The Rise of Grindelwald

We first heard of Grindelwald as a throwaway fact on Albus Dumbledore’s chocolate frog card in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a dark wizard that Dumbledore had, in fact, defeated years and years before. In Deathly Hallows, however, Grindelwald became an important piece of the puzzle of Voldemort’s defeat.

As promised in my Fantastic Beasts review, I’m taking a more in-depth look at this hitherto unremarkable villain. What do we already know about Gellert Grindelwald, based on information J.K. Rowling has already given us? In Deathly Hallows, we are treated to several long excerpts from Rita Skeeter’s book The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. The following two paragraphs are the summary she gives of Grindelwald’s infamy and origins as context for her exposé of his relationship with Dumbledore:

The name of Grindelwald is justly famous: In a list of the Most Dangerous Dark Wizards of all time, he would miss out on the top spot only because You-Know-Who arrived, a generation later, to steal his crown. As Grindelwald never extended his campaign of terror to Britain, however, the details of his rise to power are not widely known here.

Educated at Durmstrang, a school famous even then for its unfortunate tolerance of the Dark Arts, Grindelwald showed himself quite as precociously brilliant as Dumbledore. Rather than channel his abilities into the attainment of awards and prizes, however, Gellert Grindelwald devoted himself to other pursuits. At sixteen years old, even Durmstrang felt it could no longer turn a blind eye to the twisted experiments of Gellert Grindelwald, and he was expelled.

And that is the most factual and unbiased part of the excerpt.

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Skeeter also includes a letter that Albus wrote to Gellert during his stay in Godric’s Hollow.

Gellert –

Your point about Wizard dominance being FOR THE MUGGLES’ OWN GOOD – this, I think, is the crucial point. Yes, we have been given power and yes, that power gives us the right to rule, but it also gives us responsibilities over the ruled. We must stress this point, it will be the foundation stone upon which we build. Where we are opposed, as we surely will be, this must be the basis of all our counterarguments. We seize control FOR THE GREATER GOOD. And from this it follows that where we meet resistance, we must use only the force that is necessary and no more. (This was your mistake at Durmstrang! But I do not complain, because if you had not been expelled, we would never have met.)


We learn from Hermione that the slogan “For the Greater Good” was written over the entrance to Grindelwald’s fortress Nurmengard.

So what facts do we have about Grindelwald? He believed that Muggles were inferior to Wizards and that Wizards, by having magic, had the right to rule the world. He was open to using the Dark Arts to achieve that vision. Albus, during the summer that Gellert spent in Godric’s Hollow, was trying to temper the more objectionable parts of Gellert’s vision, as in the letter he points out that Wizards needed to be responsible about how they conquered and ruled. But the point that young Albus agrees with is that the Muggles need Wizard subjugation. He is very intelligent, intelligent enough that when he arrives in England that Albus regards him as an equal.

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Geek Crusade

We also know from Deathly Hallows that Grindelwald was involved in the death of Albus’ sister, Ariana Dumbledore. As a small child, Ariana was attacked by Muggles. Her father was sent to Azkaban for retaliating on the attackers. As a result of her own personal shame and her family’s fear of exposure, Ariana’s magical abilities turned inward and became volatile–sometimes exploding dangerously. Aberforth Dumbledore in his confession to Harry, Ron, and Hermione doesn’t give a lot of detail about what her deranged powers were capable of, but the obscurial we see in Fantastic Beasts can give us some idea. Magic from young wizards who haven’t had any formal training is chaotic to begin with.  But Ariana’s physical and mental health definitely suffered due to her trauma and confinement.

As you can imagine, Albus himself as well as his family didn’t have a high opinion of Muggles. Grindelwald’s proposed revolution sounded like the solution to their problems.  Albus and Gellert saw themselves as saviors. But then Ariana was tragically killed during a fight that broke out between Aberforth, Albus, and Gellert.

This makes me want some backstory for Grindelwald to explain where he got his idea to conquer the Muggles, and I get the feeling we’ll be getting some as the Fantastic Beasts saga progresses. I wonder how Dumbledore came to his more enlightened view of Muggles in later years. But what we learn from Grindelwald’s early relationship with Dumbledore that while he is smart, he is also an advocate of using extreme measures to get his way. He also believes that what he is doing is the best thing for society.

After leaving England, Grindelwald gained a fantatical following in continental Europe and began a war on European Wizards. What was his objective? It isn’t hard to guess.

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The Wizarding World has been hidden from Muggles for several centuries now, and the separation of the two groups is engrained in Wizarding culture. It’s not that Wizards see Muggles as stupid, they see them as dangerous. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, witchcraft and magic came to be viewed with suspicion by Muggles, and it was violently repressed and people suspected of practicing magic were humiliated publicly, tortured, and even murdered. American Wizards are paranoid of their world being exposed to the point where they have a clock monitoring the exposure threat level in the MACUSA lobby, as well as a memorial to the Salem Witch Trials, and they are forbidden to have any relations with No-Majs, a policy that even Newt Scamander views as “backwards”. And to drive the point home, there is a witch-hunting movement taking place on MACUSA’s front door in New York. The threat is very real for American Wizards. To Wizarding Society in general, Gellert Grindelwald is a terrorist out to destroy the fragile truce between Wizards and Muggles and overthrowing an internally stable Wizarding community. Voldemort a half century later just wanted to purge Wizarding society of Muggle influence–he didn’t want to change the status quo in his time.

Gellert Grindelwald is an anarchist.

Enter the Obscurial. It’s a phenomenon that the No-Majs in New York neighborhoods can’t explain or understand. It’s causing destruction and even death. MACUSA Auror Percival Graves is looking for the Obscurial, and he is trying to get information out of the foster son of the Second Salemers’ leader to see if a repressed child in their community is the source. “You will be honored among wizards,” Graves tells Credence Barebone in a dark alleyway. He hands Credence the sign of the Deathly Hallows, and while it means something else to the fans it is a sign which European Wizards associate with Grindelwald’s terrorism.  Graves wants to use Credence to expose Wizardkind and, in the process, topple MACUSA and the International Statute of Secrecy. He comes across as someone who thinks such a drastic change in the social order is needed.

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Rojak Daily

So consider this: Graves is actually Grindelwald. He knew Ariana Dumbledore and what had happened to her. He knows what happens when a person tries to hide their powers. And he is not above manipulating an abused, frightened boy in a similar situation into helping him, any more than he wanted the benefit of a partnership with brilliant, influential Albus Dumbledore to reach the same end.

Percival Graves stands for law and order. Percival Graves is willing to execute a foreign Magizoologist and a fellow Auror to keep MACUSA from finding out what the real threat is. But the chaos caused by Newt’s suitcase is working in his favor by putting both sides on the alert.

Moments before his big reveal, Graves makes the following speech criticizing the Statute of Secrecy:

A law that has us scuttling like rats in the gutter. A law that demands that we conceal our true nature. A law that directs those under its dominion to cower in fear, lest we risk discovery. I ask you, Madam President, I ask all of you – who does this law protect? Us, or them? I refuse to bow down any longer.

What he is saying here is that the law dividing Wizards from Muggles is doing more harm than good. It is not only endangering Muggles but keeping Wizards from their rightful dominance over them. But on a deeper level, he has a point:  the work of so many Wizarding governments revolves around keeping Wizarding Society a secret, and they repress their own citizens—monitoring and registering them, controlling the economy and limiting job opportunities and education, if you take this extreme view—in the name of security. Newt and Tina were going to be executed for a crime they didn’t commit because of a creature that was attacking No-Majs that they couldn’t control.

One of my favorite things about Newt Scamander is that while Graves was trying to pin him as a criminal, Newt realized that Graves was not a person to be trusted.

Compared to Voldemort, Gellert Grindelwald is a lot less subtle about getting what he wants. Tom Riddle managed to finish school without getting caught for wrongdoing. Grindelwald didn’t even wait to push the limits of his more liberal educators at Durmstrang. Grindelwald’s extreme passion and use of chaos is a foil for Dumbledore’s use of cool intellect and persuasion. His expulsion from Durmstrang is also an interesting parallel to that of Newt Scamander.

So a throwaway nemesis on a chocolate frog card versus the author of a textbook…hmm. If J.K. Rowling wants the Fantastic Beasts franchise to revolve around Grindelwald’s story, there’s something important she’s trying to get across. This is what I have figured out about Grindelwald: he is an anarchist and a extremist who believes that he’s doing the right thing. But his reign of terror is a smaller symptom of a larger malaise in the Wizarding World that may or may not have implications about real life.

Harry Potter Wikia: Gellert Grindelwald

40 Things I Love About Star Wars: Part 1

As promised last week, now through April I will be doing a monthly post listing 40 things I like about Star Wars. Bear in mind, these are in no particular order of importance, and I may be going back and writing individual posts about these as the year passes. What do you like about the things/characters I have listed? Feel free to share your thoughts!

  1. Lightsabers

“An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.” Truer words were never spoken. Lightsabers are a sci-fi twist on classic medieval swords, they are favored by Force-users, and they can come in personalized colors. In the golden days of the old Republic and the Jedi order, they represented the Jedi and their role as protectors of the galaxy. In The Force Awakens, the blue lightsaber that Rey found represents the Skywalker family heritage in the Force and her potential power. And I love the sounds they make!

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2. Padmé Amidala

The Queen and Senator from Naboo was the first Star Wars character I idolized. I loved her beautiful costumes and her heroism. Padme worked hard to keep peace and order in the galaxy even though war became the norm—she stood up for what she believed in even though it wasn’t popular. However, just because she was a pacificst didn’t mean she was against getting her hands dirty in dangerous situations. Her relationship with Anakin was flawed, but she saw the good in him from the beginning, and she passed on her love for him to their children. She is amazing.

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3. Princess Leia Organa

I don’t really need to say anything here that hasn’t already been said in my post from last fall and my obituary for Carrie Fisher.

4. Rey

Rey was easily my favorite part of The Force Awakens. While she fits into the trope of being an orphan from a desert planet destined to be a hero, she breaks the mold by being a self-sufficient scavenger and someone who doesn’t whine. I am 70% sure she is a Skywalker, but she doesn’t have to be one to be amazing. Rey is her own person.

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5. Bail Organa

IMO, he is the most underrated supporting character in the saga. Seeing him in Rogue One was amazing. He is getting his own post. That is all.

6. Costuming and Costume Clubs

I love being a Jedi. I also get a huge kick out of being Princess Leia. Am I anxious to build more Star Wars characters? YES.

The 501st and the Rebel Legion are so awesome. They spend hundreds of hours building their own costumes, from replicas of Queen Amidala’s gowns to labor-intensive stormtrooper suits. They spend hundreds more hours entertaining at conventions and charity events, raising money for people in need and visiting sick children. They are troopers in every sense of the word. Their social media feed has some of the best memes and fan photos you will see anywhere on the internet.

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TB-22512 of the French Garrison with his French holiday cuisine. Via the 501st Facebook

The local Alpine Garrison and Rogue Base are some of the leading members of the Utah cosplay community and include some of my personal friends. I love spending time with them, and I always get great photos with them no matter what I’m wearing.

I also have spent some time with the Wasatch Saber Club recently, and may I just say that I share their love of lightsaber fights. Even choreographed, lightsaber dueling is a martial arts form worthy of respect.

7. The Fandom

I ran into a former roommate of mine the other day on BYU campus. She told me that one of her current roommates was also a Star Wars fan, and she was was pretty quick to observe that Star Wars fans make good roommates. Why? Because we’re wonderful people!

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There’s a feeling you get when you’re with other Star Wars fans that you don’t get in any other fandom. The Star Wars universe is so developed with films, video games, books, and other materials that we know just how to fit anything else we add. And of course, there is plentiful material for crossovers.

The Lighter Side of the Force

On the internet, we share the best meta posts, headcanons, and fan art you can find anywhere. Sure, we don’t all like the same Star Wars content, we disagree about canon and characters all the time, but one thing we all have in common is the idea that there is a galaxy far, far away where the greatest adventure is possible.

8. Clone Wars and Rebels

I watched Season 3 of Clone Wars with my family while I was home for Christmas. Last week I binge-watched Season 4 and I am currently working my way through Season 5. What I like best about Clone Wars and Rebels is seeing more of my favorite Star Wars characters in action, especially Padmé. The new characters, like Ahsoka Tano and Rex and Kanan Jarrus, are really cool to watch (and my family is biased towards Rex because I have a brother named Rex). These shows are very well-written and entertaining, and I like being able to go back to the Star Wars universe for smaller but still exciting adventures.

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9. Anakin Skywalker

Confession time: I am not a huge fan of villains, and I never really liked Darth Vader. I’ve always been more fond of the man under the mask. Yes, he’s whiney and mentally unstable. Yes, he’s a jerk in Episode II and a sociopath in Episode III. But I can’t help noticing his good characteristics—the way his snark bounces back with Obi-wan, his tenderness to Padmé, his naivete, his daring. And I can’t help relating to his sense of inadequacy either.

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I didn’t see Return of the Jedi all the way through until I was thirteen, and I think that kind of reinforced my view of Star Wars as a redemption story, specifically Anakin’s. Plus in watching Clone Wars, you get a closer look at Anakin’s struggles and how he kind of lost his moral balance. Anakin Skywalker was a great guy. He just had a really sad life and made bad choices in dealing with it.

And don’t tell me he isn’t cute.

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10. Obi-wan Kenobi

They say that Ewan McGregor’s performance as young Obi-wan is one of the best parts of the prequels. And they’re beyond right. I have a LOT of feelings about this character. He’s one of THE greatest Jedi to fight in the Clone Wars. He’s handsome as heck and got a sense of humor as dry as the Dune Sea. He’s got a lot going for him. He and Anakin are the galaxy’s dream team.

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And then tragedy strikes.

But that’s the nice thing about Anakin’s redemption: it made Obi-wan happy, too.

To be continued…

Read More:

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17 Geeky Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2017

Yes, I can make this list work. I can come up with 17 reasons that the year 2017 is going to be a good one that are all geek-related. Can you? Is there anything on this list you didn’t think of? Anything I didn’t have room for?

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Hello 2017

Someone compared the end of 2016, or maybe just the whole year, to the Battle at Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings. This is one of my favorite parts of the film series. It is one of my favorite battle scenes in any film I have seen. Besides being a great action sequence, it is a pivotal moment in the story. During this battle it seems totally hopeless for the people of Rohan. They are outnumbered and outgunned, as it were. The elves come to help, but they still have all the odds stacked against them. There is a moment where you can see that even Theoden has lost all hope, when he orders them to fall back to the Hornburg. He has given up.

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‘Rogue One’ is Fan Service on an Emotional Roller Coaster

*generic spoiler warning*

If you don’t know these words by heart you should at least know where they are from:

“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

“During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”


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15 Stages of Waiting to See ‘Rogue One’

A lot of you know that I am a die-hard Star Wars fan. Some of you may be surprised that I haven’t even seen Rogue One yet. To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in Rogue One. But events in the last week have led me to realize I might be missing out. Here’s a summary of my last week, made of GIFs from all your other favorite fandoms.

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A Shout Out to Underrated Supporting Characters

Like I’ve said before, I don’t put the ‘Mormon’ in The Geeky Mormon very much, but last week in one of my Sunday meetings we had a discussion on people in the scriptures who play supporting roles. The message was that the part that every person plays in God’s plan is important, even if compared to others’ parts it appears minor. I went home and thought about characters from my favorite books, movies and TV shows that play important supporting roles and, perhaps, deserve a little more credit than they normally get. If most of these heroes have been recognized by their fandoms, then they are worth mentioning again. The characters that speak to our hearts, no matter how big or small a role they play, are the ones who make a difference.

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Review: ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is Fun and Surprising

Kind of too late for a spoiler-free review, but if you don’t want spoilers then you know what’s good for you.

It feels hard to enjoy a movie when you get there late with your friends and the only seats left are in the very front row—especially an action-fantasy blockbuster like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In retrospect, Fantastic Beasts was cool and I enjoyed it, but the first time watching it I kind of felt like the pacing was a little too fast. I didn’t hear the names of most of the creatures, and I couldn’t keep track of the characters, either. At least not as much as I would have liked to.

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It’s December, and the Doctor is Back (Finally)

It’s been a long time since we have had new Doctor Who. It will be exactly one year when the new Christmas special airs. In all fairness, this year may have felt really long to those of us who are “new” to the series. Let’s remember, thought, that from May of 1996 until March of 2005 there was nothing. No Doctor Who on TV for nearly ten years. The last episode before the 1996 TV movie was aired in 1989. Our little one year break is really nothing.

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11 Reasons I’m Grateful for Salt Lake Comic Con

While you’re digesting your turkey and pie and thinking about the things you are grateful for, feel welcome to browse this list and the attached photos, and if you want to give feedback you can share why you are grateful for Salt Lake Comic Con. Disclaimer: yes, next week for my personal blog I’m going to be posting a wish list for guests to have at future SLCC events, so if you think I’m buttering up the Salt Lake con organizers I won’t blame you for thinking that. And bear in mind, none of these are in any particular order…except towards the end.

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