What are 10 facts you didn’t know about Grindelwald? Before the Wizarding World found itself in the grip of Voldemort’s reign of terror, there was another wielder of Dark Magic who manipulated his way to power in the shape of Gellert Grindelwald.
Of course, Harry Potter fans are now very familiar with Grindelwald, having seen one of the best Harry Potter villains take the lead in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. We are hoping for more new movies and patiently waiting for the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date so we can see more of Mads Mikkelsen in the Harry Potter cast, especially now the movies are starting to explore his historic romance with Dumbledore.
But let’s look a little deeper into one of the masters of the Elder Wand and reveal some Grindelwald facts about the magical tyrant. There might not be a lot of Grindelwald in the best movies of the franchise, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know plenty about him.
10. He went to the same school as a sports superstar
We all like Viktor Krum, right? World-class Quidditch player, Hermione’s first boyfriend, and subsequent Weasley wedding guest. Unfortunately for him, though, his wizarding education came at the Durmstrang Institute, which has an infamous tolerance for dark wizards and unorthodox magic.
That same school played host to the young Grindelwald, at least for a while. But more on the ignominous end to his education later.
9. His name has connections to both Hungary and Switzerland
Gellert Grindelwald is a name with links to various locations around Europe. There’s a Gellért Hill in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, overlooking the Danube, while Grindelwald is a village in the Swiss Alps known for skiing.
Meanwhile, Grindelwald’s castle of Nurmengard was said to be in Austria. This guy gets around Europe more than an interrailer.
8. He’s closely tied to Nazi Germany
Grindelwald was defeated in 1945, which people will recognize as the year Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany fell. The undercut hairstyle he was given in the first Fantastic Beasts movie is also reminiscent of the Hitler Youth, while Nurmengard is very similar in name to Nuremberg.
In fact, during Grindelwald’s rally in Fantastic Beasts 2, he directly invokes the specter of the war humanity is about to experience in the coming decades. If the Fantastic Beasts franchise continues, World War Two is likely to play a key role, with Grindelwald being used as a clear Nazi allegory.
7. His lair became his prison
Another possible Nazi parallel comes in terms of what happened to Grindelwald after he was bested by Dumbledore in their famous duel. He was imprisoned in his own castle at Nurmengard, living as the sole prisoner in what was formerly his base of operations. That’s where he was held until his death at the hands of Voldemort.
This could be a reference to leading Nazi Party figure Rudolf Hess, who was eventually the only inmate at Spandau Prison. The site had previously been a concentration camp.
6. We don’t know why he was expelled from school, but we know it was bad
As we mentioned earlier, Durmstrang was more tolerant of Dark Magic than the average wizarding school. After all, Hogwarts tried very hard not to tell Voldemort about Horcruxes. But Grindelwald managed to push even that tolerance too far.
In Rita Skeeter’s hatchet job book about Dumbledore, she also wrote about Grindelwald’s early life. She revealed that “even Durmstrang felt it could no longer turn a blind eye to his twisted experiments and he was expelled”. Whatever he was up to, it was gross.
5. Even his name links him to Dumbledore
Grindelwald’s name has an obvious connection to Grendel, who was the monster at the heart of the epic poem Beowulf. Dumbledore, meanwhile, has Wulfric as one of his many middle names, derived of course from the titular hero of that same poem.
It’s a tenuous connection, but an intriguing nod to the eventual bond between the two men.
4. He’s been played by five different actors
Considering how small Grindelwald’s role is throughout the initial run of the Harry Potter movies in order, it’s fascinating to note that he has been played by more actors than any other Potter character.
Jamie Campbell Bower played the young Grindelwald while Colin Farrell played Grindelwald in disguise as Percival Graves. He then revealed himself as Johnny Depp, who was subsequently replaced by Mads Mikkelsen. Then, Michael Byrne played the elderly Grindelwald for his confrontation with Voldemort in the first Deathly Hallows movie.
3. He wanted to make a zombie army
During the King’s Cross chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore explains his bond with Grindelwald as they sought the Hallows together. He explains that he knew Grindelwald intended to use the Resurrection Stone to make an army of Inferi.
And yes, we know that Inferi aren’t technically zombies, but that’s really splitting undead hairs. We saw how terrifying Inferi were in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so a horde of them under Grindelwald’s control would be utterly horrifying.
2. He probably didn’t love Dumbledore
Dumbledore was completely in love with Grindelwald and, as we’ve seen in the Fantastic Beasts movies, he’s still struggling with that love. As for Grindelwald, his feelings are more complicated and less obvious. The Potter author once said she did not feel that Grindelwald truly loved Dumbledore in the way Dumbledore loved him.
On the bonus features for The Crimes of Grindelwald, she said their relationship “was passionate and it was a love relationship”, but also made it clear that you never truly know how someone else feels deep down. When someone’s as manipulative as Grindelwald, their declarations of love feel hollow.
1. He gets a redemption moment in the books (almost)
In the film version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Grindelwald tells Voldemort that the Elder Wand lies in Dumbledore’s tomb. However, things play out a little differently in the book. Just like in the movie, Grindelwald taunts Voldemort, but he claims never to have had the wand and does not give away its location.
This could show that Grindelwald does still have some residual affection for Dumbledore, or at least enough disgust towards Voldemort that he doesn’t want him to have the Elder Wand.
Either way, it gives Grindelwald a slightly less-than-evil moment at the very end. It’s not enough to make up for all of his murder and madness though, of course. We still haven’t forgotten the zombie army.
To learn more about the best Harry Potter characters, take a look at our deep dives into Hagrid and Luna Lovegood. We’ve also listed our picks for the best Harry Potter spells and explained how Harry Potter became a Horcrux.
Meanwhile, find out more about the Dursley Horcrux fan theory and learn about the creatures too terrifying for the Harry Potter movies. Elsewhere, check out our hopes for the future as we look ahead to the Harry Potter TV series release date and the possible 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.