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05 August 2009 @ 02:52 pm
Harry Potter - DH and the Nurmengard scene  
So I have, as we all know, been on a Harry Potter kick ever since I watched the Half Blood Prince, once again fascinated by all things Dumbledore/Grindelwald as I try to decide whether or not it was reciprocated. I’ve come to one conclusion that I wanted to share, because I haven’t seen it before (not that I’m particularly attentive!) and I think it sheds some light the Nurmengard scene:

I’ve come to believe that there is very little in the scene, as written, that indicates that Grindelwald was truly trying to protect Dumbledore (or the Elder Wand) by lying, per se, and if you read the scene somewhat differently, I do think that there’s another possibility that makes a great deal more sense.


I’ve reached this interpretation because of two key observations:

1. That was the worst bluff I’ve ever had the misfortune of coming across, not at all worthy of a Dark Lord, and
2. There is really no evidence to support the theory that Grindelwald knew that Dumbledore was dead, other than the fact that Harry simply assumes that he did.

I always see people discuss that lie to Voldemort, and I’m not sure it should be given such significance, because it is, as bluffs go, pretty terrible. In fact, it strikes me as so bad that I wonder if he even intended for it to be believed. One could argue that 50 years of solitude have left Grindelwald too mad to be able to lie effectively, but I find it hard to believe that an intellect such as his would decay entirely, and if he’s truly been expecting Voldemort for years, he’s had time to consider a better bluff. He could’ve feigned ignorance of the entire affair, or claimed to have already lost the wand before the duel with Dumbledore – indeed, he could have said that Dumbledore had only been able to defeat him because he had already lost the Elder Wand. I daresay such a lie would’ve been more likely to protect Dumbledore’s tomb.

Instead, he immediately acknowledges Voldemort’s reasons for coming. This is pretty much analogous to the infamous “I didn’t do it!” defence; nothing says, “I had it” like insisting, even before you’ve been asked, that you never did. When accused of lying, he never denies it, at least not from the fragments of the scene that were given. And then with his very last words – “That wand will never, ever be yours” – he reaffirms not only Voldemort’s suspicion that he “had it,” but also acknowledges exactly what “it” is.

From this, I would argue that the lie itself that could not have been overly important to Grindelwald. It is, obviously, important to him that Voldemort never gets his hands on the wand, but not that he never finds it. I suspect that Grindelwald would have recognized – would have remembered – that nothing would stop a Dark wizard of that calibre from finding the wand, given enough time.

Now, what Grindelwald does very effectively, on the other hand, is goad Voldemort into killing him. He asks for death twice; he only lies about the wand once. He laughs scornfully. He tells Voldemort that he cannot win. He practically calls him an idiot to his face. Any one of these things (or none of them at all, obviously) would have been enough to make Voldemort kill someone; all of them together practically guarantee success. I think, therefore, that it’s fairly safe to say that Grindelwald’s main goal here was not to keep Voldemort away from the Elder Wand, but rather to bring about his own death. The only question is, why?

Oh, you could claim that it was suicide, that he was tired of life imprisonment. I say he had 50 years in which to kill himself if that were the case, and he was much too invested in the idea of Voldemort failing for it to have been inconsequential. If nothing else, I suspect that he was still proud enough to want his death to count for something.

And this is where I come to my second point: there’s really no evidence that he had been informed of Dumbledore’s death, other than the testimony of Harry, who honestly can’t be considered a reliable source on this particular subject. It’s completely possible that the thought of Dumbledore – the only person he is known to have seen as an equal – being defeated had never occurred to him. Yes, it’s true that Grindelwald had some knowledge of current events, what with recognizing Voldemort, but it’s completely possible that even that information was 20 years old. There is, on the other hand, every indication that he had been left more or less to starve, and I doubt that a custodian who can’t be bothered to feed a prisoner would be overly interested in sharing news— especially news of the sort that should, theoretically, please said prisoner.

So what do we have here? Grindelwald quite possibly believes that Dumbledore is still alive, likely recognizes that Voldemort will inevitably discover that Dumbledore possesses the Elder Wand and thus assault him, and ultimately puts more effort into his own sacrificial death than a convincing lie.

You can likely guess where I’m going with this.

Old magic, bound in love and sacrifice. The sort that Voldemort cannot understand, but Grindelwald, who as a Quester is much more versed in ancient magic, obviously can. It’s foolish to hold that being dark is incompatible with this sort of love – we certainly saw it with the Malfoy family. I’d say that Voldemort is likely a special case. Grindelwald even comes out and says it – “There is so much you do not understand” – echoing the words Dumbledore himself has said at least twice concerning this particular piece of old magic. Once in Philosopher’s Stone – “If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love” – and again in Deathly Hallows at Kings Cross: “If he could only have understood the precise and terrible power of that sacrifice, he would not, perhaps, have dared to touch your blood….”

Considering how interconnected these two are idealistically and intellectually, I think it’s fair to take that parallel to its ultimate point and conclude that Grindelwald was likely referring here not only to the Hallows, but again to the nature of old magic itself.

Remember, immediately before his death, he implies not simply that Voldemort will never find or obtain the wand, but also that he “will not win… [he] cannot win!” The usage of the verb “win” implies not simply that Voldemort will never discover the Elder Wand, but rather that even if he does, he will be physically incapable of defeating him who owns it.

By being murdered in such a manner, by willingly giving his life, Grindelwald would have given to Dumbledore foolproof protection against Voldemort, were he still alive to benefit from it. A far more powerful protection than an easily detected lie. I think all of the evidence lies in the way this passage was written, in the very wording, which implies not that Grindelwald lied to protect Dumbledore – as we’re later lead to believe – but that he died to protect him.
 
 
Current Mood: pensivepensive
 
 
 
han06seconds_left on August 6th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
...wow. That's amazing.
Rhaella: Johnny Depp being twisted and demented ♥rhaella on August 6th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
:3
✩ Lexsparkism on August 6th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
nrrgk oh gosh I MUST read those last couple books again soon. how do you think of this stuff, darliiiiing. ♥ ♥
Rhaella: Bellatrix is so batshit ♥rhaella on August 6th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
I have to also, actually. I've reread books one and three in their entirety, but everything else has too much extraneous material, and then I lose interest and just reread chapters. One day!

Aha. ♥ I guess the lie was just bothering me a lot?
✩ Lexsparkism on August 7th, 2009 03:35 am (UTC)
I want to reread the whole series but I doubt I'll have time to do so before I move to college. D: maybe I could just bring a couple and swap them out when I finish and go home for a weekend....
I love all the extraneous stuff, at least in the early books~ I'm one of those people who are sad when the movies leave stuff out even though I know it's not possible to keep in every little detail. xD
Rhaella: Lucius Malfoy shines on ♥rhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
I like quite a bit of the extraneous stuff, to be fair, but… not all of it. Though I think I’d like the SPEW stuff more now than I did back in high school. That’s the big one I think of when I think of extraneous material. XD

When do you start school?
✩ Lexsparkism on August 8th, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
at least when I first read the books, I really loved how Rowling had created this whole world with all these little random details and things that it never really occurred to me that they were extraneous. xD
and oh god I had completely forgotten about SPEW. THIS IS A SIGN THAT I /MUST/ REREAD EVERYTHING /NOW/.

I move into the dorms Sept. 4th and classes begin that following Monday. :3
falathrim: Faultfalathrim on August 6th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC)
...I like this. :D
Rhaella: Four/Romanarhaella on August 6th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
I thought you might. XD
ovirginsaint: Happyovirginsaint on August 6th, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
...you and I need to hang out. I meant to call you last night, but was watching Caspian and doodling and lost track of the time.

Please tell me you're in VA.
Rhaella: Baltar/Sixrhaella on August 6th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
...it was probably off by then anyway. XD Anyway, no, I don't come down for another... two weeks or so. But there's plenty of time after that. :3
ovirginsaint: Caprica and Baltarovirginsaint on August 7th, 2009 01:24 pm (UTC)
Yay! Won't be in time to meet some of my coworkers right away, but there's always hanging out and BBQs while the weather is warm :)
falathrim: Vader Do Not Wantfalathrim on August 7th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
You two get to hang out? I'm jealous. :(
Rhaella: Six - BSGrhaella on August 7th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
*pets*

You're in the wrong time zone, love.
(Deleted comment)
Rhaella: Bellatrix is so batshit ♥rhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
Of course! You’re completely welcome to do either/both. :)
celestineangel: Harry Potter - IWL - Albus/Gellertcelestineangel on August 6th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
::GASP::

OH GODS. YES. ABSOLUTELY! You are so brilliant!

And it totally fits into my personal Grindeldore canon. ^_________^
celestineangel: Harry Potter - IWL - Albus/Gellertcelestineangel on August 6th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
Also, I am going to friend you now. I hope you don't mind. :)
Rhaellarhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
Not at all. I shall add you back forthwith. :)
Loredi (No me olvides)loredi on August 6th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
I came from grindeldore just to say that I find your interpretation not only believable but also wonderful. And no, I hadn't come across anything like this. I must say that at the beginning I was thinking: "where is she going? I don't get it", but then it was all so clear! I love this idea. It goes perfectly with the idea I have in my mind about Grindelwald. And I was thinking... He willingly sacrificed, but the object to protect (Dumbledore) was already dead. Then, what he did do was protecting the hallows from Voldemort and that is why Voldemort was never able to find them, despite all his intelligence and etc... Ha! Harry won because of the old bad guy.

Thanks for sharing. As you see, you've put lots of lovely ideas in my head.
Rhaella: Johnny Depp being twisted and demented ♥rhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
You’re very welcome. :)

Yeah, there’s totally a tangent to this in which Voldemort fails to kill Harry once again because the sacrifice is still weirdly in place, protecting whoever possesses the Elder Wand – I’m not sure that old magic even really works like that – but it was totally fangirl logic, and it’s perfectly satisfying to just give Narcissa the credit for Harry’s victory. Yup. XD
pathology_docpathology_doc on August 6th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
Here via grindeldore

Are you suggesting that Grindelwald attempted to die for Dumbledore in the same way that Lily died for Harry, and Harry tried to die for everyone in Hogwarts? Interesting.

I would, however, dispute your assertion that Grindelwald could not have known of Dumbledore's death. The reliability of Harry as a source is irrelevant - Dumbledore's funeral, at least in the books, was a public event that the most important politician in the Wizarding World attended; it was hardly hidden! That Voldemort is even there about the wand means that Dumbledore must no longer have it. Dumbledore is like JFK - everyone would remember what they were doing when they heard he'd been killed, and it seems improbable that the news would not get back to Nurmengard. The fact that Grindelwald knew who Voldemort was suggests to me that he knew a whole lot more.

Also, just as Harry recognized the fact of Dumbledore's death as much by the lifting of the body-bind curse upon him as much as by Snape's actions, so Grindelwald might have recognized Dumbledore's death by the lifting of some curse, binding or limitation upon himself.

Finally, remember that we are seeing the Voldemort/Grindelwald interview through the filter of Voldemort's mind, AND at a time when Harry is distracted by other, immediate concerns - he might have missed something.

You've got a good theory, but I think it's got a few holes - and I must say, your questioning of Harry's reliability as a source of such easily verifiable information as Dumbledore's death (remember all the Hogwarts staff and students gathered around the body before Ginny takes Harry back upstairs? Remember that it's GINNY, not Harry, who first tells Ron, Lupin and co. the terrible truth?) makes me wonder where your biases lie.
guardians_songguardians_song on August 7th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
You've got a good theory, but I think it's got a few holes - and I must say, your questioning of Harry's reliability as a source of such easily verifiable information as Dumbledore's death (remember all the Hogwarts staff and students gathered around the body before Ginny takes Harry back upstairs? Remember that it's GINNY, not Harry, who first tells Ron, Lupin and co. the terrible truth?) makes me wonder where your biases lie.
Nah, she says that Harry's claim that Grindelwald knew Dumbledore was dead is unreliable. And, to be fair, Harry's goof ups on major statements out of ignorance (Black betrayed my parents! Snape hated my parents!) do get used as red herrings, so I'll have to agree with her on that one. :|
Rhaella: Bellatrix is so batshit ♥rhaella on August 7th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
lj doesn't want to let me post this dammit
Oh no, I’m not disputing Harry’s reliability as a witness of Dumbledore’s death. Not at all. I’m sorry if I gave that impression; no anti-Harry bias here. I simply think that his words to Dumbledore during the Kings Cross scene indicate that he’s taking for granted the fact that – as far as he knows – everyone has been made aware of Dumbledore’s death, and he’s applied it to the one scenario where this might not necessarily be the case. And I think this conclusion on his part is a bit premature, because all he knows concerning Nurmengard and Grindelwald is a few moments he spent in Voldemort’s head. Until then, he didn’t even know whether Grindelwald were even still alive. And I mention Harry because he’s the only one who makes an observation on the matter one way or the other.

Oh, I’m not insisting that Grindelwald could not have known about Dumbledore’s death (though this line of thinking obviously is contingent upon this possibility), only that he might not have known. Despite how public Dumbledore’s funeral was, we don’t know enough about Nurmengard to know what information was getting through, to know when information was getting through, how quickly, etc. Which is why I said that even his knowledge concerning Voldemort might have been 20 years old (a possibility, not a probability). And when it comes to Dumbledore, it’s also possible that guards/visiting dignitaries/whatever might have concealed the truth out of respect, not wanting his old enemy to, pardon the clichÈ, dance upon his grave. (You do have a point about residual spells, though that’s speculative as well.)

Now, in logic, when you come to an either/or situation, you work through both possibilities and see where the contradiction lies. And because the original reading of the scene struck me as somewhat problematic, as outlined above, I worked through the other track to see where it might lead. Hence… well.
(Deleted comment)
Rhaella: Six - BSGrhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
I’d love someone to ask that as well; I could see it going either way.

I don’t necessarily think it hinges upon a complete lack of contact, actually. Dumbledore can’t very well contact Grindelwald and inform him, after the fact, of his death. Er… I think, at least. As long as they weren’t talking/writing every other day or something – and it would be very strange if they were – it’s still doable, assuming that Dumbledore was unwilling to mention the fiasco with the Resurrection Stone. And who could blame him, considering Ariana?
(Deleted comment)
Rhaella: Eighth Doctorrhaella on August 8th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. Well, it's kind of hard to say, I think. We'd have to assume that any sort of correspondence didn't fail miserably years earlier, or he had the time/energy/strength to get around to it, what with war at the gates, etc.
Katie: I know the meaning of it allserenity_winner on August 6th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
:O

that is all my face can do right now

:O :O :O
Rhaella: Inara - Fireflyrhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
:D

(You’re icon is adorable, btw.)
Katie: I know the meaning of it allserenity_winner on August 8th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC)
(lol thank you, it cracks me up every time I see it)
daphnerunning: Nevilledaphnerunning on August 7th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
Also here via grindeldore. Um, I think I have a new canon interpretation of events now. And I think that if we could know for a fact that Grindelwald believed Dumbledore to be alive at the time, it would be conclusive proof. As it is, it's only a very convincing theory. And one I very much like!
Rhaella: Johnny Depp being twisted and demented ♥rhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
Yep, I’d say that it’s one of two possibilities of what’s going on in the scene (the other one, of course, being the conventional one). I’m glad you found it as compelling as I did.
antonina derevkova: bella black + voldiepants = TLFcupcakery on August 7th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
Here via quibbler_report.

I'm fascinated by this, but also curious about how much information Grindelwald would have had at his disposal in Nurmengard. There's no mention of there being Dementors that guard it, or of any other prisoners (that I can recall at the moment). Obviously, there are spells that can be put in place to physically prevent him leaving Nurmengard, but what about the day-to-day pieces? Presumably, even if one can neither Apparate nor Portkey in, there is still the food matter, etc.
Rhaella: Lucius Malfoy shines on ♥rhaella on August 7th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
I’d love someone to ask that as well; I could see it going either way.

I don’t necessarily think it hinges upon a complete lack of contact, actually. Dumbledore can’t very well contact Grindelwald and inform him, after the fact, of his death. Er… I think, at least. As long as they weren’t talking/writing every other day or something – and it would be very strange if they were – it’s still doable, assuming that Dumbledore was unwilling to mention the fiasco with the Resurrection Stone. And who could blame him, considering Ariana?
antonina derevkova: and you thought weddings were happycupcakery on August 8th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I highly doubt that there would be a "O hai, I haz the Resurrection Stone now. Deathly Hallows Total: Dumbledore - 2; Grindelwald - 0." owl.
Rhaella: Bellatrix is so batshit ♥rhaella on August 8th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
I sent you the wrong comment... I am not sure how that happened. Probably had something to do with LJ not wanting to let me post anything at all. XD

Haha, that sort of letter... yeah, I'm sure it would have gone down well. (Though he might even have been able to say Dumbledore - 3, since he had found the cloak too. XD)
Rhaellarhaella on August 8th, 2009 06:43 pm (UTC)
...the hell? LJ went mad and posted the wrong comment, and I didn't notice until just now. *hangs head*

WHAT I MEANT TO SAY:

That’s really the question, isn’t it? No mention whatsoever of guards or dementors or anything of the sort (I personally find it hilarious and mildly horrifying that one of your Dark Lords might’ve set up a more humane prison than your actual wizarding society, laaa Azkaban). The closest we get to anything is Dumbledore’s quote, “alone in his cell at Nurmengard,” which if you take it at its most literal, screams isolated and abandoned in a big way. Of course, there’d be no rumours of remorse if there were nobody at all to tell them.

Re: the food issue, that is a big question. Unless they’d had some sort of spell set up, there had to have been someone there, but the way he’s described as emaciated pretty much indicates malnourishment, which makes me suspect that he had been more recently abandoned…

You know what? If we’re going to cling to every piece of information available, perhaps something can be made of Hermione’s “well, we can’t ask Dumbledore or Grindelwald what it means – I don’t even know whether Grindelwald’s still alive” (the Xenophilius Lovegood chapter), because if anyone would be informed enough to know, I think she would, so I get the impression that he’s over time been kind of forgotten by the outside world, which may or may not suggest a gradual decrease in oversight of Nurmengard.
lilapaddylilapaddy on August 7th, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)
That is epic. Truly. Brilliant. I hope this theory gains serious ground and that JKR herself reads it and either goes, "Yep, that's it," or "Why didn't I think of it that way? It's perfect!"

I like to think the love was reciprocated, too...
Rhaella: Bellatrix is so batshit ♥rhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
I’m glad you like the theory. :)

I think it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t reciprocated… the only question is whether it was reciprocated romantically or platonically. Not that platonic love can’t be equally – or more, Plato would say – meaningful. :)
Barszczow A. N.orpheus_samhain on August 7th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
Did Voldemort offer to spare Grindelwald's life (in exchange for something)? It only works that way, JKR said.
Rhaella: Artanis Nerwen Arafinwielrhaella on August 7th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
Amazing-- I'm in a library and not a single copy of DH to be found. So I'll need to check it up when I get home, since I don't really remember Voldemort offering to spare Harry's life the second time around. Course, doesn't mean that it didn't happen.

Anyway, two things to say to this,

1) Would the offer need to be stated implicitly? I think we could assume that if he'd actually co-operated, Voldemort would've spared his life. And more importantly,
2) Kind of a moot point, as one way or the other, it obviously didn't work, since Dumbledore was already dead. It's possible that as much as they know about old magic, they don't know enough. Especially since Grindelwald's been out of action for fifty years.
Barszczow A. N.orpheus_samhain on August 8th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
Voldy should mean to spare his life, like Lily's on Snape request, not fifty-fifty: I will or I won't.

I don't think JKR would give Grindelwald the same character trait as she gave Lily, so my answer is 'no'.
Rhaella: Johnny Depp being twisted and demented ♥rhaella on August 8th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Okay, so I did look through the DH chapter "The Forest Again" once more, and unless I'm missing something, I really can't find any offer, explicit or otherwise, on Voldemort's part to spare Harry's life. Which didn't keep him from protecting everyone else from him at that last battle. So where/when did JKR say this, since might already have been retconned.

I think JKR already gave him a self-sacrificial quality, one way or another. Whether it would have worked as Lily's sacrifice had, or he was going out on a limb and dabbling in old magic -- and I think if this had been Grindelwald's intention, it most likely had to have been knowlingly, considering how much they must have studied up on old magic to get involved in the Hallows chase, which strips away from it the sort of blind faith/love that was probably involved in Lily's situation. So I still don't quite feel that it'd have been the exact same thing.
E.Ethedeathchamber on August 18th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
I've only just recently reread the HP books again, and was thinking how endearing it was that Gellert would lie to keep Albus' tomb from being broken into... And then you come up with this! Which is so much more and which actually seems rather more plausible. Good thinking.
Rhaella: after all this time?rhaella on August 18th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, hello there! I'm glad to have given you another option to consider. :)
hohaiyeehohaiyee on April 27th, 2012 05:34 am (UTC)
which implies not that Grindelwald lied to protect Dumbledore – as we’re later lead to believe – but that he died to protect him.

brb, dust in my eyes