Albus Dumbledore

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is a fictional character and a major protagonist within the Harry Potter series written by British author J. K. Rowling. For the majority of the series, he is the headmaster of the Wizarding school Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As part of his back-story, it is revealed that he is the founder and leader of the "Order of the Phoenix", an organisation dedicated to fighting the main antagonist of the series, Lord Voldemort.

Rowling's elderly headmaster at St Michael's Primary School, Alfred Dunn, is claimed as the inspiration for Dumbledore.

The name "Dumbledore" is an old Devon word for "bumblebee" and was picked by Rowling because she imagines him wandering around the castle humming to himself.

Character background

Early life and family

Through various interviews and discussions about the character, Rowling has established that Albus Dumbledore was born in July or August 1881 to Percival and Kendra Dumbledore. The character had previously made reference to his brother Aberforth, and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows it is revealed that Albus is three years older than Aberforth. For the first time in the series, there is also mention of a sister Ariana who, at six years old, became mentally ill after a vicious attack by three male Muggle youths who had witnessed her doing magic. Frightened, they first tried to get her to repeat what they had seen, and upon her failure to recreate it due to her young age, they tried to stop her from being "different". It is not explicitly stated in the novel what form this attack took, but Percival was sentenced to life in Azkaban for tracking down and hexing the boys who seriously traumatized his daughter. The severe trauma of the attack left Ariana unable to function socially or to properly perform magic again. To prevent her being institutionalized in St. Mungo's Hospital, or hurting someone accidentally with her uncontrolled magic, Kendra moved the family to the village of Godric's Hollow, and her illness was concealed. Neighbours assumed that Ariana was a Squib.

When Albus attended Hogwarts, he befriended Elphias Doge, who was generally mocked due to his greenish face, legacy of his having previously contracted dragon pox. During his education at Hogwarts, Dumbledore was known as the most brilliant student to have ever stepped into the school, winning "every prize of note that the school offered". His house affiliation during his time as a student was Gryffindor. Hermione Granger gave this information to Harry Potter in Philosopher's Stone on the Hogwarts Express.

Three years later, he was joined by his brother who proved to be quite different from Albus and did not possess an extraordinary level of magical talent. When Ordinary Wizarding Levels came about in Harry's fifth year, Griselda Marchbanks, Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority, remarked that Albus had "...done things with a wand I'd never seen before." When Dumbledore and Doge left Hogwarts, they planned to take their "then-traditional" tour of the world. On the eve of their trip, the eighteen-year-old Dumbledore suffered the death of his mother Kendra, who was accidentally killed by Ariana during one of her uncontrolled outbursts of magic.

Dumbledore and Grindelwald

Because Dumbledore's parents were absent (his father in Azkaban and his mother dead), Albus became the head of the family and it became his duty to put food on the table (they were not left with much gold). He was forced to remain in his house with his sister Ariana while Aberforth completed his education. Dumbledore later admitted to Harry that he felt trapped at home, and that his potential to be one of the greatest wizards of all time was wasted by being forced to care for his ill sister. Aberforth knew of his brother's resentment and offered to care for Ariana himself, saying that she preferred him, but Albus refused by stating that it was his duty as eldest to care for the family. Soon afterward, a young Gellert Grindelwald arrived in Godric's Hollow to live with his great-aunt, Bathilda Bagshot, author of A History of Magic. The two young men took to each other immediately; Rowling later explained that Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald. Together they dreamed of a world ruled by wizards over Muggles "for the greater good" by uniting the legendary Deathly Hallows.

However, Dumbledore would later reveal to Harry that he "had a few scruples" about Grindelwald's intentions and plans. Still, he acquiesced to the future dark wizard, and believed that if they were forced to destroy a few along the way, it would still be "for the greater good", and the sufferings and losses would be rewarded a hundredfold in the end. This scenario would never happen, though. A discussion between Albus, Aberforth, and Grindelwald led to a duel that resulted in Ariana's death. For the rest of his life, Albus felt guilty, never certain whether it was his own curse or another's that had actually killed his sister. According to the author, as a result of this incident, Albus' boggart became Ariana's corpse. Grindelwald stormed back to Bagshot's home and departed to begin his own rule. Meanwhile, Aberforth became enraged during Ariana's funeral service and punched Albus in the nose, breaking it and giving it its known crooked appearance. As a result of his mistakes, he felt that he was not to be trusted with power and, because of this, never took the position of Minister of Magic, despite being offered it several times. Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts as professor of Transfiguration, and he served in recruiting students for the school.

Dumbledore finally defeated the now-Dark wizard Grindelwald, who had come to possess the Elder Wand. Grindelwald's defeat made Dumbledore the master of the Elder Wand, which remains his wand until his death.

While speaking at Carnegie Hall, New York City on 19 October 2007, Rowling was asked by a young fan whether Dumbledore finds "true love". Rowling said that she always thought of Dumbledore as being gay and that he had fallen in love with Grindelwald; whether Grindelwald returned his affections, Rowling did not explicitly state. That love, she said, was Dumbledore's "great tragedy." Rowling explains this further by elaborating on the motivations behind Dumbledore's flirtation with the idea of wizard domination of Muggles: "He lost his moral compass completely when he fell in love and I think subsequently became very mistrusting of his own judgement in those matters so became quite asexual. He led a celibate and a bookish life."

Dumbledore and the rise of Voldemort

One of Dumbledore's tasks as a teacher at Hogwarts was to find the young wizard Tom Marvolo Riddle and offer him a place at Hogwarts. While Dumbledore was impressed by Riddle's abilities, he was troubled by the boy's admitted fondness for inflicting pain and never trusted him fully. Years later, Riddle attempted to gain a teaching post at Hogwarts, but Dumbledore first persuaded the then headmaster, Armando Dippet, to refuse Riddle's request, and he himself refused a second request several years after that. By this time, Riddle had declared war on his former mentors and adopted the name that would strike fear into the hearts of the Wizarding world for years to come: Lord Voldemort.

Taking matters into his own hands, Dumbledore formed the Order of the Phoenix. Throughout Voldemort's ever growing power, the Order fought against Voldemort's forces of Death Eaters and other followers. Throughout the struggle, the Order suffered immensely terrible losses, including the deaths of James and Lily Potter. Before the murders of the Potters, Dumbledore asked to see the Invisibility Cloak, suspecting it to be part of the legendary Deathly Hallows. When James died, Dumbledore kept the cloak and decided to pass it on to Harry, James's son.


First three books

In the opening chapter of the first novel of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Dumbledore arrives at number four, Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey. When Harry's parents were killed and Voldemort was rendered to a feeble form, it was Dumbledore's decision to place the now-orphaned Harry in the home of Vernon and Petunia Dursley. He knew that Harry would be protected by the special magic caused by his mother's sacrifice, after he evoked the magic of the bond of blood and Petunia Dursley sealed it by accepting Harry into her home. This old magic of binding love made touching Harry unbearable for Voldemort. Dumbledore left Harry upon the doorstep of the Dursley residence with a letter explaining the situation. He departs with the final phrase, "Good luck, Harry."

When Harry arrives at Hogwarts, Dumbledore tells Harry about the secrets of the Mirror of Erised, claiming that when he looks into it, he sees himself "holding a pair of thick, woollen socks." However, he, like Harry, sees his family alive and united. He also is responsible for somehow enchanting the Mirror so that it hides the Philosopher's Stone and only someone who looked into the Mirror and whose desire was "to find the Stone...but not use it" would actually receive it. He is called out to the Ministry of Magic by a false message on the night when Professor Quirinus Quirrell, Harry, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger enter the dungeons to retrieve the Stone, but realises during the trip that he is needed at Hogwarts and returns in time to rescue Harry from Quirrell and Voldemort. He also has a final conversation with Harry after the events down in the dungeons and tells him that he is too young to comprehend the information about why Voldemort attempts to kill him.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore suspects that Tom Riddle is somehow involved in the attacks on the students, as he says, when asked who is the culprit, "not who, but how?” A younger Dumbledore appears in Riddle's diary, when Harry sees his memory, and asks Riddle if he knows anything about the attacks on the students. During the last half of the novel, Lucius Malfoy coerces the school's other eleven governors to suspend Dumbledore as Headmaster in the wake of attacks by a basilisk in the school when the Chamber of Secrets is opened. Dumbledore is reinstated when the governors discover that Ginny Weasley was taken into the Chamber of Secrets and Lucius is found to have coerced the other governors into suspending him.

At the beginning of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore is forced to accept Dementors onto his school's grounds for the protection of his students from Sirius Black, the supposed killer that had escaped from Azkaban. After Black's breach into Hogwarts, Dumbledore issues orders to close every entrance to the school and grounds. After Harry falls off his broomstick during a Quidditch match because of the Dementors, Dumbledore becomes uncharacteristically angry with them and uses his wand to cause Harry to levitate safely to the ground. Later in that book, Dumbledore suggests Hermione Granger use her Ministry-approved Time-Turner to go back three hours to save Buckbeak the hippogriff and Sirius from their unjust executions.

Fourth and fifth books

In the fourth instalment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore introduces the Triwizard Tournament. He also serves as a judge during the entire event. When Harry's name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore is not enraged but remains calm, simply asking Harry whether he had himself, or had asked an older student to submit his name. When Harry answers no, he believes him. By the end of the book, Dumbledore's fears are realized when Harry returns from his encounter with Voldemort clutching the dead body of Cedric Diggory and when Alastor Moody (actually being impersonated by Barty Crouch Junior through Polyjuice Potion) takes Harry away from Dumbledore and to his office inside the castle. Dumbledore immediately becomes suspicious and heads straight towards Moody's office with Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape to save Harry and to interrogate Crouch. Afterwards, Dumbledore listens to Harry's eyewitness account about Voldemort's return. Harry though only wakes up later to find Cornelius Fudge in the wing arguing with McGonagall and Dumbledore, the latter of whom enters into an argument with the Minister Cornelius Fudge. In the end, Fudge and Dumbledore "part ways" after an argument about the situation of Voldemort's return and the consequences that would follow should Fudge remain ignorant.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore is demoted from Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, voted out of the Chairmanship of the International Confederation of Wizards, and is almost stripped of his Order of Merlin First Class, due to his speeches regarding the return of Voldemort. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic does everything they can to discredit him and Harry, mainly through the Daily Prophet. At the beginning of the book, Dumbledore enrages Fudge when he stops by at Harry's hearing with a witness (Arabella Figg) to ensure that he is not expelled. While Harry feels better when Dumbledore assists him, he becomes annoyed to the point of being angry that the headmaster refuses to speak or even look at him.

During the following year at Hogwarts, the Ministry passes Educational Decree Twenty-two, allowing Fudge to place Dolores Umbridge (after Dumbledore failed to find a suitable candidate) to the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Through her, Fudge gradually gains power over Hogwarts and Dumbledore, who he fears is building an underage wizard army to overthrow the Ministry. Umbridge forbids practical defence practice in her classes forcing Harry, Ron, and Hermione to form Dumbledore's Army (D.A.) with fellow friends. It is when the Ministry discovers the D.A. that Dumbledore, choosing to accept responsibility, falsely claims that the organisation was his own subversive creation, and allows himself to be removed as headmaster (for the second time) rather than allow Harry to be expelled.

Dumbledore is not heard of again in the book until he arrives in the Department of Mysteries to aid the Order in the battle against the Death Eaters, succeeding in subduing nearly all of the Death Eaters and binding them with an Anti-Disapparition Jinx to prevent them from magically escaping. He then saves Harry from the Avada Kedavra curse conjured by Voldemort and proceeds to engage in a ferocious duel with the Dark Lord, which ends in a virtual stalemate. After Voldemort disapparates, Dumbledore tells Fudge what happened and is reinstated as headmaster and retrieves all his distinctions. Towards the end of the book, Dumbledore explains to Harry that Voldemort chose him as his equal and that one must kill the other in the end.

Sixth book

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore fetches Harry from Privet Drive and takes him to persuade Horace Slughorn to join the Hogwarts staff – his right hand, Harry notices, is shrivelled and black. During the school year, Dumbledore meets with Harry in his office to teach him of Voldemort's past because he tells Harry that it is of immense importance. Through their lessons, they visit the thoughts of others, which contained important information about the life of Voldemort, leading to his genocidal rise to power. It is learned that Voldemort created six Horcruxes to gain immortality and that they must all be destroyed before Harry goes after the final piece of Voldemort's soul that resides in the Dark Lord's body. Harry also repeatedly warns Dumbledore in most of their lessons that another student, Draco Malfoy, is working for Voldemort. Dumbledore refuses to take any action against Draco, and instead tells Harry that he already knows more about what is happening than Harry does.

By the end of book six, Dumbledore and Harry set out to the cave where Dumbledore believed a Horcrux resides. In the cave, Dumbledore drinks a potion inside the Horcrux's container; while drinking it, he begins to scream, seemingly enduring mental torture and being weakened. Dumbledore begins to scream out for water after he finishes the potion, and Harry, realizing he has no other choice, dips the goblet into the lake to give him a drink. As soon as he does this, though, all the Inferi that reside in the lake grab at Harry and attempt to drag him down and drown him in the lake. But Dumbledore suddenly recovers, thanks to the water, and conjures a fire lasso around them. Dumbledore takes the locket within and both make their way back out of the cave and back to Hogsmeade. When they return, Madam Rosmerta informs them that the Dark Mark was conjured over the Astronomy Tower and both Harry and Dumbledore set off on Rosmerta's brooms towards the tower. In the tower, Dumbledore merely converses about Draco Malfoy's plot to kill him. Several other Death Eaters enter the tower and try to persuade Draco to kill Dumbledore. When Malfoy is unable to murder him, Snape appears and immediately performs the Killing Curse on Dumbledore.

Shortly after his death, Dumbledore's portrait magically appears in the Headmaster's office. His funeral is attended by students, Hogwarts teachers and staff, members of the Ministry of Magic, ghosts, centaurs, merpeople and others who wish to pay their respects. Shrouded in purple velvet, he is entombed in a white marble sarcophagus beside the lake at Hogwarts, and it is said that he is the only headmaster to be buried on the school grounds.

Final book

Rowling used several chapters in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to reveal two main matters concerning Dumbledore: his early life and his death. After coming across conflicting stories about Dumbledore's childhood and rise to the position of Hogwarts headmaster, Harry begins to doubt the Dumbledore he thought he once knew. When frustrated, he often finds himself angry with Dumbledore for making his quest for the Horcruxes difficult and not relaying enough information. Trying to piece together the true story of his disturbing past, Harry finally learns the true hardships of his youth from Aberforth and from Albus himself.

The truth about Dumbledore's death is revealed through Snape's last memories in the Pensieve. Harry learns that Dumbledore made a terrible error by placing a cursed ring on his right hand, sometime between the fifth and sixth book, forgetting the curses that must be on the ring. The ring held the Resurrection Stone, which Dumbledore hoped to use to allow him to apologise to his sister and parents. Dumbledore called Snape to help him; however, when Snape arrived and assessed the curse, all he could do was contain it. Snape told Dumbledore that he had little more than a year to live. After hearing this news, Dumbledore revealed to Snape that he knew about Voldemort's plan to have Draco Malfoy kill him. He asked Snape to use the killing curse on him when the time came because it would be less humiliating and less painful than dying of the curse that was in the ring; Dumbledore also did not want Draco to have to kill him, saying that the boy's soul was still intact, whereas Snape was fully aware that he would be merely sparing Dumbledore the pain involved in dying from the curse in his body.

Dumbledore appears one last time to Harry towards the end of the book, after Harry is struck with the killing curse. The boy comforts Dumbledore as he confesses all of his many regrets. Dumbledore then informs Harry of the choice he still has; of moving on to the next life or returning to his body to face Voldemort one last time. After returning from limbo and defeating Voldemort, Harry has a short conversation with Dumbledore's portrait in the Headmaster's office about the fate of each of the three Deathly Hallows. In the epilogue, it is revealed that Harry names his second son Albus Severus Potter after Dumbledore and Snape.

Portrayals within films

In the film adaptations of Philosopher's Stone (2001) and Chamber of Secrets (2002), Dumbledore was played by Richard Harris, who was expected to play Dumbledore throughout the series. Harris mentioned that he was originally not going to take the role either, since he knew his own health was in decline. He accepted because his then-10-year-old granddaughter threatened never to speak to him again if he did not take it. Harris was determined to portray Dumbledore again in Prisoner of Azkaban (which was released until 2004), despite having been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, and asked David Heyman not to recast the role. However, his death on 25 October 2002 prompted Alfonso Cuarón to choose Sir Michael Gambon as his replacement four months later.

Gambon was not concerned about bettering Harris and did his own thing, putting on a slight Irish accent for the role, as well as completing his scenes in three weeks. Ian McKellen was offered the role, but he turned it down having played the similar character Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as feeling it would have been inappropriate to take Harris' role, as the late actor had called McKellen a "dreadful" actor. Harris's family had expressed an interest in seeing Harris's close friend Peter O'Toole being chosen as his replacement.

Gambon reprised his role in Goblet of Fire (2005), Order of the Phoenix (2007), and Half-Blood Prince (2009). After Rowling stated that Dumbledore is gay, Gambon had been "camping up" around the set when off camera while filming Half-Blood Prince. However, it is expected that his on-screen performance remains without any change from the previous films.


Outward appearance

The books describe Dumbledore as a classic wizard; tall and thin, with long silver hair that looks long enough to tuck into his belt and a long beard. He has twinkling, blue eyes, a very long and crooked nose (looking as if it had been broken at least twice, and one of these was violently caused by his brother Aberforth) and long fingers. He wears half-moon spectacles. In addition, in his younger years, he is described as having auburn hair. He once claimed to have a scar above his left knee, the cause of which is unknown, in the shape of a map of the London Underground. He is usually seen in sweeping robes ranging in colours and patterns, which often include stars and moons.

Some reviewers have noted a similarity between Dumbledore and the classic wizard Merlin, as well as Gandalf from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.


Throughout the series, Dumbledore does not give importance to the so-called "purity of blood" and believes that an individual's choices reflect one's character, rather than one's birth, blood or family, saying, "it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be". Voldemort angrily refers to Dumbledore as "that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles". Unlike most wizards, Dumbledore is not afraid to refer to Voldemort by name (and attempted to persuade others to call him by his 'proper' name, Voldemort, during the First War) and instead addresses him as "Tom" when confronting him.

Characters in the books often remark that Dumbledore's greatest weakness is his willingness to trust those who may otherwise be considered untrustworthy. This trust is often criticised by those around him but is rarely questioned. However, the end of the series shows that Dumbledore had valid reasons to trust the people he did and he is shown to know exactly what he is doing even when other people in the series sometimes cannot understand it. According to Rowling, "Although Dumbledore seems to be so benign for six books, he's quite a Machiavellian figure, really. He's been pulling a lot of strings."

Dumbledore frequently makes humorous, even whimsical comments, especially during conflict, which can often infuriate those who are at odds with him. He is hardly ever impatient, and makes a point of politeness, even to those whom one would consider his enemies. He is a great lover of music, calling it "A magic beyond all we do [at Hogwarts]".

In Philosopher's Stone, he mentions to Harry that the deepest desire of his heart (revealed via the Mirror of Erised) is to have a pair of woollen socks, as "one can never have enough socks." However, this has been proven false. In the seventh novel, Harry realises that he and Dumbledore see the same things in the Mirror: their families. While a brilliant and wise wizard, Dumbledore is portrayed as very eccentric; for example, in the first book he announces that he would like to say "a few words" to the school, and then pronounces: "Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak."

However, in a 2005 interview, Rowling commented: "Immense brainpower does not protect you from emotional mistakes, and I think Dumbledore really exemplifies that.

It is known that he has held the posts of Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards; over the course of his life, Dumbledore refused, several times, the position of Minister for Magic due to the trauma of his early life with Grindelwald, which convinced him that he was not to be trusted with power. He held the Order of Merlin, First Class, for Grand Sorcery.

Magical accomplishments and skills

At a young age, Dumbledore always showed great magical abilities and in his N.E.W.T.s, "...did things with a wand [the examiner had] never seen before". Rowling has said that Dumbledore is primarily self-taught, although he "had access to superb teachers at Hogwarts," and, as far as his education is concerned, "Dumbledore's family would be a profitable line of inquiry. While he is by no means vain, Dumbledore also exhibits no false modesty, readily acknowledging that he is unusually intelligent and an exceptionally powerful wizard. He admits a number of times to Harry in their occasional meetings in Half-Blood Prince that he makes mistakes, and since he is smarter than most men, his mistakes "tend to be correspondingly huger."

Dumbledore is an expert at nonverbal spells and is famous as an alchemist who has worked with Nicolas Flamel, the only known maker of the Philosopher's Stone, and is credited with discovering the twelve uses of dragon's blood. His Patronus takes the form of a phoenix, a recurring symbol in the books. Dumbledore has devised a method of sending messages to other people using a Patronus Charm, a skill he has taught only to members of the Order of the Phoenix.

His weapon of choice seems to be fire. In his duel against Voldemort in the fifth novel, he uses a fiery rope; when he displays his Wizarding powers to young Tom Riddle, he does so by setting Riddle's wardrobe on fire; in the cave that hides Voldemort's locket Horcrux, he uses fire to hold off the Inferi (though that fact may be excluded as Inferi are vulnerable to fire and warmth). He is also known to be able to conjure Gubraithian fire (magical everlasting fire). He has claimed to be able to become invisible without using an invisibility cloak. Dumbledore is also skilled in Occlumency and Legilimency. Dumbledore is an expert at Transfiguration too, having taught the subject before becoming headmaster. He frequently creates complex objects like sofa chairs out of thin air (or from less comfortable chairs). Dumbledore is also proficient at Charms and Potions, as, according to the obituary written by Elphias Doge, his papers were published in papers such as Achievements in Charming and The Practical Potioneer. Dumbledore is famous for defeating Grindelwald, who is second on a list of Most Dangerous Dark Wizards of All Time only to Voldemort himself, in a "spectacular duel of legend", succeeding in doing so despite the fact that Grindelwald possessed the Elder Wand, which supposedly guarantees invincibility in duels due to its power. His skill at duelling is further shown when he calmly engages Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, overpowering him and eventually forcing him to possess Harry to be spared from total defeat. Dumbledore speaks Mermish and Gobbledegook (Goblin language), and understands Parseltongue.


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