After the revolutionary Harry Potter series, it's Newt Scamander who now has the reins in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and the upcoming sequels. The first installment already grossed a staggering $812.5 million worldwide. This David Yates' fantasy film was the ninth installment in the Harry Potter franchise, produced and written by J.K.Rowling herself. After the success of that film, we couldn't be craving for a sequel more, especially considering Percival Graves turned out to be Gellert Grindelwald (portrayed by Johnny Depp) in disguise!
Grindelwald, from what we know from the Harry Potter series, was a powerful dark wizard in his time. He had wrought havoc throughout the Wizarding World and was finally subdued and imprisoned after his legendary duel with Albus Dumbledore. 53 years after his defeat, Grindelwald was slain in his prison cell at Nurmengard by Voldemort. He was considered one of the most dangerous dark wizards of all time, second only to Voldemort.
But was he really inferior to The Dark Lord? Let's dive into the facts, and see what dynamics the Fantastic Beasts sequels could explore in the future.
Grindelwald, unlike most of the other characters we know from the Harry Potter universe, was educated at Durmstrang Institute where he devoted himself to 'twisted experiments,' ultimately leading to his expulsion. The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore (written by Rita Skeeter) gives us significant insight into Grindelwald:
"Educated at Durmstrang, a school famous even then for its unfortunate tolerance of the Dark Arts, Grindelwald showed himself quite as precociously brilliant as Dumbledore. Rather than channel his abilities into the attainment of awards and prizes, however, Gellert Grindelwald devoted himself to other pursuits. When Grindelwald was sixteen years old, even Durmstrang felt it could no longer turn a blind eye to his twisted experiments and he was expelled."
Meanwhile, Voldemort (a.k.a. Tom Marvolo Riddle) had a rough childhood right from the beginning. The last descendant of Salazar Slytherin had to grow up in an orphanage since his mom had died soon after giving birth. Evidently, his upbringing among children in the orphanage had a strong, negative influence on his feelings towards muggles. When Dumbledore came recruiting for Hogwarts, he confided in Albus:
"I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who are mean to me. I can make them hurt if I want to... I can speak to snakes too. They find me, they whisper to me."
After some time at Hogwarts, he murdered his muggle father Tom Riddle Senior, along with his grandparents, and laid the blame on his uncle. By that time his hatred for muggles had reached it's zenith and he was devoted to make himself all-powerful. He had opened the Chamber of Secrets while at school to continue the 'noble' work of his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin.
Desire For Power Versus Wisdom
We know that Grindelwald's interests in history, wandlore and magical artifacts led him to his obsession with the Deathly Hallows. He was so engrossed in it that he adopted the symbol of the Deathly Hallows as his personal emblem and engraved it on the walls of Durmstrang before he left.
Soon after his expulsion, he started his hunt for the Hallows. His talents and intellectual ideas led him to befriend the equally idealistic Dumbledore at Godric's Hollow. Dumbledore later ruminated:
"You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me. Muggles forced into subservience. We wizards triumphant. Grindelwald and I, the glorious young leaders of the revolution. Oh, I had a few scruples. I assuaged my conscience with empty words. It would all be for the greater good, and any harm done would be repaid a hundredfold in benefits for wizards. Did I know, in my heart of hearts, what Gellert Grindelwald was? I think I did, but I closed my eyes."
Voldemort, on the other hand, was a different wizard from the beginning. He was cold and his mind full of loathing. He terrorized all the boys in his orphanage from a young age. At Hogwarts, he formed his own group of followers and then set about to immerse himself completely in the Dark Arts. He even considered building Horcruxes to crawl towards immortality while still a student:
Riddle: "How do you split your soul?"
Horace Slughorn: "Well, you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature."
Riddle: "But how do you do it?"
Thus we see how his hatred and lust for power had driven him completely towards the Dark Arts. He had no feelings for others and he killed whenever someone outlived his usefulness. Grindelwald was a completely different person in his youth. While he also dabbled in the Dark Arts from a young age, he also sought wisdom and knowledge and read as much as possible. This also enabled him to get a firm grip over magic and not just blindly rely on his wand.
The Dumbledore Factor
Albus Dumbledore was Grindelwald's friend as well as the teacher of You-Know-Who. Dumbledore and Grindelwald were set to embark on their journey to find the Deathly Hallows and overturn the Statute of Secrecy, but complications arose. His motivations and notions were different from his companion. In a three-way duel between them and Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth, his sister Ariana was killed. Albus never recovered from it and Gellert had to leave for the journey on his own. He amassed some followers of his own and started a path of devastation across Europe. Due to his status as a "Dark revolutionary" and someone who was responsible for mass murders, he was widely hunted by authorities in the Wizarding Wold.
For Voldemort, Dumbledore was the only wizard he feared. Even in his frail, old state, Dumbledore managed to ward off the powerful spells cast by the Parselmouth at the Ministry of Magic. Dumbledore was the first person that told Tom of his magical abilities and also used his position at Hogwarts to keep a watchful eye on the troubled boy. This, of course, ended when Tom left Hogwarts. Still, Albus's knowledge and wisdom finally led to Voldemort's death at the hands of Harry.
Dumbledore was one of the biggest common factors between these two dark wizards. Notably, he was the one to stop each of them at important times.
Grindelwald and Voldemort both were staunch followers of the Dark Arts and emerged as the greatest dark wizards of the Wizarding World. Grindelwald might have even an edge over He Who Must Not Be Named, but since they were mostly active over different generations, it was never important as to who was better among the two. Voldemort eventually murdered Grindelwald in his prison cell over the information on the Elder Wand, but even in his dying moments, Grindelwald taunted the Dark Lord and up his last breath:
"Kill me, then. Voldemort… You will not win, you cannot win! That wand will never, ever be yours – "
Grindelwald remains a character full of mystery for Potterheads. Hopefully the sequels to the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them will shine some light over the life and moments of Gellert Grindelwald, especially in comparison to the villian we already know so well. Perhaps then it would be easier to judge who is the greatest wizard of all time.
Who do you think is more powerful: Gellert Grindelwald or Tom Riddle? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Source: Box Office Mojo]