"[T]hat champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles"
-- Lord Voldemort (GF33)
Albus Dumbledore was the Headmaster of Hogwarts for over thirty years, a time period that encompassed both of Voldemort’s attempts to take over the Wizarding world. Considered to be the most powerful wizard of his time, Dumbledore was awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class, and was the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards as well as the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot.
Although in his later years Albus Dumbledore was known as much for his eccentricity, gentle humor and unfailing kindness as his magical abilities, he was deeply ashamed of some of the things he did — and thought — in his youth. He learned the hard way about the seductiveness of power, and its costs, and spent the rest of his life trying to understand and contain the darker impulses in Wizarding society.
Dumbledore was the oldest of the three children of Kendra, a Muggle-born witch, and Percival Dumbledore, a wizard. When Albus was ten and his brother Aberforth was eight, tragedy born of the friction between the Muggle and Wizarding worlds struck the family and changed it forever. Albus’s six-year-old sister Ariana was beaten by three Muggle boys when she frightened them by performing magic. She survived, but was so badly injured that her development was permanently damaged. Her brother Aberforth told Harry that she refused to use her magic but couldn’t remove it either, and that drove her mad. Her magic would explode out of her in uncontrolled, unpredictable ways.
When their father Percival was sent to Azkaban for attacking the boys that injured Ariana, Kendra decided to keep her daughter’s condition a secret and moved the family from Mould-on-the-Wold to Godric’s Hollow where the family kept to themselves. Albus, and later Aberforth, would attend Hogwarts, but Ariana remained hidden, and her magic untrained and uncontrolled.
Albus went on to be a stand-out student at Hogwarts, and was about to go on a grand tour of the Wizarding world with Elphias Doge in 1899 when Ariana accidentally killed their mother Kendra. Instead of traveling the world and launching a great career, Albus reluctantly stayed to care for Ariana. That summer he met young Gellert Grindelwald and became entranced with Gellert and his ideas: visions of Wizard supremacy, and his search for the three Deathly Hallows. Ariana was neglected while Albus became infatuated with Gellert and discussed Wizard takeovers “for the greater good” of the world. Eventually, Albus’s brother Aberforth confronted the two of them about Ariana, a fight ensued, and Ariana was killed. Gellert fled, and Albus fully realized what his friend was capable of, and where his ideas would have taken them. Albus deeply regretted his role in his sister’s death for the rest of his life.
Instead of conquering the world, Albus avoided politics and concentrated on scholarship, discovering the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and exploring alchemy with Nicolas Flamel. A few years after leaving Hogwarts, he became a professor at there where he taught Transfiguration. In 1938, Tom Riddle was admitted to Hogwarts. While others were impressed with his brilliance, Dumbledore began to be disturbed by Tom’s fascination with power and cruelty toward others. As Europe descended into totalitarianism and war, Tom Riddle became fascinated by similar ideas of Wizard supremacy. He changed his name to Lord Voldemort, and began gathering objects of power and seeking ways to cheat death. After Dumbledore’s spectacular defeat of his onetime friend Grindelwald in 1945, Albus Dumbledore became the only wizard that Voldemort feared.
When Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters began their brutal subjugation of Wizarding society in the 1970s and the Ministry of Magic could not cope, Dumbledore (now Hogwarts Headmaster) formed the Order of the Phoenix to fight against Voldemort and for the rights of Muggles and Muggle-born wizards. The Order suffered tremendous losses, but prevailed when Voldemort’s power was broken by Lily Potter’s instinctive self-sacrifice for her infant son Harry, “the boy who lived.” Dumbledore delivered the orphaned Harry to his Muggle aunt for protection, and a ten-year period of relative peace began.
Unfortunately for nearly everyone, Voldemort survived and eventually regained enough of his strength to try again to realize his monstrous ambitions. Dumbledore realized that the Wizarding world’s best hope lay in an eleven-year-old boy named Harry Potter who had just begun his schooling at Hogwarts, for Harry had been prophesied to be the one with “the power to vanquish the Dark Lord” before his birth. This time, Dumbledore had an unlikely ally, former Death Eater and Potions Master Severus Snape.
Harry was Dumbledore’s man from the very beginning; Dumbledore had much more difficulty with the relationship. Instead of a pawn to prepare for sacrifice, he had a neglected, loving, courageous child who needed to be both confident and selfless enough to do the unthinkable. At Harry’s first Christmas, Dumbledore gave Harry his father’s Cloak of Invisibility, a rare object of unusual power, and then stood back and waited to see what he did with it. This odd, detached teaching method was very effective with Harry, but it also enabled Dumbledore to make an “old man’s mistake” and delay fully disclosing the complete details and implications of Trelawney’s prophecy to him.
Dumbledore made another mistake, but this one was fatal. As Harry was learning to trust his friends, his power and his instincts, Dumbledore had begun the hunt for Tom Riddle’s Horcruxes and discovered that he wasn’t immune to the lure of the Deathly Hallows after all. He already had the Elder Wand (taken from Grindelwald in battle), Harry had the legendary Cloak of Invisibility, and there in the Peverell ring Horcrux was the Resurrection Stone which would allow him to see his parents and sister again. Unthinking, he put the cursed ring on his right hand. After containing the damage, Snape later told Dumbledore that he could not completely stop the damage from spreading, as it was a type of curse that strengthened over time. Dumbledore had about a year left to shape events before he died.
Severus Snape had lived up to his word to Dumbledore so many years ago, and protected Harry’s life while maintaining his credibility with Voldemort. Now, at this crossroads, Dumbledore ruthlessly compelled Snape to promise one more thing — to kill him, if needed, to maintain his cover and spare young Draco Malfoy the experience. Snape agreed, though this clearly repelled him.
During his last year of life, Dumbledore showed Harry how to hunt for Horcruxes, and left clues about the Deathly Hallows for Harry and his friends to work out for themselves. He knew Harry well enough by then to be sure that – unlike himself – Harry would not be tempted by the Hallows for long. Dumbledore was killed by Severus Snape in June of 1997 and buried in a white marble tomb on the grounds of Hogwarts.
Birth name: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore (OP8).
Other names: Voldemort refers to him as “that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles” (GF33).
Birthdate: 1881 (JKR), probably in July or August. This date supercedes Jo’s statement in 2001 that Dumbledore was “about 150 years old” (Blue Nose Day) and fits better with the dates that appear in Book 7. Regarding his month of birth, Rita says that Dumbledore was “nearing” his 18th birthday when he left Hogwarts in June, but was still 17 when he met Grindelwald (DH18). Basically, at some point during Grindelwald’s stay at Godric’s Hollow Dumbledore turned 18, so the month of his birth appears to be July or August.
Deathdate: June, 1997 (when he was killed by Severus Snape), but 1996 according to Rowling’s Wizard of the Month declaration (JKR).
Eye color: blue.
Hair color: white (originally auburn).
Other characteristics: Scar in the shape of the London Underground above his knee (PS1). After summer of 1996, withered, blackened right (wand) hand (HBP3).
The ring: “It was large, rather clumsily made of what looked like gold, and was set with a heavy black stone that had cracked down the middle.” Worn on Dumbledore’s left hand beginning at about the same time he injured his right hand (HBP4).
After the potion: His face is damp and as pale as an Inferi. The corners of his mouth twitch.
Descriptions from the books:
“He was tall, thin, and very old, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak that swept the ground, and high-heeled, buckled boots. His blue eyes were light, bright, and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice.”(PS1)
“He wore half-moon glasses, had along, crooked nose, and flowing silver hair, beard, and mustache.”(PS6)
“Professor Dumbledore, though very old, always gave an impression of great energy. He had several feet of long silver hair and beard, half-moon spectacles, and an extremely crooked nose. He was often described as the greatest wizard of the age, but that wasn’t why Harry respected him. You couldn’t help trusting Albus Dumbledore…” (PA5)
“The silvery light from the Pensieve illuminated Dumbledore’s face, and it struck Harry suddenly how very old he was looking. He knew, of course, that Dumbledore was getting on in years, but somehow he never really thought of Dumbledore as an old man” (GF30).
After the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, something injured Dumbledore’s right (wand) hand. It was “blackened and shriveled; it looked as though his flesh had been burned away.” (HBP3)
Dumbledore at Hogwarts
First year: 1892.
House: Gryffindor (Pm)
School awards, etc.: “Examined him personally in Transfiguration and Charms when he did N.E.W.T.s … Did things with a wand I’d never seen before …” –Griselda Marchbanks (OP31). “Head Boy, Prefect, Winner of the Barnabus Finkley Prize for Exceptional Spell-Casting, British Youth Representative to the Wizengamot, Gold Medal-Winner for Ground-Breaking Contribution to the International Alchemical Conference in Cairo.” (DH18)
Career: By c.1913 he was Hogwarts Transfiguration professor (CS17, WFT); Hogwarts School Headmaster c.1965 until his death.
Ancestry: Half-blood (his mother Kendra was Muggle-born) (DH8).
Mother: Kendra Dumbledore, accidentally killed in 1899 by her 14-year-old daughter Ariana, who was mentally unstable.
Father: Percival Dumbledore, imprisoned c.1890 at Azkaban for an attack on Muggles when Albus was about 10 years old.
Siblings: Younger brother Aberforth (born 1883 or 1884) and sister Ariana (born 1884 or 1885, died 1899); both brothers are haunted by their sister's accidental death (DH3).
Location of childhood home: Mould-on-the-Wold until the attack on his sister, then Godric's Hollow.
Relationships: Fell in love with Gellert Grindelwald when Albus was 17, but was “terribly let down by him” when he realized what Gellert was capable of (CH2).
Pet: Fawkes, a phoenix.
The Elder Wand, one of the three Deathly Hallows (DH).
- Put-Outer, aka Deluminator (PS1)
- Watch with twelve hands and little planets instead of numbers (PS1)
- Mirror of Erised (PS12)
- unnamed delicate silver instruments (CS12, OP)
- Pensieve (GF30)
- Peverell ring (HBP4)
- Occlumency / Legilimency (OP37)
- Can cast spells without a wand
- Can become invisible without a cloak (PS12)
- Can send messages with his Patronus (GF28), a phoenix (JKR)
- Spoke Mermish (GF26) and a language that Harry did not understand (HBP26); he also understood Gobbledegook (BLC) and Parseltongue (HBP10, BLC).
- Socks: Likes a pair of warm socks. [Essay: Thoughts on Socks]
- Favorite foods: sherbet lemons (PS1), Cockroach Clusters, hot cocoa, raspberry jam, Acid Pops.
- Organizations & affiliations: Order of Merlin, First Class, and Grand Sorcerer; Founder and Secret Keeper, Order of the Phoenix (OP6); Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards (temporarily "voted out" OP5); Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot (temporarily demoted OP5).
- Also famous for: Defeating the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945; discovering the 12 uses of dragon blood.
- Patronus: Phoenix. Performed Patronus Charm during Quidditch match in 1993, but shape was indistinct (PA9). Performed again in 1995, when it was described as a "ghostly bird" (GF28). JKR confirmed that Dumbledore's Patronus is a phoenix (EBF 2004).
- Greatest desire ('Erised'): For his family to be restored and loving again (BLC).
- Worst fear/memory: Seeing his sister die (BLC).
- Incarceration: Fudge and Dolores Umbridge attempted to arrest him for illegally forming an army, but were unsuccessful (OP27).
- Gringotts Vault: 713 (high security); contained the Philosopher's Stone (PS5).
- Enjoys: Knitting patterns (HBP4), chamber music and tenpin bowling (PS6).
Chocolate Frog Card:
Currently Head master of Hogwarts.
Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel.
Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.
“Albus” Latin for ‘white,’ especially the flat white of stones or clothing. “Albion,” an ancient and poetical name for Britain comes from the same root.
“Percival” Knight of King Arthur's roundtable who was granted a glimpse of the Holy Grail. Albus shares this name with his father and Percy Weasley.
“Dumbledore” 18thC Eng. word for ‘bumblebee.’ Rowling says she wanted to associate his name with bees because she imagines him wandering around the castle humming to himself. Interestingly, the word "dumbledore" has another possibly important meaning. In an e-mail, Christopher Woosley writes:
"Although not widely known, an alternate meaning for the word Dumbledore is a style of hat the was made semi-popular in London in the 1880s-1890s. Taking this meaning into account, Albus Dumbledore's name would have the meaning "White Hat." As I'm sure you know that is a term for the hero or protagonist of a story. Mrs. Rowling named her great champion of good "White Hat"...I ran across this alternate meaning while researching a paper on British literature of the 19th century."
“Wulfric” Anglo/Saxon. ‘wolf power’ or ‘wolf ruler.’ Also, a 12thC British hermit saint known for his miracles and prophecies.
Regarding the date of Dumbledore's death: Is the "1996" date from Rowling's website a typo, or intentional? We're hoping that Rowling will let us know. Readers are asking why the Lexicon has not changed its official dates to 1996, and our answer has nothing to do with disrespect to Jo or the world she created. Our answer is that a 1996 date has dire implications for the oldest law Jo set for her Wizarding World.
Dumbledore's relationship to Harry - as a wise and knowledgeable paternal guide who helps the protagonist through most of his journey before he must go on to a level of grace or understanding his older companion fell just short of attaining - bears similarities to Virgil's relationship to Dante in the Divine Comedy. -BB
Dumbledore on film
Dumbledore was played by Richard Harris in the first two films. Harris died some time after the second film and the part was played in the subsequent films by Michael Gambon.
During her Carnegie Hall event in 2007, JKR said that Dumbledore was gay (and fell in love with Grindelwald) in response to a fan question. Ed Kern, discussant on Episode 2 of the MuggleNet Academia Podcast, noted that Dumbledore is "not a character who represents the gay experience" but happened to be a gay character in JKR's mind as she was creating him. --Hufflepuffskein
Thomas Hardy and the Dumbledores
Thomas Hardy refers to bumblebees as "dumbledores" in Chapter 4 of "Under the Greenwood Tree." In the novel, a group of choir members are trying to choose a word to describe the sound of an organ. They dislike organs because they are afraid of being replaced by one. Could this be where JKR first saw this word? -- C.M.
"'-[W]hat shall I call 'em- miserables-'
'Sinners,' suggested Jimmy (who made large strides like the men and did not lag behind like the other little boys.)
'Right William; and so they be - miserable dumbledores!' said the choir, with unanimity."
(Hardy, Thomas. Under the Greenwood Tree. Oxford University Press, 2013.)
From the Web
- Dumbledore's Decoy by hpboy13
- What Did Dumbledore Know of Horcruxes? by hpboy13
- Dumbledore's Deadly Plans by hpboy13
- Albus Dumbledore and the Sorcerer's Stone by hpboy13
- Severus... Please... by hpboy13
- The Flaw in the Plan by mirrormere
- Did Albus Dumbldore Sacrifice James and Lily Potter in Order to Stop Lord Voldemort? by Bill
- Philosopher’s Stone – Dumbledore’s Perspective by John Kearns
- Needing More Time by John Kearns
- A Very Bad Year for Albus Dumbledore (and it’s all Snape’s fault) by John Kearns
- Harry Potter, Occlumens? by John Kearns
Wizards and WhatNot (Fan-Sided/Culturess):
- Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes: Albus Dumbledore, the Mentor by Katie Majka
- Dumbledore wasn’t the best role model to Harry Potter and that’s the facts by Rachel Leishman
The Rowling Library, TRL Magazine Issue #59: How Dumbledore and Grindelwald might meet before their legendary duel by Cameron Werner
LiveJournal: Dumbledore and the Invisibility Cloak by raisin_gal
University of Oslo Master's Degree thesis: The Ethics of Albus Dumbledore: A Critical Discussion of Professor Dumbledore as a Moral Leader and Ideal in the Harry Potter Series by Lisa Therese Olsen
- In Brightest Day: Albus Dumbledore by blackout31
- How Dumbledore is Complicit in the Abuse of Others by MadameAce
The Philosophers' Magazine: Is Dumbledore Gay? by Tamar Szabó Gendler
- Fantastic Beasts 2's Blood Pact Can Explain Dumbledore's Biggest Secret by Alex Leadbeater
- Fantastic Beasts Theory: Credence Is Albus Dumbledore's Son by Rose Moore
- Fantastic Beasts 3 Theory: How Dumbledore Breaks The Blood Pact by Rose Moore
Science Meets Fiction: Harry Potter Theory: What Was Dumbledore’s Actual Plan? by Alex R. Howe
DwellingOnDreams blog and podcast: Dumbledore and Harry’s Horcrux: When did he know? by Taylor
Pre-Deathly Hallows essays
- Dumbledore's Master Plan Part 1 by Steve Connolly
- Dumbledore's Master Plan Part 2 by Steve Connolly
- Dumbledore's Master Plan Part 3 by Steve Connolly
- Dumbledore's Master Plan Part 4 by Steve Connolly
- Dumbledore's Master Plan Part 5 by Steve Connolly
- Dumbledore's Master Plan Part 6 by Steve Connolly
- Dumbledore's Master Plan Part 7 by Steve Connolly
- Dumbledore's Plan by Daniela
- Albus Dumbledore – Clueless or Calculating? by Maline
- Dumbledore and Fudge by changclaire5
- Dumbledore's Failure by kerylr
- Dumbledore's Mercy: Why Draco Couldn't Pull the Trigger by travisprinzi
- Dumbledore's Boggart by felicitys_mind
- Defending Dumbledore, Part I: Loyalty and Manipulation by travisprinzi
- Defending Dumbledore, Part II: "I shall not, of course, lie" by travisprinzi
- The Reason Dumbledore Trusts Severus Snape by rotae
- Does Dumbledore tell lies? by whitealchemist
- On Heroes and Mentors: Why Dumbledore Had to Die by jennjenn724
- Dumbledore’s Decisions and the Vulnerability of Authority by sophierom