Crimes of Grindelwald: Stray Thoughts

I have seen Crimes of Grindelwald twice now and started reading and charting the “original screenplay.” This work is being delayed because of a flood of revelations about Rowling’s real story, the shooting script.

The biggest secret of the story, one kept much better than before the first film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, is which scenes from the shooting script were cut for the final version of the movie, the so-called “deleted scenes.” That secret is busting open now with reports of more than fifteen deleted scenes, ones we had been shown in the various trailers and others which actors are discussing now in their endless junket interviews. If we are to see Rowling’s artistry rather than Yates’ blockbuster formula edit, we have to have these scenes in their sequence to chart the ring or whatever “structure” The Presence told us was her singular accomplishment in telling this ensemble story.

So, that’s a work in progress! While I sort through that with help from various friends, I hope to share some guest posts this week and some stray thoughts for your consideration and comment. Today’s three thoughts are about Travers, the Weekend Box Office, and a Lethal White plot point as a potential clue for solving Crimes of Grindelwald’s ‘Aurelius Dumbledore’ mystery. Join me for those after the jump!

(1) Travers and Dumbledore’s Legilimency Skills: Karkaroff names Travers as a Death Eater in the testimony he gave to the Ministry in hopes of being freed from Azkaban (see Harry’s experience of that testimony in Goblet of Fire‘s ch 30, ‘The Pensieve’). In one of the central scenes of the edited film, number fifteen in my provisional scene groupings into thirty chapters, Travers comes to Hogwarts to demand Albus Dumbledore choose sides and fight Grindelwald. The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher refuses and is manacled magically so all his movements will be monitored.

The take-away from the scene, though, is Dumbledore’s telling Theseus once Travers is out of ear shot not to go to a Grindelwald meeting to break it up if Travers orders him to. All he can offer as evidence or argument that Theseus should accept Dumbledore’s guidance rather than his boss’ direction is “If you ever trusted me…” As it turns out, of course, Travers does order Theseus to break up the meeting beneath the Paris graveyard, Theseus goes but orders his men not to do anything but observe, and Gellert’s script of staged Auror violence is acted out for the consumption of and dissemination by his Pure Blood audience.

We are shown an alley way scene (57, p 122-123) in which Grindelwald meets with Grimmson, the Beast Hunter in the Ministry’s employ, after the Hunter has killed Irma, Credence’s nanny. Grimmson is revealed to be a Grindelwald agent. Can we assume Travers is, too?

I think the best we can do on this is a “maybe he is.” Dumbledore knows that Travers plans to break up the graveyard meeting after their confrontation in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. How did he learn this? I have to think it was the greatest wizard of his age’s legilimency in action. Does that mean Travers is a Grindelwald stooge. Not necessarily. Travers may just be determined to infiltrate a Greater Good gathering and arrest Grindelwald, which young Dumbledore may understand isd exactly what the brilliant script writer Grindelwald needs to stage his depiction of himself as the victim of government oppression, the recruiting message that Albus specifically warns Travers against in their confrontation.

But that Travers becomes a Voldemort follower and Death Eater at least leaves open that he was a Grindelwald supporter as well. Right?

(2) Box Office: It cost over $200 million dollars to make Crimes of Grindelwald and who knows how many gazillions to market this monster of an ensemble production in the global marketplace. Sages of Hollywood bean counting estimated that the film had to take in $65 million in its global release weekend to have a shot of making real money. It made $62 million, with a disappointing take in the American market but compensating ‘greater than expectations’ receipts in Europe, China, and other markets.

“So what?,” you ask. This first take at the box office means there will be more films, which, especially considering how open-ended the finale to this installment was and that we don’t have a book in hand telling us how it all comes together (except that Dumbledore defeats Grindelwald?), has to be considered good news, I think.

(3) Lethal White and the Mystery of Aurelius Dumbledore: If you have been following the discussion on the various HogwartsProfessor Crimes of Grindelwald threads, you have read some of the speculation about how it might be possible for Credence to be a brother of Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore. One of the wilder ideas offered has been that Gellert Grindelwald sired a child with Kendra Dumbledore during his time at Albus’ home, post Durmstrang expulsion. We have at least two pointers to this unlikely event in Crimes of Grindelwald’s borderline bizarro narrative plot points: Queenie’s charming Jacob into love-struck imbcility to force their marraiage against his will and the interior story line about Corvus’s conception by a father who magically seduces a happily married woman, Kama’s mother.

I think the possibility is wonderfully implausible but entertain the thought with some delight both because of Dumbledore’s comment to Travers (“We were closer than brothers”) with the Oedipal possibilities therein and, more important, the metafiction possibilities in a crossover revelation via the new Cormoran Strike mystery, Lethal White. That story turns on the secret liaison between a guileless woman and her sociopathic lover step-son who manipulates her into a murderous, adulterous, almost incestuous affair. A Kendra-Gellert romance would have almost all the same touches, no?

And what fun that would be, if Rowling hid the key that unlocks the global Wizarding World Fantastic Beasts franchise’s fundamental mystery inside the Robert Galbraith detective fiction she is writing simultaneously with the Beasts screenplays and which very few of her Potter-phile audience members have read. Just a thought!

Let me know what you think of my Travers speculation, box office news, and Kendra-Gellert ‘shipping via Cormoran Strike! Your comments, corrections, questions and answers are coveted!


  1. I’ve had a handful of thoughts concerning the film, but nothing cohesive enough for a unified post. Here, therefore, are thoughts in no particular order:

    1. Kendra-Gellert parallels the myth of Phaedra and Hippolytus reasonably well, placing it within the wider Theseus narrative. I had been wondering what a seeming Phaedra reference was doing in Lethal White when I saw that narrative, given that a Theseus myth reference was outside the established mythological temporal setting of the Lethal White (post-Argo, pre-Troy).

    2. On another note, most of the difficulties and seeming errors we seem to be facing with C of G are an excessive presence of those chronology errors too common in Rowling’s works (in particular, the not-yet-born McGonagall’s cameo as a teacher, the difficulties in working Aurelius’s birth into the Dumbledore chronology, etc.). This, however, may finally be intentional. I have commented before on the large scale chronology of Greek Myth. This is a reasonably well structured system, mostly internally consistent, unless you insist on including the character of Theseus. The Athenians, in their eagerness to establish themselves politically, insisted on having Theseus meet/interact with/have a cameo in the story of almost every hero from Oedipus to the Trojan War, which messes with any reasonable attempt at chronology. (Eager fans wanting more material, almost regardless of the consistency with the existing canon, is nothing new). Consequent theory: Rowling, faced with the need to produce popular fan-pleasing material, chose to structure it according to a myth (Theseus) that would use inconsistent chronology as a necessary feature (in imitation of the Theseus myth), freeing her to create without a strict concern for continuity. Further, in imitation of the Athenian’s political use of stretching the mythological timeline, we should expect the series to have a chiefly political focus. Thus, faced with crowd-pleasing demands, she chose a myth that has as its fundamental aspect its crowd-pleasing temporal-inconsistency with political motivation.

    3. As to the political point. The narrative has placed the protagonists firmly on the side of not seeking tyrannical power, even though that will allow the rise of Fascism and a new world war. Perhaps a suggestion that the “enlightened Left”/wizards internationally should not abandon principles of freedom even if that means allowing the rise of populist movements/Nazis. Comparing Grindelwald to CORE might be of use. Grindelwald is presented as progressive while also privately professing racism, perhaps as parallel to early 1910s/1920s progressives, e.g. Woodrow Wilson. Further, given that Dumbledore’s side wins, the side of not wielding excessive political power to stop Fascism, perhaps this sets the culture of the wizarding world less at odds to quasi-Hitlerish ideas when Voldemort comes to power.

    4. Aurelius seems to be acting out the Theseus narrative. Of noble birth, of ambiguous birth on account of the Sea/Poseidon, and setting forth to right political wrongs involving monsters. Nagini/Ariadne, cast away by Aurelius/Theseus, joins with Voldemort/Dionysus, perhaps.

    The scene where Theseus Scamander is bound to a chair by Tina nicely parallels the binding of Theseus in the underworld when he attempted to steal Proserpina from Hades, in which he gets stuck to a chair until Hercules rescues him. (“Porpentina” as sound-alike to Proserpina, perhaps?)

  2. John, I haven’t followed your discussions of the Cormoran Strike series since I haven’t read them. I’m giving The Cuckoo”s Calling a try right now. But it’s very interesting and surprising for me to learn that you also discovered hints that Credence could be a result of a fling between teenager Gellert Grindelwald and Kendra Dumbledore! I expressed exactly the same idea in the Questions thread.
    If we go with more realistic plotlines, this has become my favorite head canon atm. So many pieces of the puzzle fit together extremely well. Only the timeline is a bit iffy, since Kendra died in 1899 and the baby swapping on the sinking ship happened in 1901. So, Credence needed to be either a very small child for his age, or he wasn’t identical with the swapped child. Which is quite possible, and the baby swapping episode might be a clever piece of misdirection. There must be a reason, why Irma died in good old mystery tradition before she could divulge more…
    If Credence is really Kendra’s and Grindelwald’s son, it’s an interesting question who seduced whom. In my head canon a lonely and middle aged Kedra was the wizard version of Mrs. Robinson and young and precocious Gellert was the Graduate. I very much picture Kendra as an Anne-Bancroft lookalike now – which would match rather well with her description☺ It’s possible of course that it was the other way round and Grindelwald was the seducer. And there may have been a love potion, which would mirror Tom Riddle’s conception. Anyway, it would make Credence truly Dumbledore’s half brother and Grindelwald’s son. A most intriguing constellation!

    Since then I have offered another, far more fantastical story line, where Credence could have been the product of an alchemical experiment. Susan Sipal had a very similar and more profoundly researched idea. This would be a much more original plot line than the well worn trope of the long lost illegitimate son.

    I haven’t the foggiest idea right now if any of these theories have merit. Personally I would prefer the more realistic idea that Credence is the product of a very normal biological process. It would set up so many interesting constellations! I find the alternative – that Credence was created by some kind of alchemical experiment which involved blood and who knows what kind of ingredients, slightly repulsive. But JKR has alread described the creation of a human body for Voldemort’s splintered soul by very dark magic in the graveyard scene from The Goblet Of Fire. Therefore I wouldn’t exclude that she revisits this theme.
    We will have to wait for two more years 🙁
    Hopefully the series doesn’t get derailed by all the bad reviews. The movie has apparently slightly underperformed at the box office in the US. But the world wide performance seems to be even better than FB1. So, the movie will probably make enough money for being profitable, especially since it will probably remain in movie theaters until Christmas. Here in Germany the reviews have been okay, and the movie theaters are well visited.

    I would be interested to discuss why the movie has generated so much controversies – like Johnny Depp’s casting and Nagini’s story line, to name just two of the more prominent issues. Although I’m not exactly fond of Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald, those themes have been totally blown out of proportion IMO. Why is there such a strong backlash against the very existence of the FB franchise and JKR right now?

  3. Beatrice Groves says

    Fascinating stuff Evan! Some thoughts in reply:

    1. I’m not sure how strong the Phaedra link is in Lethal White – do you just mean who couples up with who? Phaedra is rejected by her son-in-law and commits suicide to frame him for rape. There are things that resonate here, but they are all at odds with how the plot plays out – is there a specific Phaedra reference I’ve missed? Its true, though, that its another ‘horse-obsessed’ literary parallel! (Incidentally I’ve always assumed Hippolytus’s mother’s name – Hippolyta who has been linked by Elizabeth Baird Hardy with with Leta [] – is a back formation from her son’s name, given that she has no particular link with horses. Which gives him a sort of coded presence even within stories – such as Midsummer Night’s Dream – where is not. It reminds us of the next stage of the story and that there is a tragic story to follow after that of Theseus and Hippolyta.).

    2. I love your ‘Theseus excuse’ for the chronology problems! I suppose one problem with this is that for hard-core fans at least, this is *not* what they want – they want the chronology to match up! But agreed that the general fans are probably just want to new story to touch on all their favourite bits of the existing story.

    3. Yes, in HP Dumbledore’s defeat of Grindelwald in 1945, signalled from early in the first book Rowling’s ambition to tie in her ‘good guys’ with the defeat of fascism. And later ideas (particularly at the beginning of HP6) about the Wizarding War adversely affecting Muggles suggested, conversely, that D’s defeat of G might actually have assisted – not just paralleled – the allied defeat of Nazis. Grindelwald’s use of WWII as something that his rise will obviate however, need not mean that his rise will stop the rise of fascism in the real world. Only that fascism will go unchallenged. So it could be argued that in CofG Rowling continues to tie Grindelwald closely to real world Nazi ideology, just as she did with Voldemort.

  4. Kelly Loomis says

    @Sabine, I have several friends in Germany. If you wouldn’t mind sharing, what part are you from?

    I think some of the backlash is a generation of young adults who grew up reading Rowling. They, as a whole, are very progressively minded. They felt in her books that Rowling was speaking against certain themes of racism, classism, and gender/sexual orientation bias. They have now grown up and champion these causes.

    In general, they cry out against ANYTHING they think contradicts these ideals and will not tolerate those who don’t agree with them. They see Rowling having declared war on these issues in her HP series and are demanding she put these front and center in storylines and casting decisions They want “out there” in plain view representation of all their ideals.

    Plus, they are very invested in the canon and lore. Anything which seems to go against what they feel are unalterable facts in the Wizarding World is target practice for them.

    They believe Rowling tweets values but doesn’t back them up in her work. They feel the franchise is too white, too straight and misogynistic. Because they grew up with the works, they feel a certain ownership and right to take Rowling to task.

    However, on the other hand, I have seen youth feel this way about many artists, businesses or governmental entities.. So I do not think it’s particular to only Rowling. But I think she represents their childhood and ferlshe should “grow up” as they have.

  5. Kelly Loomis says

    I also have another idea as to fans not accepting the movie. With the HP books, fans had time in between reading and knowing the endings and twists. For instance, how much time passed after reading about Snape killing Dumbledore and when the movie came out. People were able to digest, argue and talk through the revelation long before seeing it on screen. Now the audience is getting hit with the information with no time to process before taking to social media. Also, how many of these forums existed for those kind of opinions to circulate and fuel each other?

    John is going to be adding another review I read and encouraged the author to submit. She has some good ideas regarding the story and how this one is different than any HP book and even FB1. I din’t Want to give her thoughts out if they will be appearing as a post.

  6. Melissa Aaron says

    “(Eager fans wanting more material, almost regardless of the consistency with the existing canon, is nothing new),” or as Woody Allen’s character says in Annie Hall, “this restaurant is terrible.” “Yeah, and there are such small portions.” When Deathly Hallows came out and people complained that they didn’t know enough, I said, “thank heaven and Rowling that there is not more.” So few people were satisfied with the relationships at the end that I thought it was a good thing that she left so much unsaid. Fans could then think what they wanted. And, to be honest, they still can. If I wanted to write about a passionate extramarital affair between two of my favorite characters, no one is stopping me. (I wouldn’t, but nothing prevents me from doing so). One of my friends has decided that Hedwig wasn’t killed, but flew away. I think we both know that she didn’t, but in our minds, she sailed away and hangs around with the tropical birds Sirius used to send messages. I am at liberty to think and say, “hmm. I know she wrote Lupin and Tonks, but I’m just not buying it.”

    What fans cannot have is that Rowling make their hopes and dreams canon. In particular, fans should never, ever, demand to know about ‘ships from any creator, let alone Rowling. They are bound to be disappointed. And Rowling is more or less unmoved by the wishes of her fandom. The creators of Supernatural may write to suit their audience, but Rowling writes what she feels is true, and that is it.

  7. @Kelly, I’m living in Hannover atm and was born near the Baltica Sea.
    I agree with your thoughts re: the possible reasons for the lack of acceptance of the movie even by Potter Fans.

Speak Your Mind