There aren’t many locations in the Harry Potter world more terrifying than Azkaban prison. Guarded by the soul-sucking Dementors and believed to be inescapable – at least until Sirius Black had his way – it’s an intimidating jail that makes Shawshank look about as secure as a sandcastle.
It’s no wonder that so many of the witches and wizards in Harry Potter were terrified of it. But not all of the Harry Potter characters cowered in fear of Azkaban. In fact, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore seemed positively unbothered when he was confronted with the threat of prison in Order of the Phoenix, saying dismissively that he “could break out, of course”.
Dumbledore doesn’t elaborate on how he could succeed where many Harry Potter villains had failed, but fans on Reddit have filled in the gaps with some great ideas, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Most eye-catchingly, one fan suggested Dumbledore could secretly turn into a bee.
Now bear with us, because there’s actually a lot more to this than just a wild idea. There are plenty of witches and wizards throughout the Harry Potter movies in order – and even more in the books – who are unregistered Animagi. They can turn into animals at will and they’re not listed on the official Animagus register.
Sirius Black, for example, could turn into a dog and James Potter could become a stag. Peter Pettigrew lived for years in his animal guise as Ron Weasley‘s pet rat Scabbers, while the devious tabloid journalist Rita Skeeter used her beetle form to eavesdrop for her sensational stories.
As for Dumbledore, Reddit user Exadory wrote: “Dumbledore is an old English word for bumblebee, so he might be some form of bee. Also, he is arrogant, and egotistical. There’s no way he wouldn’t have learned how to do it at some point just because people said it was hard magic.”
All of this stacks up. Dumbledore is indeed a really sweet, old-fashioned word for bee. In fact, we reckon the Harry Potter author nabbed it from Thomas Hardy, who used it in The Mayor of Casterbridge. The words “Hagrid” and “Minerva” – McGonagall’s first name – appear on the same page. Anyone who has ever had to name a fictional character will be able to identify with that hustle.
If indeed Dumbledore could turn into a bee in secret, that would make escaping from Azkaban more like child’s play. The same trick enabled Sirius to break out, using his dog form to slip through his bars and past the Dementors.
So why don’t all of the imprisoned Death Eaters do this? Well, the Dementors are responsible. They create such an atmosphere of darkness and hopelessness that many prisoners lose the ability to do magic at all.
Sirius was kept alert by his certainty of his innocence and we know for a fact that anyone as sure of himself as Dumbledore could maintain his skills pretty easily. He’s far too well-versed in the lighter side of magic and sure of his mission in life to be troubled by a Dementor.
Of course, Dumbledore chose never to end up in Azkaban at all, utilizing Fawkes to disappear before Umbridge and the corrupt Ministry of Magic could get their hands on him. It’s a really eye-catching and stylish scene in one of the franchise’s best movies, allowing Harry Potter cast standout Michael Gambon to flex his scenery-chewing abilities.
But it’s fun to think that, if he had wanted to, Dumbledore could have just transformed into an insect and… buzzed off.
For more Wizarding World fun, learn more about this perfect Snape deleted scene and find out how Michael Gambon’s kindness saved a Harry Potter scene. We’ve also delved into why we can’t forgive the Harry Potter finale for its biggest book change.
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.