetically, make him a Dumbledore. However, either Newt or Credence (or both) could conceivably be Dumbledores if Percival escaped from Azkaban and lived a new and hidden life, with his old self forgotten.

  3. Wayne Stauffer says:

    Makes sense to me on the basis ofthe scant deyails so far.
    Thanks, John.

  4. Kelly Loomis says:

    My mind is swirling. Too many possibilities and theories floating around to try and keep track of. Details…upon details….to try and decipher.

  5. Brian Basore says:

    The author is in the habit of releasing family information on a need to know basis, as determined by her. We were told more about the Evans family than the next to nothing about the ancient pure blood Wizard family the Potters, for example.

    Hagrid was able to gather photos for Harry’s family photo book but there’s no indication Harry tried to talk to any of the old family friends who supplied the photos. And so on with other families.

    If the writers decide that Credence is a Potter or some other family as yet unmentioned to the reader/viewer, that will be what we are told, and it won’t materially change Harry’s story in the already published future.

  6. Kelly Loomis says:

    A thought just came to me regarding this as a possibility and how Rowling has huge misdirects. In the HP books, there was often a “bad guy” misdirect. Could the big misdirect of this series be that Credence’s identity is the big deal when it is really Newt’s identity that will blow us away at the end of the series??

    But…as Sharon points out, if Newt is Kendra and Mr Scamander senior’s son, he would not be a Dumbledore.

  7. That the son of Kendra Dumbledore would not be a Dumbledore because she was not born a Dumbledore is juridical thinking, frankly. It is genetic sophistry and materialism that ignores the facts of a marriage and family to insist on that distinction. When Kendra Dumbledore wed Percival they became one person, hence her change of name (women who insist on keeping their birth names hold a distinctly modern, individualistic idea of ‘marriage’ in which the miraculous blending of two contraries into one is not acknowledged publicly). This spiritual reality trumps chromosomes; Kendra’s son or daughter, even if conceived when a widow-not-remarried, is as much a Dumbledore as Albus, Aberforth, or Ariana.

  8. Leslie Barnhart says:

    Interesting theory! Newt strikes me as a definite pre-Hagrid type, and possibly the first “Department of Magical Creatures” head, since it doesn’t exist yet. He mirrors Dumbledore’s belief in everyone in his belief in all animals, just as Hagrid does later on. As for the spoiler from the patronus, I wonder if it’s more along the lines of the boggart – his boggart (a desk) is a definite change up from the line of usual things people fear. Perhaps his patronus only tells us more about him than we know and our only guarantee is that it won’t be the usual patronus types?

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