Albus Dumbledore's Backstory: What You Need To Know About The Powerful Harry Potter And Fantastic Beasts' Character

Michael Gambon Dumbledore

Millions of fans know the name of Harrry Potter and how he was the Boy Who Lived. He's the main character of one of the most successful book and film franchises ever written, after all. There's no shortage of memorable supporting characters in the world that J.K. Rowling created, but one of the most well-known has to be Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore -- or Dumbledore for short. The old, whimsical wizard was a mentor and father figure to Harry throughout the series, but he lived a long life full of failure and accomplishments long before Harry entered the picture.

While Dumbledore's life and backstory went largely untapped until the final installment in the series, a young Dumbledore is currently a major player in the Fantastic Beasts prequel series. Fans are sure to learn more about Dumbledore than they ever have before, but it's not like Rowling didn't leave us something to work with. We actually know a lot about Dumbledore's younger years and how they shaped one of the most powerful wizards of all time. Here are some highlights from Dumbledore's 116 year-long life.

gryffindor house

Dumbledore's A Gryffindor Alum

Like almost every other major good guy in Harry Potter, Dumbledore was sorted into Gryffindor back when he first arrived at Hogwarts in 1892. Considering his massive spell-casting powers as an adult, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Dumbledore was an exceptional student. He was said to be the most brilliant student to ever attend Hogwarts, and obtained a number of titles and awards.

During his school years, Dumbledore won the Barnabus Finkley Prize for Exceptional Spell-Casting, became the British Youth Representative to the Wizengamot and received the Gold Medal for Ground-Breaking Contribution to the International Alchemical Conference. He was basically a prototype Hermione Granger, only he wasn't a stranger to mischief every now and again. He once set the curtains in the Gryffindor dorm on fire.

ariana dumbledore painting

Dumbledore Had A Troubled Family Life

While Dumbledore may had led an enchanted school life, his home life was anything but smooth. The Dumbledore's were plagued with tragedy and misfortune that began when Albus' sister, Ariana, was caught doing magic by some Muggle boys. Frightened, the boys attacked her, mentally and emotionally scarring her. Ariana's powers were broken and would randomly manifest in violent and destructive ways. (It's rumored that she became an Obscurial). Albus' father attacked the boys and he was sentenced to Azkaban, where he later died.

That left Albus' mother to raise himself, Ariana, and his younger brother Aberforth, and Albus rarely ever spoke of his family to anyone. After graduation, on the evening that he was all set to embark on a tour of the world, Albus' mother was accidentally killed by Ariana, and he was forced to return home to raise his siblings. Albus was bitter and full of resentment for his situation, which paved the way for some difficult times in his life. We have no idea how Credence, revealed to be related to Albus in Crimes of Grindelwald, factors into all this.

dumbledore grindelwald

He Was In Love With Grindelwald

Dumbledore raised his siblings in Godric's Hollow (where a baby Harry Potter would one day be orphaned by Voldemort), where he would eventually meet a young, brilliant wizard named Gellert Grindelwald. Dumbledore and Grindelwald shared much in common and the two of them eventually became close friends, bonding over their intellect and shared enthusiasm of the Deathly Hallows.

Friendship turned to romance, and while Dumbledore loved Grindelwald, it was only recently that Rowling confirmed the two of them shared an intense sexual relationship. However, Grindelwald was not a good influence, and he began to turn Dumbledore to an anti-Muggle point of view. In fact, Dumbledore began to agree with Grindelwald's idea of wizard domination and helped him plan the early stages of his "revolution." Dumbledore ignored Grindelwald's obvious darkness and he would soon pay for it dearly.

young grindelwald

Ariana Died In A Duel Gone Wrong

When Aberforth returned from Hogwarts, he was not pleased to find that his brother had been neglecting his responsibilities to Ariana in favor of planning a revolution with Grindelwald. Aberforth angrily confronted Dumbledore, telling him that any plans for a revolution would mean dragging Ariana with him. Realizing how misguided he was, Dumbledore snapped back to reality, and a furious Grindelwald attacked Aberforth, but Dumbledore moved to defend his brother.

The three engaged in a violent duel, which Ariana tried to stop. However, her powers were erratic and she was hit with a stray curse and died. Grindelwald fled, leaving the two brothers to grieve. Aberforth blamed Dumbledore for the death of their sister (so did Dumbledore), and the relationship between the two brothers was strained for the rest of their lives. No one knew who had fired the curse that killed Ariana, but Dumbledore always feared that it was him.

dumbledore teaching

He Taught Two Different Subjects At Hogwarts

Following the death of Ariana, Dumbledore eventually found his way back to Hogwarts, having always enjoyed the idea of teaching. He became the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, in part to prepare the future generation for the war he knew was coming. Dumbledore was beloved by his students, but he was under the suspicious eye of the Ministry of Magic, who were mistrustful of him after his time with Grindelwald.

It's quite possible that Dumbledore might have been one of the last great Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, because the position would eventually be cursed by Voldemort so that the job couldn't be held for longer than one year. Sometime in or before 1943, Dumbledore became the Professor of Transfiguration, which is basically changing the shape of people and things. From there, he was on track to become Headmaster, the position he held for most of the series.

dumbledore young

The Hero Who Ended The Global Wizarding War

As Dumbledore spent his time teaching, Grindelwald was amassing power and followers. Grindelwald's For The Greater Good revolution was causing terror and devastation on a global scale, but Dumbledore, perhaps the only wizard who could defeat Grindelwald, resisted joining the fight. We see some of this play out in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and while there's still a lot of this story left to be revealed, we know the ending. Dumbledore eventually can't turn a blind eye and confronts Grindelwald in 1945.

The two of them engaged in what is wildly considered to be the greatest duel between two wizards. Dumbledore eventually triumphed and Grindelwald was sentenced to life in Nurmengard, a prison that he built himself. For his part ending the war, Dumbledore was awarded the Order of Merlin (First Class), which is kind of like the Nobel Peace Prize for magic people. Now a legendary hero, Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts, but was afraid of holding power and declined positions in the Ministry of Magic.

dumbledore elder wand

He Possessed The Elder Wand

In their youth, Dumbledore and Grindelwald were obsessed with finding the Deathly Hallows. Grindelwald would eventually find one of the Hallows, the Elder Wand, which made him one of the deadliest wizards on the planet. But he wasn't deadly enough because even with the most powerful wand ever built, Grindelwald was unable to defeat Dumbledore.

Per the rules of dueling, the wand of any disarmed wizard automatically belongs to the winner. Thus, Dumbledore became the owner of the Elder Wand and rather than destroy it, he kept it and used it as his main wand until his death years later.

Michael Gambon Dumbledore

Muggle Candies Are His Passwords

Despite his old age and tragic backstory, Dumbledore is young at heart and has quite the sweet tooth. Specifically, he loves sherbet lemons and acid pops, both of which were used as passwords to enter his office.

That doesn't sound incredibly secure, but I think that password protection hasn't ever really hit the wizarding community. Additionally, Dumbledore had a lot of hobbies and loved singing, thick woollen socks, silly words, his phoenix Fawkes and knitting patterns.

Middle-aged Dumbledore

He Recruited Tom Riddle For Hogwarts

Even worse than Grindelwald, Voldemort is the most powerful and evil dark wizard to ever lived, having nearly brought the world to its knees twice. Dumbledore was a key part in ending Voldemort's war, but he also sort of helped him become a problem in the first place. Much like how Hagrid came to Harry, Dumbledore visited a young Tom Riddle to bring him to Hogwarts.

However, Dumbledore could tell that there was clearly something wrong with this kid and kept an eye on him during his tenure at the school. Dumbledore was the only teacher that Tom couldn't charm, and it led him to have a fear of the powerful wizard. Still, Dumbledore's suspicions never stopped Tom from becoming Voldemort and all the deaths that would follow.


He Led The First Resistance Against Voldemort

Dumbledore has always seemed to prefer acting through agents than taking an active role, but he took a direct approach when it came to Voldemort. He never hunted down the dark wizard, but Dumbledore did form a resistance to help fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

This organization was called The Order of the Phoenix, and it consisted of several characters and prominent wizards throughout the course of the series. They disbanded after Voldemort's first defeat, but reformed after he returned in order to protect Harry and ensure that a prophecy about Voldemort's death would come to pass.

dumbledore wand laser

Dumbledore Was One Of The Most Powerful Wizards Of His Lifetime

Over the course of his life, Dumbledore earned quite the reputation as a powerful wizard, and he might have been one of the strongest to ever exist. He accomplished several incredible feats in his lifetime, such as defeating Grindelwald in one-on-one combat and being strong enough to withstand the curse of a Horcrux long after others would have died.

His numerous titles and awards from his school days also lend credence to his skills with a wand. Dumbledore was the only wizard that Voldemort ever feared and his mere presence was enough to ensure the safety of every student in Hogwarts.

If you live to be 116 years old, then you will have lived long enough to have some accomplished things. Dumbledore was one of the most prominent wizards to have lived, and while he made several mistakes and miscalculations, he was ultimately a force for good. Fans are likely to learn much more about Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts movies, as some of the most important years of his life will hopefully gain some elaboration. The last film finally teased that Dumbledore was entering the fray, and while I think we're still a long way from Dumbledore v. Grindelwald, there's still plenty more left to see until then.

Matt Wood

Matt has lived in New Jersey his entire life, but commutes every day to New York City. He graduated from Rowan University and loves Marvel, Nintendo, and going on long hikes and then greatly wishing he was back indoors. Matt has been covering the entertainment industry for over two years and will fight to his dying breath that Hulk and Black Widow make a good couple.