Crimes of Grindelwald: The Elder Wand

J. K. Rowling has said that her Fantastic Beasts films are about “how Dumbledore became Dumbledore.” Whatever you make of that, I think the obvious point too easily neglected is that this film franchise will lead, not just to the 1945 battle between Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore, but, more importantly, to a bridge connecting this series with the Hogwarts Saga. A key piece of that bridge building is going to be the three Deathly Hallows and, specifically, the Elder Wand.

I want to briefly discuss here why we know this is the case and what happened in Crimes of Grindelwald to build the Scamander-Potter Bridge and reveal mastery of the Elder Wand.

There is already a bridge, of course, linking the two stories. The prequel Beasts series would be unintelligible except for the twenty years of Wizarding World building that preceded it. Those unfamiliar with Hogwarts, Muggle-Wizard relations, even the relatively detailed history of Dumbledore and Grindelwald will find the Fantastic Beasts films a bizarre instance of experimental theater in which all the essential back story is left unspoken. Rowling’s task here, then, is not to build a bridge — her previous novels and screenplay connect the worlds — but to build the plotline and history of the Potter adventures that we didn’t know, most importantly, the background of Albus Dumbledore.

We know that the Deathly Hallows are a critical piece in the bridge-making Rowling is doing between Beasts and Harry Potter because of its placement in the films and its ubiquity in the marketing for the new movies. GrindelGraves in the franchise’s first installment gives Credence Barebone a Hallows talisman through which he is to communicate with his master and mentor. In Crimes of Grindelwald, the wizard plotting the overthrow of the magical regime and suppression of Muggles wields the Death Stick or Elder Wand for all to see. Not to mention the Deathly Hallows bisected circle in a triangle carved into Leta’s old desk at Hogwarts… Every advertisement and trailer for the second film has the three parts of the Deathly Hallows symbol — circle, triangle, and vertical line — embedded and highlighted in the letters of the movie’s title. Pictures of Newt have been photo-shopped so that he is embodied in a triangulated circle.

We do not learn about the Deathly Hallows in the Potter adventures until the finale of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in which we discover alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione, what Dumbledore has known throughout the books. ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’ in Beedle the Bard is a fable-ized history of the Peverell brothers and three Hallows, all of which are real, existent, and the most powerful of magical artifacts by themselves and taken together. Harry’s victory over the Dark Lord in the Battle of Hogwarts turns on his having become, unknown to Lord Voldemort, the master of the Elder Wand. Dumbledore’s plan to have Snape kill him was largely to transfer the mastery to the Potions Master, a plan which Draco ruined when he disarmed the Headmaster on the Astronomy Tower.

The bridge between the Scamander films, “how Dumbledore became Dumbledore,” will include our seeing the events and people who teach Albus what he knows so well in Harry Potter’s day. In this film, for example, we see the relatively young professor before the Mirror of Erised, a tool he uses to tutor Harry (and frustrate Lord Voldemort) in Philosopher’s Stone. Newt’s comment to Albus on the Hogwarts viaduct about Grindelwald not “understanding the nature of things he considers simple” is close to an essential-sense if not verbatim quotation of what the elder Headmaster will say to Harry about Lord Voldemort:

That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.

I think Nifflers fit on that list, too.

That Dumbledore’s sacrificial death plan to defeat the Dark Lord in VoldeWar II turns on mastery of the Elder Wand I have to think is something he learned in his first great fight with a Dark Wizard. The careful film viewer and screenplay reader will be rewarded, consequently, by keeping an eye on who is the master of the Elder Wand over the course of the five films.

As noted here at the end of Newt’s first adventure, Newt Scamander, by taking GrindelGraves’ wand after the Swooping Evil subdues him, has become its master (and, no, the Elder Wand master does not have to be holding the Death Stick itself to lose mastery, cf., Harry gaining mastery by disarming Draco Malfoy in Hallows). Some say Tina is the master because she accio’s the wand, but, no matter. Kama in Crimes of Grindelwald disarms both Newt and Tina in his hideout (Scene 61) and is now the master (Jan Voetberg was the first to note this important detail and its significance).

I believe that in the end, just as Grindelwald didn’t notice the Niffler and guard the Blood Pact vial from the simple creature’s skills and just as the Dark Lord could not grasp “love, loyalty, and innocence,” the Master of the Elder Wand in the end will be Jacob Kowalski, the No-Maj American Jew, three points of deplorable to the aryan Nordic exponent of the magical master race. How it moves from Kama to Jacob, of course, I have no idea, but I suspect it will be Dumbledore’s plan in the end to decieve his former friend.

And perhaps its success, if shared even obliquely with Sirius Black, accounts for a similar plan to deceive the Dark Lord by making the Potter’s secret keeper a lowly wizard he might overlook…

Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!


  1. John, apparently JKR told Dan Fogler that the character of Jacob is a Christian as mentioned in this article: I suppose that could change though.

  2. Great find, Kemara!

    Fogler assumed his character was Jewish until he asked “Fantastic Beasts” screenwriter J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” books, during the film’s shoot. To his surprise, she replied that the character was a Christian…. On the set, Rowling hinted at where the “Fantastic Beasts” story line might go in the four upcoming films of the franchise. The Goldstein sisters’ Jewish heritage will take on more significance as the timeline moves toward the Nazis and World War II, Fogler said. And it’s perhaps no coincidence that the no-maj-hating dark wizard who will come to power shares the genocidal tendencies of the Third Reich. “I think there’s something they’re trying to get at with [that] mentality, when it comes to wizards being [supposedly] superior to muggles,” Fogler said.

  3. I agree John that the Deathly Hallows is too prominent to end up as nothing. If that happens…ugh. I like very much the idea that the third film will be a pivot or the center turning point. I can’t realistically see how they could stretch the Grindelwald years out in three more films. If they had that kind of time, they wouldn’t have had to stuff so much into this film. No, I think it more likely that the next film will cover two hours worth of horrible war years and Dumbledore plots and will end with the famous duel. Then we can have two films that detail LV’s first rise and the Marauders story and again we know the ending. Halloween 1981. That’s how I wish it were going to unfold.

  4. Sharon Leighton says

    I am puzzled as to why anyone would find the 19 years of Grindelwald’s rise to power to be too little material to make up three films! I’ve been wondering how JKR could possibly squeeze it all into only three films!

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