Warning! This Article Contains Spoilers For Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!
Excitement maxima! The highly anticipated, yet-untitled sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set to commence production soon, and we couldn’t be happier. We’ve only just met Newt Scamander and his friends, but we're yearning to learn more about them. But if JK Rowling has her way, we won’t have to wait too long! Hot on the heels of her latest Twitter-based teaser, she’s revealed some tantalizing tidbits about what we can expect from Newt in the future in the franchise- namely concerning his relationship with the ever-mysterious Albus Dumbledore!
“What Makes Albus Dumbledore so Fond of You?”
The latest details come from Rowling’s revised edition of the Fantastic Beasts textbook, which she initially wrote for Comic Relief back in 2001. It features even more magical monsters, a sneaky retcon or two, as well as several passages from the fictional author himself. Newt Scamander (#EddieRedmayne) spends a lot of his Author Profile reflecting on the events of the first movie, which saw our favorite magizoologist caught in the conflict between the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), the Second Salemers, and the dangerous Gellert Grindelwald (#JohnnyDepp).
Indeed, Scamander feels sheepish about his role in the whole affair, and admits that:
“...taking a case full of such creatures into a major city was, in retrospect, a serious mistake.”
Certainly, tensions were already high before Scamander arrived in New York, but the Niffler’s multiple escapes hardly helped matters, did they?
But as we know, Scamander redeemed himself by being instrumental in the apprehension of #Grindelwald, as well as modifying the memories of New York's No-Maj's.
“It is true that I was the first person ever to capture Gellert Grindelwald and also true that Albus Dumbledore was something more than a schoolteacher to me...More than this I cannot say without fear of breaching...the confidences that Dumbledore, [the] most private of men, placed in me.”
Of course, this is one facet of Fantastic Beasts that we’re very keen to know more about. Under the guise of Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), Grindelwald was similarly interested about why Scamander curried favor with a wizard of such repute as #Dumbledore.
We know that Dumbledore — the head of Hogwarts' Transfiguration department at that time — argued against Scamander’s expulsion following a life-threatening accident he caused at the school. Of course, Dumbledore's defense is enough to make any student grateful, but the reason for their continuing closeness remains a secret. Sure, they could just have been very good friends, but Newt’s reticence on the issue, both in the book and film, smacks of something more.
Sadly, that’s all that Scamander is willing to say; you’d be forgiven for thinking that this isn’t revealing much, but on the contrary, there’s a lot to be gleaned from what Scamander isn’t saying...
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Scamander vs Skeeter
Judging by the fact that Newt spends a great deal of time dispelling rumors in the new edition of #FantasticBeasts, it would seem that he’s become quite a celebrity by the time of Harry Potter at least. Moreover, he’s famous enough for the Wizarding World’s most waspish journalist, Rita Skeeter, to write a book about him, in which she makes several startling accusations:
“In her recent biography, Man or Monster? The TRUTH About Newt Scamander, Rita Skeeter states that I was never a Magizoologist but a Dumbledore spy who used Magizoology as a ‘cover’ to infiltrate [...] MACUSA..."
Yeah, definitely a dodgy rumor so far. As we saw in the movie, Newt is an intelligent, capable wizard and capturer of magical creatures, and his love for them was very genuine.
Plus, as heroic as he was, Newt essentially bumbled from one dangerous scrape to another, so his “infiltration” hardly seems like it occurred by his and Dumbledore’s design. Scamander continues to argue against this spy theory, stating:
"This, as anyone who lived through the 1920s will know, is an absurd claim. No undercover wizard would have chosen to pose as a Magizoologist at that period. An interest in magical beasts was considered dangerous and suspect...”
Newt was given a frosty reception by the MACUSA in the movie, so this certainly fits in with what he says here. Tina Goldstein (#KatherineWaterston) even assumed that his book was an extermination guide rather than an academic study of the beasts. But this is where it gets interesting; Newt may rule out that he was engaged in intelligence work in New York in 1926, but what about afterwards?
So is Newt Scamander Albus Dumbledore’s Spy in the Fantastic Beasts Series?
The slanderous Rita Skeeter is hated by Potter-fans, since she has invented and embellished many stories about our favorite characters over the years. However, as the old saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Certainly, she was quite close to the truth about Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s falling out in The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, and there’s other evidence to support her claim that Scamander was a sleuth for the future headmaster of Hogwarts School.
Newt may say that it would be very conspicuous for an agent to pose as a magizoologist, but we must consider that Dumbledore did choose very unconventional agents throughout the entirety of the #HarryPotter series. He's not only a master of sass, but of manipulation and long games as well. The half-giant Rubeus Hagrid was a loyal Dumbledore ally, but he also certainly attracted attention, and Dumbledore definitely recruited people that other parties would not have; the criminal Mundungus Fletcher is another case in point, as are Harry Potter and his friends – they were just kids, after all!
Plus, Newt might be one of the good guys, but he is not above deception. In Fantastic Beasts he frequently lied to MACUSA agents about his visit to New York, saying he was trying to locate a breeder of appaloosa puffskeins (yup, I've no idea either!) when he was actually travelling to Arizona to free Frank the Thunderbird. Newt’s economic handling of the truth could be coming into play here as well.
Indeed, in the new edition, Newt actually admits to avoiding certain questions because he’s waiting for some discreet documents to be released to the public; and then there’s that very telling reference to the Official Magical Secrets Act, which blocks him from discussing certain things. This is undoubtedly a very nifty way for ol’ JK to avoid spoiling the rest of the movie series for us, but its inclusion says a great deal. Secrets Acts exist in real life so that governments can gag people from disclosing details they’d rather not make public. And as we many know, they are heavily used to stop spies from speaking about their service.
But why would Dumbledore want to recruit Newt Scamander? Well, if Dumbledore is seeking to mastermind a British-based resistance against the powerful dark wizard Grindelwald, Scamander is a good starting point. He’s a member of the Ministry of Magic for one thing, and has a decorated older brother who was referred to as a “war hero” who would be a great acquisition for Dumbledore if he was drafted to the cause. And there’s the fact that Scamander is well-versed in the nature of Obscurials.
These dark forces have already been the subject of much discussion, especially after we saw Grindelwald trying to harness the power from Credence Barebone (#EzraMiller).
Moreover, many fans have likened the symptoms of an Obscurial to the malady which afflicted Dumbledore’s sister Ariana and, as the Radio Times points out, Rowling has neither confirmed nor denied this fan-theory, which is interesting given that she’s approved or shot down so many others. Grindelwald has powers, and weapons that Dumbledore does not, so Albus needs all the help he can get to understand Grindelwald’s goals, and how best to prevent them.
We still don’t know who’s playing Dumbledore (though we have some ideas), but these details about Newt Scamander and his fantastic beasts add even more texture to the intricate and ever-evolving Wizarding World. And who knows? Judging by Rowling’s latest hints, Scamander may be more instrumental in Grindelwald’s 1945 downfall than we’d previously thought!