We're only days away from the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the much-anticipated Harry Potter prequel. This film will take us back to 1926, where we'll meet Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander. It's going to launch a whole new franchise, one that spans no less than five movies, and — according to J. K. Rowling — it's going to tell a 19-year story.
The details are coming together to give us an idea of the overarching narrative of this sequel. It seems likely that we'll be seeing the wizarding world build up to the ultimate Wizard's Duel!
What Do We Know?
J. K. Rowling had already confirmed that we'd see Dumbledore and Grindelwald, and last week we learned that Johnny Depp is playing the dark wizard, whose rise to power is such a crucial part of Dumbledore's backstory. In telling us that the Fantastic Beasts arc will run over a 19-year-period, though, Rowling has just told us that we can expect both Dumbledore and Grindelwald to play major roles in the series.
For those who don't remember this bit of Harry Potter trivia, Grindelwald was a powerful sorcerer who became a close friend of Dumbledore's — and something more. Rowling explained:
"I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was ... He met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix [with Voldemort] he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him ... In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying 'I knew a girl once, whose hair...' [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, 'Dumbledore’s gay!'"
Together, the two sought out the power of the Deathly Hallows — but gradually, the temptation of that power led to a conflict. It all led to a magical battle in Dumbledore's home, with tragic consequences for the Dumbledore family, and their friendship shattered. Grindelwald returned to Germany.
By 1926, Grindelwald was growing in influence and power. And this is where the Harry Potter franchise dovetails neatly with real history; Grindelwald is explicitly linked to the rise of Nazism. It's a move that makes perfect sense, given that the Nazis were fascinated by mysticism, so making Grindelwald the magical power behind Hitler's Third Reich is pretty appropriate. It ties the Wizarding and Muggle worlds together in a horrifically dark period of human history.
We know that Dumbledore, haunted by his love for Grindelwald, refused to intervene. Finally, in 1945, Dumbledore was persuaded that he had to act. He travelled to Germany and confronted his old friend, ultimately emerging victorious. Grindelwald was imprisoned in Nurmengard, a fictional castle named after the castle of Nuremberg, where the Germans passed many of their most discriminatory laws.
Are We Going to See All This?
J. K. Rowling has just dropped an absolute bombshell. Think about it; she's confirmed that the Fantastic Beasts series will span a 19-year-period. That's a very specific time-period, and — most exciting of all — it sets the final movie in 1945.
We already knew that Grindelwald would play an important role in the series, but it had been possible he'd just be a shadowy background figure, with the movies playing against the backdrop of a darkening world. But now we know that the whole series will come to a head in 1945, the year of Grindelwald's defeat. There's no way this isn't deliberate. It seems that the Fantastic Beasts series is actually the story of the rise and fall of Gellert Grindelwald.
If that's the case, we could be in for one seriously dramatic series, one that intertwines real-world history with Rowling's wonderful fictional Wizarding World. Will the American wizards choose to sit out the war until 1941? Will Newt Scamander's ties to the American Wizards influence them to get involved?
Most excitingly of all, will Newt Scamander ultimately be the one who persuades Dumbledore to step in? And will he be at Dumbledore's side as Albus confronts Grindelwald in Germany?
On the last, I'm pretty confident that will be a 'yes'. From a dramatic point of view, there's simply no getting around it; setting the final movie in 1945 but not showing Grindelwald's ultimate defeat would be utterly unsatisfying. Given that Dumbledore would be going up against the man who wields the Elder Wand, we could ultimately see one of the greatest Wizard's Duels of all time.
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Harry Potter fans already have good reason to be excited about the Fantastic Beasts series, but now we can be certain we'll see some of the most important moments in modern Wizarding history. Where the Harry Potter franchise has previously only really given us a focus on England, Fantastic Beasts looks set to take us everywhere from the USA to Germany, and to give us a glimpse of the greatest wizarding war of all time...
Are you looking forward to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?
Poll Image: Warner Bros.