Mild spoilers ahead for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!
Perhaps the greatest dark wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort's shadow looms over the Harry Potter franchise. Ironically, Voldemort was actually born in 1926 — the year in which Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place. Although he obviously doesn't play a part in the film, #FantasticBeasts actually sheds new light on just how powerful he really is.
Oddly enough, it does this through the character of Queenie.
Queenie Reveals Just How Powerful a Legilimens Can Be
"The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing, Potter. Or at least most minds are... It is true, however, that those who have mastered Legilimency are able, under certain conditions, to delve into the minds of their victims and to interpret their findings correctly."
We were introduced to the concept of Legilimency in the Harry Potter books, and this speech by Professor Snape explained to Harry that the mind itself is vulnerable to any wizard who is gifted in Legilimency. Previously, we'd imagined that Legilimency was simply a form of magic that anyone could learn; but Fantastic Beasts suggested otherwise.
Queenie, played by Alison Sudol (a.k.a. A Fine Frenzy) seems to be a natural Legilimens; a witch who was born with the ability to read the minds of those around her. Her power seems akin to portrayals of telepathy in superhero films and comic books. She simply has an innate sense of what other people are thinking, and it can make conversations more than a little odd, to say the least! In one telling scene, she explains to Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander that she almost can't help hearing some thoughts; the painful ones in particular are like desperate cries for attention.
As J. K. Rowling has now confirmed, there's a reason Queenie is a more gifted Legilimens than Snape.
So Legilimens are born, not trained; but Snape himself only had a "slight natural ability", whereas Queenie was born with a "great talent". Training can hone this ability - as it did in Snape's case - but Queenie seems to have never needed any training.
What Does This Have to Do with Voldemort?
According to Professor Snape, #Voldemort was the most accomplished Legilimens in history. Now, it's worth noting that Snape could be wrong; he did, after all, hold the Dark Lord in high esteem, even as he worked to betray him. But given Snape's own skill at Occlumency (the art of defending your thoughts against Legilimens), I suspect that he knew what he was talking about.
There are subtle hints that Voldemort was a natural Legilimens; as some fans have pointed out, in the flashback scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince he has an intuitive knowledge of Slughorn's taste. Still, I can't help suspecting that - at least at the time - Voldemort's powers were only half-formed. After all, I'd expect to see slightly different reactions during that pivotal conversation, as Tom Riddle questioned Slughorn about Horcruxes - and inadvertently revealed more about his own character than he intended.
Still, if Voldemort really is the most accomplished Legilimens in history, then it's likely that he went on to develop this skill to the point where his powers were at least equal to those of Queenie.
Now imagine trying to fight this force of nature; a dark wizard of immense skill who could literally read your thoughts as you prepared to attack him. Imagine the power of the Dark Lord — he'd simply need to approach an opponent to read all of their plans. And imagine the depths of his evil, too; able to sense the dying thoughts of the witches and wizards he tortures. Fantastic Beasts reveals just how powerful a Legilimens can be, and in so doing gives us a whole new insight into Voldemort's reign of terror. It adds yet another layer of horror to his evil, as it reveals that he likely heard every dying thought, and revelled in the pain of his victims.
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This is the magic of J. K. Rowling's world; everything ties together so very effectively. In this case, a story set in 1926 sheds new light upon the greatest dark wizard of the Harry Potter books. It gives us a fresh glimpse of his evil power, and means that — when we next reread those books — we can look at them through a subtly different lens.
Who do you think was the most powerful Legilimens?
Poll Image: Warner Bros.