Of all the characters who inhabit the Wizarding World, few are more intriguing than Professor Dumbledore. Headmaster of Hogwarts, the most powerful wizard of his generation, and the only man Voldemort ever feared, Dumbledore casts a huge shadow.
But how much do we really know about Harry Potter‘s mentor and arguably the most enigmatic member of the Harry Potter cast? Sure, there’s the obvious stuff – like his proudest accomplishment is that he was on a Chocolate Frog card or the fact his name terrifies even the most formidable Harry Potter villains – but what do you know about the real Dumbledore, the man beneath the eccentricities? We’ve gone on a deep dive through the Harry Potter movies in order (again) to uncover some secrets.
14. Conspiracy theorists once thought he cheated death
It’s fair to say that the decision to kill off one of the most significant Harry Potter characters in the sixth book polarized Potter fans when it was first unveiled back in 2005. But some online conspiracy theorists, perhaps inspired by The Quibbler, decided it had never happened and started the website DumbledoreIsNotDead.com.
The site examined Half-Blood Prince with a forensic lens to spot clues that Dumbledore was still alive, including the suggestion he might have somehow made a Horcrux and some ideas around Polyjuice Potion. Of course, none of this proved true and Dumbledore was indeed dead, but reading back over this stuff is a very fun exercise and a dive into just how creative fan communities can be.
13. His name has a real buzz about it
We know from the likes of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin that names in Harry Potter often yielded big plot clues. But in some cases, they’re just delightful words snaffled from history. Dumbledore, for example, is an 18th-century word for a bumblebee. This doesn’t appear to have a great deal to do with his character, but it’s very sweet indeed.
12. Versatile in the classroom
In flashback sequences throughout the Harry Potter franchise, we learned that Dumbledore taught Transfiguration at Hogwarts during the time of Tom Riddle. So eyebrows were raised when Jude Law took on the role in Fantastic Beasts, with Dumbledore teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Many fans believed this was a canon-based cock-up but, actually, it’s entirely possible that Dumbledore simply changed his subject at some stage. After all, he was a man of many talents, and we’re certain he would have had the aptitude to teach any class. Maybe we’ll find out for certain in future new movies, if the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date ever does arrive.
11. He doesn’t even need the Invisibility Cloak
Harry’s cloak is one of the three Deathly Hallows and, therefore, it’s a cut above the standard cloaks of invisibility on the market. However, Dumbledore has no need for any of them, as he can perform a Disillusionment Charm so strong that it does the job without the need for a cumbersome garment.
Of course, as Dumbledore points out at the end of Deathly Hallows, the true importance of the cloak is that it can also conceal your friends. And, it looks damn cozy too.
10. Master of Death… sort of
Dumbledore has the odd distinction of being the only other character in the series, aside from Harry, to have ‘owned’ all three Deathly Hallows. He took the Elder Wand from Grindelwald, borrowed James Potter’s invisibility cloak – suspecting its true power – and retrieved the Resurrection Stone after destroying the Horcrux put inside by Voldemort.
Dumbledore was never considered a ‘Master of Death’, though, like Harry, because he never held all three items at once. He was more like a ‘Caretaker of Death’ until the Chosen One came along.
9. Magical birds and where to find them
All Potter fans know about Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes. The firebird was intensely loyal to the Hogwarts headmaster, and when he died, Fawkes left the school, never to return.
While we don’t know how Dumbledore earned Fawkes’ loyalty (yet), we do know that Albus isn’t the only one in his family with a penchant for befriending magical-winged creatures. His great-great-grandfather had a phoenix as well, which similarly left after his master died.
Gellert Grindelwald meanwhile told Albus’s nephew Aurelius that phoenixes would always come to the aid of any Dumbeldore that needed help.
8. Missed opportunity
Richard Harris, the first actor to play Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies, originally turned down the role. It was only after speaking to his 11-year-old granddaughter, who was a fan of the series, that he decided to sign on.
What made him change his mind? Well, reportedly, she told him she’d never talk to him again if he didn’t play the Hogwarts headmaster. Following on from his death, Harris was replaced from the third movie onwards by Michael Gambon. Sadly, on September 28, 2023, the news of Gambon’s death was announced.
7. Teacher’s pet
Dumbledore is one of the Potter author’s favorite characters. She’s gone so far as to say that if she could meet any of the characters for dinner, it would be the noble wizard. Apparently, she thinks he’d give good advice, and they’d have plenty to talk about.
6. Dumbledore and Grindelwald
Following the publication of The Deathly Hallows, we got the announcement that Dumbledore had, in fact, been gay. And who did Dumbledore have a crush on? None other than Gellert Grindelwald. At the time, the author didn’t specify how Grindelwald felt about Albus, but she speculated the future dark wizard used Dumbledore’s affection for his own ends.
It was only in 2019 that she finally admitted that Grindelwald did reciprocate his feelings, and the pair had had, in her words, an “incredibly intense relationship”. “It was passionate, and it was a love relationship,” she explained, as well as adding that she believed there was “a sexual dimension to this relationship”.
5. Greatest fear and heart’s desire
Dumbledore lied to Harry when he told him about what he saw when he looked into the Mirror of Erised. The headmaster told Harry he saw himself holding a nice pair of socks, but this wasn’t true. Dumbledore actually saw his family alive and all together.
In contrast, Dumbledore’s Boggart takes on the form of his greatest shame, the corpse of his sister, Ariana, whom he believes he may have accidentally killed in a three-way duel between himself, his brother Aberforth, and Grindelwald.
4. Magical Polyglot
In addition to knowing more magic than David Blaine, Dumbledore had a talent for magical languages. The wise old wizard is capable of talking mermish (the language of the Merpeople).
Even more impressively, he seems to understand Parseltongue, the language of the snakes employed by the descendants of Slytherin. We see during Half-Blood Prince, Tom Riddle talking with his uncle Morfin in Parseltongue, and Dumbledore has no problem following their conversation.
3. Last Wish
Dumbledore is the only headmaster in the history of Hogwarts to be buried on the grounds. In fact, his request that he be buried in his ‘true home’ Hogwarts was such an odd proposal it had to be approved by the Ministry of Magic.
The author actually talked Alfonso Cuaron, director of one of the best movies in Prisoner of Azkaban, out of putting a graveyard in the Hogwarts grounds because she wanted to reserve that honor for Dumbledore.
Dumbledore’s greatest flaw, which he admits to Harry, is his desire for power. He eventually finds that those best suited for power are those who do not seek it. When he and Grindelwald first meet, they make plans to enslave Muggles and establish wizards as the rulers of the world.
However, Dumbledore becomes disillusioned with this fantasy after his sister Ariana is killed. This is why he never accepted the position of Minister for Magic, knowing he could never be trusted with power (at least he never made any Horcruxes).
1. The series predicted his death very early
The Potter books foreshadowed Dumbledore’s death very early on. During the Prisoner of Azkaban, while enjoying Christmas dinner, Professor Trelawney doesn’t want to join the table, worrying that if 13 people sit down to eat, the first to rise will be the first to die.
What Trelawney didn’t know, despite her powers of foresight, was that there were already 13 witches and wizards sitting at the table as Ron Weasley had Scabbers, aka the animagus Peter Pettigrew, in his pocket. This means that when Dumbledore stands to greet her, he’s the first to leave the table, and he is indeed the first of the characters sitting there to die.
If you need more magical goodness in your life, check out our list of Harry Potter Funkos to add to your collection and find out our picks for the best Harry Potter spells. We’ve also explained why the Harry Potter movies didn’t include this heart-breaking scene and argued that we still can’t forgive the Harry Potter finale.
Finally, we’ve also got a guide breaking down everything we know about the upcoming Harry Potter TV series release date and a guide looking at a hypothetical Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release date.
The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US and Mermaids in the UK.