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JK Rowling defends Dumbledore on Twitter: Seven things you might not know about the Hogwarts headmaster

A look beyond the half-moon glasses at the Harry Potter franchise's most enigmatic character

Matilda Battersby
Wednesday 25 March 2015 11:51 GMT
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, played by Richard Harris
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, played by Richard Harris (Warner Brothers)

The sexuality of the beloved headmaster of JK Rowlings’ wizard school has again been making headlines as the author defended him against detractors on Twitter.

To fans of the books and films he is the benevolent and quirky leader of Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry; as well as the only sorcerer Voldemort was afraid of.

But, a decade after Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay there are still a few things you might not know about the twinkly-eyed and bearded teacher, full name Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

Dumbledore falls to his death

He might not really be dead

Ok, we know this is fiction, but… conspiracy theorists have picked up on an edit that made it into the US hardback edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince but is missing from the UK editions and didn’t appear in the American soft cover edition. It suggests Dumbledore was excellent at faking death (of course he was!) – and might lead some to conclude that his plunge from tallest tower at Hogwarts at the hands of Snape may have been staged. And that he might return (hooray!).

After pledging to protect Draco’s mother and father, Dumbledore says: “Nobody would be surprised that you had died in your attempt to kill me – forgive me, but Lord Voldemort probably expects it. Nor would the Death Eaters be surprised that we had captured and killed your mother – it is what they would do themselves after all.”

Perhaps the flames that gobbled up Dumbledore’s white coffin were the ticklish result of a flame-freezing charm and Albus and Fawkes the Phoenix have more in common than we thought.

He is lonely

Rowling revealed that Dumbledore’s wisdom has isolated him.

“I see him as isolated, and a few people have said to me rightly I think, that he is detached. My sister said to me in a moment of frustration, it was when Hagrid was shut up in his house after Rita Skeeter had published that he was a half-breed, and my sister said to me, ‘Why didn't Dumbledore go down earlier, why didn't Dumbledore go down earlier?’ Rowling told fans in 2005.

“I said he really had to let Hagrid stew for a while and see if he was going to come out of this on his own because if he had come out on his own he really would have been better. ‘Well he's too detached, he's too cold, it's like you,’ she said!’ [Laughs] By which she meant that where she would immediately rush in and I would maybe stand back a little bit and say, ‘Let's wait and see if he can work this out.’ I wouldn't leave him a week. I'd leave him maybe an afternoon. But she would chase him into the hut.’”

Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe in The Philosopher's Stone

Nicholas Flamel was not much older

Dumbledore was around 150 when he died.

“Wizards have a much longer life expectancy than Muggles,” Rowling revealed in 2000.

He was in love with a Dark Wizard

Teenage Dumbledore’s friendship with Durmstrang’s brightest pupil Gellert Grindelwald (and their shared obsession with Deathly Hallows) is touched upon in the Potter novels, but Rowling later revealed they were in love.

Grindelwald is described as “quite precociously brilliant as Dumbledore” but he is drawn to the dark arts and his manipulation of Albus leads him to neglect his younger siblings. Tragedy strikes during a duel between his brother Aberforth Dumbledore and Grindelwald when their sister Ariana is killed – Dumbledore, who waded in to help, is never sure whose spell rebounded causing her death.

When Grindelwald steals the Elder Wand around a decade later Dumbledore goes after him and bests him, and, becoming master of the wand himself, returns Grindelwald to his homeland where he resides in the wizard prison Nurmengard before eventually being killed by Voldemort.

"I always thought of Dumbledore as gay..,” Rowling told New York’s Carnegie Hall at a reading of her seventh Potter book. “Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was.

“To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But, he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that's how I always saw Dumbledore.”

He might have been useful to Tfl

Dumbledore has a scar on his left knee which is a perfect map of London Underground.

Rowling appears to use scars to mark out the important characters in her novels. And in Dumbledore’s case it might well be a nod to the fact that Rowling came up with the idea for the Potter series on a train journey from London to Edinburgh.

"Trains have been quite important in my life. My parents met on a train,” Rowling explained to The Glasgow Herald in 1997. It is no coincidence that the steam train to Hogwarts leaves from King’s Cross (Platform 9 ¾) where you might jump on a train to the Scottish capital.

His hair wasn’t always silver

The long tresses and matching beard that make Dumbledore look like a stereotypical warlock weren’t always so grey.

His hair was auburn when Harry saw him in the pensieve visiting a young orphan boy Tom Riddle who would later become Voldemort.

He is definitely a goodie

Questions over Dumbledore’s intentions in grooming Harry Potter for battle against Voldemort are dashed by Rowling herself who says he is “the epitome of goodness”.

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