Guest Post: The Ariana-Credence Theory

This Guest Post from Bob Rectenwald was originally posted as a comment on another HogwartsProfessor thread. I bumpedhis re-written, expanded version up here after the jump as a stand-alone post so that it can be referenced by other fan sites easily and discussed without distraction from other conversations on that thread.

In brief, Bob’s theory is that when Ariana Dumbledore died, her Obscurus lived on and took the young Credence as its host (or Dumbledore somehow aided in that process and sent him to America). Both Dumbledore and Grindelwald witnessed or came to understand this, hence their search for Credence in New York with the Barebones. Albus sent Newt as his agent in this hunt and race because the Blood Pact prevented his moving against Gellert himself. Grindelwald wants Ariana-Credence as a weapon against Dumbledore because he believes that Albus will not be able to defend himself if it means killing the last surviving aspect of his dead sister, which Obscurus only exists because her older brother, as he admits to Leta, had not “loved her as I should have.”

Grindelwald searched for a young woman akin to Ariana in New York, which kept him from realizing that Credence was the host until he revealed his powers in the finale of the first film. Newt and Tina blocked his seduction of Credence but in Crimes Gellert plots to have Credence pursue him for the secret of his origin. Grindelwald creates the lie of ‘Aurelius’ and wins the boy’s heart to dreams of power and his being the lost son of a great wizarding family. The phoenix, a gift from Gellert, appears not to him but for Ariana’s Obscurus, the Dumbledore within him.

Please make the jump to read Bob’s Ariana-Credence Theory (ACT) as he has re-written it, an exposition that includes  his predictions for the next three films as well. Enjoy! And let us know what you think of this attempt to tie together all we know into a coherent and credible story line in the comment boxes below!

The Ariana-Credence Theory — Bob Rectenwald

Spoilers aplenty ahead. Turn back if you are not up to date on the whole Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts series.

At the end of the second Fantastic Beasts film (FB2), we hear Grindelwald reveal a bombshell: Credence Barebone is actually Aurelius Dumbledore, Albus’ long lost brother. What are we to make of this? Well, here’s my theory…

Based on JK Rowling’s own admission that Grindelwald is both a seer and a liar, we can be certain that Grindelwald will share misleading information and half-truths to get what he wants.

Now, we can be pretty confident that:

  1. Kendra Dumbledore was already dead (1899) when Credence was born (1901/4);
  2. Surely some reference to a long-lost brother would have made its way into the Hogwarts Saga (if Rowling is being at all consistent with her practice)
  3. An Obscurus is able to survive without a host.

That last bit about an Obscurus is what FB1 was all about. Did you catch it? I don’t blame you if you missed it, the whole thing was a bit obscure. FB1 was all about how Newt Scamander was sent to America on the false pretense that he was returning a firebird to its natural habitat in Arizona. In reality, he was in a race against Grindelwald to find an Obscurus. What’s an Obscurus? It is a symbiotic form of powerful dark magic that attaches itself to witches and wizards who repress their powers. As Newt says,

“I met one in Sudan three months ago. There used to be more of them but they still exist. Before wizards went underground, when we were still being hunted by Muggles, young wizards and witches sometimes tried to suppress their magic to avoid persecution. Instead of learning to harness or control their powers, they developed what was called an Obscurus.” — Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Original Screenplay)

Now, if you will please go and re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you will see clearly that Ariana Dumbledore was an Obscurial (host) and she had an Obscurus (symbiote). Plain as day for the careful reader.

Back to FB1 — Grindelwald discovers at the “turn” or mid-point of the film’s ring composition that an Obscurus can indeed live without a host, because he’s seen the one that Newt keeps in his case. The vision of the Obscurus (symbiote) without Obscurial (host) is pivotal in the first trip into Newt’s case in FB1. There we see Jacob Kowalski mesmerized by the Obscurus (the black cloud in the bubble) that Newt brought back from Africa to study. This sheds light on the plot Newt is working on with Dumbledore — Albus must know if Ariana is still out there, and Newt is helping him to find her. Both are racing Grindelwald, who believes that Ariana’s Obscurus has attached itself to Modesty Barebone. Grindelwald was wrong, however — Credence is the Obscurial.

In FB2, we get more detail on how the Obscurial/Obscurus relationship works, as Dumbledore tells Newt,

I know this: An Obscurus grows in the absence of love as a dark twin, an only friend. If Credence has a real brother or sister out there who can take its place, he might yet be saved.

Modesty Barebone in FB1 was intended as a foil to Ariana Dumbledore, the young girl possessed of savage, dark magic. The mention of a “dark twin” establishes for us that the Obscurus is not identical with the host. It is another entity altogether. That much was not clear in FB1, but Dumbledore has makes it clear in FB2. After FB1, we should have caught that Ariana was an Obscurial, just like Credence.

Now, in FB2, we learn that an Obscurus can travel from one host to another (though we did see the Obscurus sans host in Newts case). Therefore, the same Obscurus could have traveled from Ariana to Credence. In retrospect, we now see how and why a previously unknown squib could be so important to Dumbledore half a world away. Credence is a vessel that’s carrying an entity that once lived in Albus’ sister.

My theory is that, contrary to Grindelwald’s pronouncement, Credence is NOT Albus’ brother. That part is a lie. However, Credence DOES contain the Obscurus that lived in Albus’ sister. Therefore, he is conceptually attached to the Dumbledore family — so it’s a half-truth that Grindelwald tells him. Albus, Aberforth and Grindelwald witnessed Ariana’s tragic death. What we now know is that they also witnessed the Obscurus (the “dark twin”) as it left her. The Fantastic Beasts franchise picked up with Albus sending Newt to America to find the Obscurus while Grindelwald travels there as well, masquerading as Graves, who hoped that he would find Ariana’s Obscurus to use against Dumbledore. Perhaps to destroy him, perhaps to get him to rejoin the cause.

I don’t believe there’s any Aurelius Dumbledore. Grindelwald invented that part because he needs the Obscurus; the Obscurial (Credence) is inconsequential. He’s lied to him before, he’s lying again. Grindelwald’s duplicity, I believe, is signaled to us in his visual appearance — he has two different colored eyes because we’re supposed to see him through two lenses — both prophet and liar. He’s telling the truth in that some part of the Dumbledore family–the part that Albus cares about most deeply–has attached itself to Credence symbiotically. Albus will have to come out against what he believes is part-Ariana. When he does, he’ll have to face the powerful force of the Obscurus and confront what happened to Ariana.

Whatever the case, the Ariana-Credence connection is brilliant and I cannot wait to see what comes next in the “latch” of the Fantastic Beasts series in part 3 (FB3 is the mid-point of the 5-part series). The structure and theoretical connections are, sadly, more compelling than the films themselves. I wish these had been novels. Alas. I’ll see them all anyway.

I don’t know what to do with any of the Corvus Lestrange business. So far, I’ve chalked that up to misdirection and red herrings, to let JKR continue toying with the Ariana Dumbledore connection right under our noses (as she is wont to do). As primarily an author of detective fiction, she tends to obey certain rules (like, you can’t just invent an entire plotline that you never alluded to in your previous series and you should adhere to your own timelines [unless you want a McGonagall cameo].).

In summary, my view is that Credence cannot be a Dumbledore, but he MUST contain part of one. It’s the part that has constituted the great guilt and pain of Albus’ life–Ariana–and it will be delivered by Albus’ other great heart-break, for whose lost love he lives forever alone–Grindelwald. Grindelwald will use Ariana’s Obscurus to break Dumbledore and lure him to a duel.

How could a wizard, even one as powerful as Dumbledore, defeat the Elder Wand? Perhaps only if he were aided by an unimaginably powerful magical force? Perhaps if Ariana recognizes Albus and aids her brother in his duel against Grindelwald and the Elder Wand? We’ll see.

I believe that the third film will give us that duel. Films four and five will then lead us back to Midnight on Halloween, 1981, i.e., the fourth and fifth films will build the bridge connecting Grindelwald to Tom Riddle. “The clock is ticking faster.” 12 hours, 12 installments, leading from Midnight to Midnight, with the breadcrumb trail being established already in the Midnight Middles John Granger has so astutely observed. There are 12 mentions of Midnight in Books 1 and 7 of the Hogwarts novels and both FB movies feature clock faces in prominent scenes–expect more. Also, Pottermore’s ‘Life and Times of Albus Dumbledore lists his pocketwatch alongside his other notable accomplishments. Why? Because the clock is the key–the hour is the crux–“horcrux”–all hidden in plain sight. 



  1. Kelly Loomis says

    Linking all the stories together into an overall Rowling structure is magnificent work and a great prediction. I would love to see that rather than Dumbledore/Grindelwald angst being drawn out over five films to get to the duel. Have you noticed all the references to time in the trailers and even the music sounding like a ticking clock at times? I wonder what Rowling has up her sleeve??? I’m hoping to be awed rather than seeing just the plot of the final duel which we know the outcome of. If it’s tied all together, especially containing some James and Lily in 1980 and a Voldemort, I’m hoping fans won’t be bashing as much.

    There was a good article on Leaky Cauldron today pointing out that people are mistaking plot twists for plot holes and reminding them of all the unanswered questions and angst in between the original series.

  2. Kelly Loomis says
  3. Absolutely. Spectacularly. Brilliant.

    Just like when John pronounced the truth of the Christian content in the original HP books, the truth of the Obscurial and Grindelwald’s duplicity rings just as true.

    Well done, Bob. Well done.

  4. Kelly Loomis says

    So Bob, who do you think Credence is or what baby was he when the Obscurial “entered” him? Somebody emailed the Mugglecast guys and says the same Phoenix book Flamel had was on the bedside table of Credence’s aunt on the ship. There is also a still of Dumbledore with the same book on a table that didn’t Make it into the movie.

  5. I’ll have to dig in to the phoenix book connection. I personally would be disappointed if JKR had invented a sibling for the Dumbledores without putting clues into the original series. That would be unlike her previous work and would seem to go against the very things she seems to relish and encourage in her readers. But, I’ll also try not to let my pet theories and my own hopes for how things will play out blind me to what’s unfolding in the films. So, I’ll keep sleuthing along with the rest of you.

    Once I got on to the fact that the FB stories are really about Ariana’s Obscurus, I narrowed my focus to that, but I will do some more digging into who Credence actually is, if Grindelwald indeed is lying. Is he nobody? Or could there be more, even if he’s not actually Dumbledore’s brother?

    By the way–why does Grindelwald have two different colored eyes? I think it’s for the same reason that Harry wears circular glasses. We’re supposed to be able to see him as both good and evil, attractive and revolting. We could see him as Queenie does or as Newt does (as Albus once did), and we can adopt both perspectives throughout. Only by oscillating between the two, and being willing to see him not merely as a “bad guy”, will we understand the crisis he precipitated at both personal and political levels. I think she’ll continue with the storyline that Grindelwald is both liar and truth-teller throughout, and the clue is in his eyes.

  6. A note about the “clock” business:
    On a whim, I created a spreadsheet to divide all of the chapters of the Harry Potter series by 12. I did this after I encountered John’s analysis of the “midnight middles” that occur in the “crux” books–1,4,7. Also, because Alchemists are obsessed with ratios and I could see (again relying on John’s insights) that JKR was weaving alchemy throughout her works. So, perhaps she had organized all of her chapters around a ratio, as any good alchemist worth their salt would do? I thought it was a dead end, as Book 7 ends with two chapters just after the 5 o’clock hour. This made no sense to me at the time (this was before I watched FB1). Why end after 5 o’clock? (CB Strike aside: When do Cuckoo’s call? On the hour. “The hour is the crux”–horcrux.)

    Puzzled though I was, still clocks were obviously crucial to the structure. I was convinced that JKR was using the clock face to orient her readers to arrange her books around a ring, to reveal the ring composition, so that they could then see the parallels between books. I imagine her inner dialogue went like this, “How do I tell people this is a circle without telling them it’s a circle? How do I plot things around a circle that everyone will be familiar with? Use a clock face.” She did this with Philosopher’s Stone, a ring composition with a midnight middle, and subsequently told her fans “it’s all written in stone.” The structure of the whole series was worked into the parts, and the clue was in the clock. This breadcrumb trail would reveal that she had composed the series on a symbolic structure that draws out the deathly hallows symbol. If you’ve never seen it, read John’s Ring Composition book.* It will make your hair stand on end.

    I couldn’t understand why the last two chapters of Deathly Hallows would be in the 5 o’clock hour. If they extended to 6 o’clock, you could re-orient and make the series start and end at midnight. Midnight to Midnight, nice and tidy, in good JKR fashion. It wasn’t until I re-watched FB1 with the clock metaphor in mind that I noticed. My daughter and I sat down and I told her, “be looking for a clock.” We didn’t have to wait long–when Newt arrives on Ellis Island, his case is opened and inspected. His pocketwatch sits on top of his things and it’s set to… 5:20. Proof? Maybe. HP7 ends with two chapters into the 5 o’clock hour. Definitely intriguing. Also, when we first enter MACUSA, we see their industrial strength Weasley Clock. This clock connection made me care more about the FB films, which I had been somewhat dismissive of up until that point. So, then I was really excited about FB2. And I was hyperfocused on clocks and rings.

    I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the trailer for FB2. The film score now includes a clock ticking in the background. Grindelwald’s voiceover opens with “Brothers and sisters, the clock is ticking faster.” We first see Dumbledore across from a giant clock face–Big Ben–set to 7:30pm. Proof? Maybe.

    If this isn’t just coincidence, we might add 2 hours 10 minutes to each installment. FB3 – 9:40. FB4 – 11:50, just before midnight. FB5–all about those final 10 minutes? That would be delicious.

    Maybe the ratio will be adjusted, but whatever it is, I expect clocks to feature prominently int the coming films. While my hope is that we’re headed back to midnight on Halloween, 1981, I’ve heard that we’re headed to 1945. I’d be happy with even a post-credits scene in FB5, with Voldy walking the streets of Godric’s Hollow on Halloween night, just before midnight. Midnight to midnight. And the cuckoo calls.

    * Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle: The Magical Structure and Transcendental Meaning of the Hogwarts Saga

  7. Kelly Loomis says

    Bob, I don’t know if you noticed the dais that Grindelwald stands on looks a bit like a sun dial. It’s a Circle and has lines like something that tells time.

  8. Jan Voetberg says

    A brilliant theory. Except for the part about the elder wand: at the end of FB1 Newt has disarmed Grindelwald and has therefore -unknowingly – become master of the elder wand. In FB2, in scene 61, in Kama’s hideout, Kama disarms Newt. And has now in turn become the next master of the elder wand. Dumbledore needs to defeat or disarm him in order to become it’s next master, and then the wand won’t work against him. A parallel to the end of HP7. I think we have nog seen the last of Kama.

  9. Kelly Loomis says

    Oh Jan, brilliant catch. I didn’t even notice that. It’s a big deal!! I know there has been debate over whether it was Newt or Tina who disarmed Grindelwald/Graves. I’ve always thought it was Newt and Tina just accioed the wand. In this film, Kama disarms both Tina and Newt so there is no question who is master now!

  10. Was the wand that Newt disarmed from Graves the Elder Wand? In the film, it does not look anything like the Elder Wand. I understand that Grindelwald disguised himself and could therefore also have disguised the wand. However, I don’t think Tina could have dueled the Elder Wand and lived to tell the tale. I think rather that, as Graves, Grindelwald was content to use an inferior wand and was therefore unconcerned when it was lost.

  11. @Bob, thanks for the great article!
    I like the idea that Ariana’s obscurus lives on in Credence. It was also one of my very first theories, since the first movie makes – as mentioned in this g article here, too – a big show of the fact that an obscurus can be separated from the host. This theory would explain, why Grindelwald says: “your brother seeks to destroy you”. He could be talking to Ariana’s obscurus.
    However, it still needs to be explained, how and why the obscurus got into Credence. And we still don’t know where Credence comes from.
    I think that a combination of several theories is probably correct. For example, if Credence was for some reason in Godric’s Hollow and near Ariana, when she was accidentally hit by the curse which killed her, her now hostless obscurus could’ve latched onto the entity we call Credence atm – similar to the piece of Voldemort’s splintered soul which latched onto baby Harry, when Voldemort was hit by his own rebounding curse. Interestingly, this all-important event also happened in Godric’s Hollow. A lot of arrows seem to point at Godric’s Hollow as a very crucial location for the FB plot development.

    While I find the idea totally repulsive, I think the idea that Credence is the product of an alchemical experiment conducted by Gellert and Albus, has a lot of merit. Susan Sipal has explained it very well at her youtube channel and I came to a very similar conclusion by taking a different research path.
    Grindelwald left Godric’s Hollow immediately after Ariana died, and Albus left soon, too, Albus and Gellert might not have been aware of the fact that their experiment was successful. Maybe, Aberforth and/or Bathilda Bagshot had to deal with the fallout, and didn’t have the heart to kill Credence, and they shipped him to America, once he was old enough. We have no idea if Bathilda Bagshot was good, evil or something in between btw and how her relationship with Gellert was. We only have the horrible image of Nagini wearing her dead body in our heads.

  12. @Bob, the idea that the elder wand has yet again changed it’s alliance, has definitely a lot of merit. I was wondering about the scene and why it was even in the movie. And also, what Yusuf Kama’s future role would be. His plot line seemed to be totally negligible. His only function seemed to be to induce Leta to confess that her actions had killed little Corvus , and that therefore Credence could not be Corvus. But I’m fairly sure that all newly introduced characters will be important in the upcoming movies.

  13. Kelly Loomis says

    Draco, in Deathly Hallows, did not have the elder wand on his person when Harry disarmed him. Yet, Harry becomes master and was able to defeat Voldemort later in the Great Hall.

  14. David James says

    Bob….Brilliant facts and theory in relation to what we know about Credence, Ariana, Albus and Grindelwald through all the trailers, the movie and the deleted scenes.

    Well done sir !!!

    Much of the angst from some of the critics and fans out there complaining about the “plot holes” in the movie and missing pieces of the story line is partly because WB wants to make more money on FB2 by making you buy the DVD/ Blue-ray disc to get all the extras and deleted scenes to piece together what was disjointed in the theater version……..

    Brilliant huh?

    This film so far is not grossing at the box office at least in the USA, what they were hoping for in the first weekend. So how do you make up the difference ?? Yep you guessed it.

    Plus Jo Rowling loves the open speculation from the fans when she reveals only partial plot scenes with character misdirection in the screenplay and the film just to let us all play the wizarding world mind a little with theory. Which is why we are here at HogwartsProfessor !

    I’ve touched on the Graves/Grindelwald wand issue a number of months ago. Number one…Graves/Grindelwald would never have risked giving away his identity by carrying around the actual Elder Wand with him in New York.’s an interesting theory of a wand “disguising” itself, but I would wonder if that is possible in the wizarding world or also without diminishing the wand’s actual power. Also… that point of the story Graves/Grindelwald knew he was cornered by Newt, Tina and a bazillion New York Aurors with wands at the ready to disable him. Graves/Grindelwald, in my theory, willingly at that point allows himself to be disarmed by Tina (of Graves wand not the Elder wand) and Newt to hit him with a “crackling magical binding rope” spell. Grindelwald as we know had his minions working inside the Ministry of Magic in New York to work his plan of escape I believe long before they decided to transfer Grindelwald to Europe. Since his capture was planned “willingly” in New York….Grindelwald was NOT defeated nor was his ownership of Elder Wand relinquished.

  15. @David, the movie doesn’t makes as much money in the US as the first FB movie. However, it performs better than expected in Europe and Asia. So, I don’t think there’s any danger right now, that the franchise has been killed, as some critics have prematurely claimed. The US market isn’t the only legit yard stick for financial success.

    However, the critical panning isn’t good for the reputation of the makers. The Hobbit trilogy was a financial success, but Peter Jackson’s reputation is still tarnished, although it wasn’t only his fault that especially the second and the third Hobbit movie were so bad. He has opened up by now about what was going on behind closed curtains and how financial problems have dogged the artistic process. I’m sure that JKR, David Yates and WB are not exactly happy about the multitude of negative reactions of the professional reviewers. This could be a wake-up call. And hopefully that will lead to a better third installment. We know that a lot of scenes have been cut which could have led to a better understanding of the plot and a better development of certain characters. As John said in another thread, Leta and the audience have been robbed. Extended editions aren’t always better than the theatrical cut. But in this case I suspect that the cuts happened less for artistic but mostly for financial reasons – i.e. in order to enable more showings per day.

    As to our discussions about “Aurelius Dumbledore” and into which direction JKR will eventually take her story, I’m always fascinated how we fans discuss this as if the fantasy world she created, is real. We look at what we have been offered and try to come up with intrinsic rational explanations, which means that we adopt the laws of JKR’s wizard physics and try to come up with solutions which satisfy the inner logic of this fantastic world – just look at our various discussions of elder wand lore 😉 This is a lot of fun, and as David said above, that’s why we are here. But it is equally interesting to look at the psychological process of creating a story and find the sources which may have inspired JKR. This website has always aspired to find these “meta clues”, which may be found in classic literature and philosophical concepts, but also in 20th century history, recent political developments and internet memes which have gone viral.

  16. Jack bridges says

    In Chapter 28 of Deathly Hallows your mention of Ariana as a squib isn’t entirely accurate in the definition of a squib and the magic state of Ariana after she was 6 but your theory about her having an Obscurus fits ‘it destroyed her what they did she was never right again, she wouldn’t use magic but she couldn’t get rid of it, it turned inwards and drove her made, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it and at time she was dangerous’ I don’t know where you got the word obscurial from but I’m not sure if you can describe Ariana like that you make it out like people choose to become or are born as an obscurial. What it says about Ariana it says ‘it destroyed her what they did, she was never right again’ there aren’t any words saying she developed an evil twin or a something dark for comfort – I think credence can be described more like an obscurial but Ariana is a witch that had a magical accident happen to her with those boys. She did develop in time an obscurus or become an obscurial like the way described when witches and wizards used to try and surpress their magic over time. Ariana truly had misfortune but Credence seems to have attracted an obscurus to him for how he treated himself becoming an obscurial but I don’t think Ariana was an obscurial

  17. Cody Lynne Lingenfelter says

    Omg I can’t wait to explore this theory in FB3 I’m so excited to see how this plays out I’ve read every Harry Potter book and have the screenplays of fantastic Beasts but I think the movies were way better for fantastic Beasts

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