Today, we’re defending a character who is hated by many for strange reasons from the world over. The one, the only Albus Dumbledore! Is this a controversial subject?
Yes. Is it important? Yes. Is it something I think will also be very valuable to people to listen to? Yes.
Or you might still hate me for defending one of the most misunderstood characters in fiction.
Seeing as I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter, I wanted to cover this now. Seeing as it’s rare for me to cover anything other than anime, it’s even rarer for me to cover a character that I dislike. Much less defend them.
Harry Potter, somehow, has always managed to interest me. Whether it’s because it’s well-written, interesting, I don’t know. It manages to both frustrate me and intrigue me at the same time.
As I’ve become an adult, Harry Potter has once again consumed my life. Now that I look at it from an adult perspective, now there are new things I’m interested in covering. One of these is the defense of hated characters, such as Molly Weasley, Ron Weasley, Ginny, The Potters, and other characters often maligned by fanfiction cliches.
I decided, what if I were to take a look at a character who I strongly disagree with, but felt it was necessary to do as so many people constantly belittle and get so wrong all the time that it’s hard to resist not wanting to kill something?
I will be defending: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Now, call him what you like, call him Du/mbles, call him a manipulative asshole, the fact remains that Rowling has created one of the most interesting and controversial characters in fiction.
Many people are constantly divided on re-reading Harry Potter, mainly because of him, how he treats Harry, his sister’s past, and even when his brother and Rita herself slander his name, there are still people asking the following questions:
“Why did he leave Harry with the Dursleys? Is he an abuse enabler?”
“Why doesn’t Dumbledore let Harry stay anywhere other than the Dursleys?”
“Why doesn’t he tell me anything?”
“Why does he raise him like a pig for slaughter?”
“Why does he let kids do his dirty work?”
Such are the questions that many HP fans have been asking themselves since book numbers 5-7 revealed the more flawed side of Dumbledore.
Well, anyway, I’m here to provide an explanation that will hopefully be free of bias, (well, still some bias, as I’m not the biggest Dumbledore fan.) but nonetheless, I want to at least show something from this man’s perspective to defend his actions throughout the books.
He’s not the bad guy everyone says he is, but he is not the good guy. He’s not the perfect messiah who can solve everything. Dumbledore is 100% flawed, and that’s by far one of the best things about him.
He is human, and this is what Rowling has tried to tell us, that every character in the story is flawed and human. With the exception of Voldemort, every other character is humanized and we’re expected to accept that.
But when it comes to Dumbledore and Voldemort, I know that we all accept that H/arry Potter is a very complex series and that it didn’t initially start out that way, but let me just start with explaining Dumbledore.
You all know his general backstory if you’ve read the books. Now, let me just explain why Dumbledore did what he did to Harry, why he allowed things to play out as they did, and what he was ultimately trying to achieve.
Now I’m not gonna play by bs headcanons like Dumbledore betrayed the Potters/he has mysterious instruments that watch and control Harry, Dumbledore allowed abuse to happen. He’s not the mustache-twirling villain who has a twinkle in his eye and goes, “Harry, m’boy,” when things don’t go his way.
I’m gonna start with pre-Hogwarts, then get to when he meets Harry.
First, as we all know, he is the head of Hogwarts. He’s the Headmaster, which he has been for a very, very long time.
He’s very old, and very wise. He’s grandfatherly, a bit eccentric, easy to get to know, but he’s also highly manipulative. Mostly for good reasons, but he’s quite aware of his manipulativeness. The most important thing about Dumbledore is his heart. It’s the one thing that divides him from being like Voldie.
At first, we start out liking him because Harry likes him, but then, as our protagonist ages, we start noticing that he has some discrepancies. Harry discovers authority figures aren’t always right, nor do they know what to do at times. That’s sort of how school is, and as someone who’s going back to college tomorrow, I’ve met my share of stupid and competent teachers.
We can debate for hours about how good or bad he is.
So, as we all know, he was born and he had his sister, brother and his mother and father. His sister gets attacked by Muggles and is sheltered by his mother afterward while his father is in prison, for attacking said boys. His brother is resentful of him and has a falling-out with him.
Suffering a strained relationship, he turns to the dark arts and falls for Grindelwald, they do some evil shit and then, it’s not quite specified how this happens, but his sister accidentally gets in the way of their fight and was killed.
His brother estranges himself from him.
Think about what Dumbledore already has on his plate.
The dude is in his twenties/thirties, and he already has had his family close to him die.
The knowledge that he helped a friend/lover who betrayed him and helped him destroy a bunch of innocent people for power, the knowledge that he has destroyed the trust his brother had in him, the knowledge that he is responsible for his sister’s death…
So as Dumbledore ages, he becomes Headmaster and he’s a guy who’s already lost a lot in his life. Yes, Rowling intends for there to be similarities between Dumbledore, Voldemort and Harry, and yes, I will be talking about all three of them, because their story is interlaced within the narrative itself.
So this dude’s already been through a lot of shit.
So, it makes sense that he wants to make sure his students are safe.
So why does he let the kids at Hogwarts do as they please? First of all, Dumbledore is very childish, something we see in the odd way he governs the school. He never quite loses his child-like innocence and Harry also is very child-like. So is Voldemort, though all three differ in their similarities.
We could also explain the eccentric way he governs Hogwarts as a result of his childhood. He never got proper parenting, after all, his mother hid from the public and he was engaged in that Dark Arts shit. He practically had to raise himself and from this, comes the belief that hey, the magical kids can handle whatever comes their way. They’re smarter than people think they are. It’s then that with this thing in mind, before Dumbledore becomes Headmaster, he discovers a boy named Tom.
Tom is all too similar to Dumbledore, he’s alone, mistreated by everyone, but Dumbledore didn’t know he was a total psychopath, all he saw was a lonely child who was in a place that didn’t like him, he wanted to know who he was, and he wanted to be accepted.
Dumbledore told him what he was, unknowing of him being evil. So he takes him in. He’d raise him with kindness, I’m sure he might’ve been surprised when he was sorted into Slytherin, but it’s hinted that he might not have trusted him as early as when he was sorted into Hogwarts.
When evil shit happened, there was Tom.
But the problem is, Dumbledore has one big flaw and that is his naivete. His ability to believe in the better of people, (similar to our hero!) trust in people so much that he can be blind to their flaws, is by far one of the things that gets our hero Dumbledore in so much trouble throughout the series.
Tom manages to backstab his kindness, and Dumbledore discovers that it was Myrtle who died by Tom’s hand, and that Tom used a basilisk to frame Hagrid.
He figured it out, but the headmaster then didn’t accept it. He didn’t really want to believe that Tom could kill someone. So he tries to rationalize it as an accident.
So he tucks it away in his mind and tries to forget about it.
But as Tom grows older, he gets worse and worse.
Years go by, he meets the Marauders, and he obviously knows what adventures they’ve been having, at night with their cloak. Who knows how he found out, he probably read their minds.
I’m pretty sure he knew about them being Animagi. I’m sure he touched noses with a lot of Animagi in his time, so whatever they were doing was of his knowledge. I’m sure he saw James and Lily’s romance.
Old people see and know a lot of shit.
Snape comes in, you know, a battered, bruised kid.
Years go by, James marries Lily, Dumbles probably goes to the wedding and is happy for them. As it stands right now, they are just his students. He has no obligation to them.
Then Voldemort comes in the picture. Dumbles organizes the OOTp to fight back against him. But people die.
Suddenly he sees what happened with him and Grindelwald all over again, so many, many people he’s grown to trust die. Imagine the pain he has to deal with, knowing he has to fight and possibly kill his own student.
He probably blamed himself for it.
He probably thought he had to take down Voldie himself as it was his fault-he introduced him to magic, after all. But Dumbledore is the Headmaster of the school, he can’t just go running after him. The school has to stay open, so the kids can be safe.
So all this hardship happens, Dumbles watches. The Potters give birth to Harry and the Longbottoms are tortured into insanity, shortly after Alice Longbottom gives birth to Neville.
When Trelawney gives her prediction, he realizes the Potters are in danger.
So he goes to them, tells them they need to hide and selects a Secret Keeper, and obviously, he would know where they are, as he’s powerful and the only thing standing between them and certain death.
If anything, Voldemort would not want to mess with Dumbledore, but he was too afraid of him. So he hides them with Peter, who he thought he could trust, initially Sirius, but Dumbles thought this too obvious and switched them.
Peter is unassuming and seems to be an idiot who doesn’t know anything.
Therefore, Dumbles thinks, an idiot would be the last person Voldemort would want. Unfortunately, he’s a traitor.
He’s a bad guy, and that’s exactly what he was waiting for, and Voldie finds them and the rest is history. Harry is born.
So Dumbledore goes and along with Hagrid, he finds devastation. More of his students who trusted in him and his magic are dead. If he’d just stopped Tom, Lily and James would’ve lived full lives. They’re dead and the guy who did it is long gone.
From Dumble’s perspective, he didn’t know that Peter was evil. In this timeline, all he sees is Sirius looking mad and they fight, then Peter looks dead. I’m sure he wanted to take him aside and ask him if he did it, but as it is right now, so many people have died that just taking someone hostage for a while, to show that they were competent at something, would shut the Ministry up.
Now he was offered the position of the Minister but he turned that down. Why would he, if he’s the evil man everyone says he is?
Instead, he puts Sirius in jail, Peter gets away with it.
Now he sees that Harry is in a situation much like him, only it’s even worse. He doesn’t even have a house anymore. At least he had a house. Harry has no house, no family.
His mother is dead and so is his dad. And so comes the decision: what does he do with the child? Does he let Hogwarts raise the child? Sure, the house elves might be able to care for him, but would he understand and communicate with people?
Sure, there are wizards working at Hogwarts, but they’re not there all the time and what happens if that child wanders into a trap or the wrong staircase?
There are all those paintings that can keep an eye on him, but they’re paintings.
So he thinks about all the people he can have raise him. Well, Sirius is in prison, so scratch that. Peter is “dead.” Remus is a werewolf and Remus could easily wind up attacking and killing the child. He knows he means well, but he knows what he is.
There’s also Snape but Snape is also a Death Eater, so Voldemort would easily suspect him.
He thinks, maybe I can just give him to the Weasleys, but they have enough children of their own. Maybe he could be given to another Wizarding family. But he thinks of the idea that other Death Eaters can easily track him down. The baby is on everyone’s hit lists.
If he leaves the baby with wizards, they will surely die.
So Dumbledore is out of options, he considers Muggles but Muggles can’t fight back against them and the Death eaters can find him easily. They can easily kill Harry as long as he’s visible and easily traced.
They can still find and kill him.
This isn’t about how can I make a child a weapon, but it ties into Harry being a horcrux. So Dumbledore obviously guesses that some of Voldemort’s powers went into Harry when he got the scar as such that might make him a Horcrux.
He realizes in order for Voldie to be defeated, he has to do something that he would never, ever, ever, advocate for. He discovers Petunia and remembers that she’s alive, and remembers the spell that Lily used to protect Harry, as long as Harry considered the place he was with people to be his home, he would be protected, but only as long as it was of his blood.
So then he thinks about them, but then he has McGon go check the place, she reports back says they’re not pleasant people, but Dumbles thinks: should I let this kid be with people who will not be nice to him, but keep him safe and alive, or should I just let him die and let the greatest wizard of all rule over everything?
So think about this. What’s he supposed to do?
He considers everything, but the snake dude always finds a way in.
No matter how many preparations you think you have, they always find a way in. Just like those ants I hate so much, lol.
He thinks if he takes a chance and uses this magic that snake guy doesn’t know of, Harry will be safe. I’m sure he understood that they weren’t good parents.
But, I’m sure he thought that Petunia would make an exception and treat Harry with love as he’s all that’s left of her sister. He was sure that Petunia still loved her sister so much that she would look after her nephew.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t really consider their perspectives, but there’s no time to consider the options. If he wants this kid to survive (yes, he wants him to survive, not die, I’ll be getting to that,) he must do his plan like this.
So he puts a magical ward around the house, puts the baby there, but it’s only for a couple hours. Petunia would find him and take him in. Then he leaves a letter because he knows, if he appears to them, they will be too scared and angry to listen to him. A letter will be their way of understanding what’s happened.
They’re gonna have no choice but to agree. What if he can’t see what’s going on?
That’s why he has a plan B. Someone to watch them and make sure they’re not being bad.
That’s why he has a backup. That’s why he has a person that the Dursleys never stop to think twice about, a harmless old lady with cats, what’s so odd about that?
So Mrs. Figg comes in.
She sees things and babysits Harry and she can tell Dumbledore how Harry’s doing. She can obviously see when he’s outside, how they’re treating him, etc. She can’t see everything, but she knows they’re not “fun to be around” as she tells him in Boo/k 5.
Dumbledore figures that everything’s going fine.
Maybe the Dursleys are neglectful.
Also, the wizards are a bit like 1800s America, which means corporal punishment is fine to them. They don’t see abuse the same way we do.
So there’s no excuse at all for Dumbles to hear abuse and not do anything about it. But what can he do? This place keeps Harry alive. As long as he’s not dead, he’d rather he be a little bit sad than dead. Dumbles has a utilitarian way of looking at things, which means one kid being a bit unhappy is better than an entire world being unhappy.
Dumbles is a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Was what he did wrong? Yes. Was it necessary? Yes. Harry had no other relatives to look after him. He had to stay with the Dursleys.
And Dumbles does call them out at the beginning of Book 6 for their mistreatment of him.