ByKarly Rayner, writer at
Movie Pilot's celebrity savant
Karly Rayner

Muggles beware! Here lie spoilers in their droves for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and I don't have the means to Obliterate you if you find out too much.

J.K. Rowling's long-awaited soared into the cinematic sky like a majestic Thunderbird last night, sprinkling the audience with nostalgic rain while simultaneously adding even more depth to the rich world of folklore.

One of the key themes of the movie — the Obscurus — introduced us to the destructive forces that can erupt out of a young witch or wizard when they are compelled to bury their magical ability deep inside themselves.

The Obscurus on the prowl
The Obscurus on the prowl

This might have been an entirely new piece of Harry Potter lore, but as the forces behind the dark vortexes of malicious energy become clear, hardcore Potter fans would almost certainly have had a certain name on their lips – .

Ultimately, it seems that the unexplained "outbursts" that caused Albus Dumbledore's sister to kill her own mother and end up being accidentally killed herself seem to tie in neatly with the Obscurus narrative.

So, delve back into the pages of Harry Potter with me, as I explain why I think Ariana Dumbledore's story arch will be central to the Fantastic Beasts narrative, helping to tie Grindelwald and Dumbledore together even more intimately.

Repression Of Any Kind Can Unleash An Obscurus Into The World

In Fantastic Beasts, we see how Credence (Ezra Miller) is repressed in a multitude of ways, not just magically. The tragic character is not only a wizard who lives in an environment that is constantly reinforcing that he is an evil abomination in the most violent ways, but he is also desperately seeking comfort from the wrong sources.

After finding validation and affection from Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), Credence believes he is special and meaningful before being briefly tossed to the wayside when Graves is misled into believing his little sister is, in fact, the powerful force he seeks.

Image: Entertainment Weekly
Image: Entertainment Weekly

Although he previously seemed able to control his Obscurus, it was this betrayal that set Credence on a path of destruction that he no longer had any will to control. His inner world had been shattered by the callous actions of another, and he felt there was no point in clinging on any longer.

Credence's story arch neatly parallels the few facts we know about Ariana's tragic and ill-fated past, which leads me to believe she was also an Obscurus.

Ariana's inability to control her magic did not come about from being raised in a magically oppressive environment. Instead, just like Credence, she was traumatized and made to feel ashamed by other people. In the words of Aberforth Dumbledore:

"When my sister was six years old, she was attacked, by three Muggle boys. They'd seen her practising magic, spying through the back garden hedge: She was a kid, she couldn't control it, no witch or wizard can at that age. What they saw, scared them, I expect. They forced their way through the hedge, and when she couldn't show them the trick, they got a bit carried away trying to stop the little freak doing it."

An Uncontainable Force Of Destruction

After the incident with the Muggle boys, where the extent of Ariana's suffering at their hands is never fully explained, the young witch was changed forever in a way that seems consistent with what we saw in the Obscurus in Fantastic Beasts.

According to Aberforth Dumbledore, Ariana was so ruined by the shameful encounter, that led her to repress her magic, that:

"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 inward and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn't control it, and at times she was strange and dangerous. But mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless."

Ariana Dumbledore was a sweet girl when the Obscurus didn't overpower her.
Ariana Dumbledore was a sweet girl when the Obscurus didn't overpower her.

After watching Fantastic Beasts, the use of words here suddenly seem of critical importance. Phrases like "it exploded out of her" seem to be an almost literal description of the Obscurus. The words "mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless" are also crucial because they support what himself taught us about the nature of the Obscurus – that the destructive force is not the entire person and it can be separated, just like he managed to do with the young girl in Sudan.

A Deadly Loss Of Control

Although Ariana seemed capable of controlling herself at most times, it seems like her ability to harness the destructive powers of her repressed magic might have lessened as she got older. This aspect of the Obscurus is also covered in Fantastic Beasts when everyone is dumbfounded that Credence has managed to survive for so long.

Perhaps it is the fact that she was in the midst of her teenage years that explains why Ariana killed her mother over a trivial event where she simply lost hold of her emotions.

"Then, when she was fourteen… See, I wasn’t there. If I’d been there, I could have calmed her down. She had one of her rages, and my mother wasn’t as young as she was, and… it was an accident. Ariana couldn’t control it. But my mother was killed"

Ariana's grip on the Obscurus – that threatened to consume her – was loosening.

Aberforth Dumbledore's portrait of Ariana
Aberforth Dumbledore's portrait of Ariana

Ariana's mysterious death during the three way battle between Aberforth, Albus and Grindelwald also seems to point to the teenager becoming overwhelmed and unable to contain the Obscurus within her. Aberforth Dumbledore explained that:

" [...] the flashing lights and the bangs set her off, she couldn't stand it... and I think she wanted to help, but she didn't really know what she was doing, and I don't know which of us did it, it could have been any of us — and she was dead."

The phrasing of "she wanted to help, but she didn't really know what she was doing" could indicate that Ariana was in a similar state to Credence when Newt tries to win his trust. Responsive, but volatile and no longer entirely in control.

Did Arianna Inadvertently Bring Grindelwald Into Dumbledore's Life?

If Ariana was indeed an Obscurus, this could explain how Grindelwald ended up being drawn to Godric's Hollow in the first place. As we learned in Fantastic Beasts, (who is essentially masquerading as Graves before his true face is revealed) is hell-bent on somehow harnessing the colossal destructive power of the Obscurus. More crucially, he could also sense it was nearby.

A young Gellert Grindalwald and Albus Dumbledore
A young Gellert Grindalwald and Albus Dumbledore

Bearing this in mind, it is entirely possible that Grindelwald was drawn into Dumbledore's life by Ariana's powers – something that he no doubt tried to conceal from the besotted young wizard he had befriended.

Dumbledore's Feelings Of Betrayal Are Unveiled

This deception might also help to explain the depth of betrayal that Dumbledore felt when Grindelwald's true purpose was unveiled. Just like Credence, he felt like he was the special one, the focus of his new friend and love interest's passion. When these hopes were violently dashed upon the rocks, it would have destroyed the young love-struck wizard.

We don't know much about the end of Dumbledore and Grindelwald's intense friendship or love affair apart from the fact that after their duel over their clashing ideologies, the dark wizard fled. It is heavily presumed that he was torn apart by feelings of guilt over Ariana's death.

Harry Potter with Ariana's portrait
Harry Potter with Ariana's portrait

The Obscurus theory could explain why Dumbledore found it so hard to let go of Gellert Grindelwald. Along with their conflicting views toward Muggles (which were, of course, briefly aligned), there was something a lot more personal that hurt the Hogwarts headmaster to his very core. The fact that, despite his mastery of magical power, he was not what the one he loved was truly looking for.


Do you think Ariana Dumbledore could have been an Obscurus?


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