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What Dumbledore’s Visions in the Mirror of Erised Means for FANTASTIC BEASTS

The final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald dropped a ssssshocking bombshell about the origins of Nagini, but that wasn’t the only major Harry Potter connection reflected in it. Once again Jude Law’s Dumbledore was seen gazing into the famed Mirror of Erised, the one that proved so important in The Sorcerer’s Stone. And what we know about his past and how that magical artifact works reveals one major truth: no matter how directly (or not) the franchise addresses Dumbledore’s sexuality, it won’t change the way we think about the character.

Almost nothing is known about the origins of the Mirror of Erised, not who made it, where it came from, or how it even ended up at Hogwarts. It sat in the Room of Requirement for nearly a hundred years before Dumbledore modified it into a hiding place and a test for the pure of heart, which proved vital to Harry keeping the Sorcerer’s Stone from Professor Quirrell and Voldemort.

What is known is what it does. At the top of the tall mirror, in its ornate gold frame, lies an inscription that reads “erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.” Backwards that says, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire.” When Harry looked in it he saw his parents, because he wanted a family more than anything, and Ron saw himself as Head Boy and Quidditch Cup captain and champion, because he yearned to escape his brothers’ shadows.

When Harry returned for a third straight night to stare into it he was greeted by a waiting Dumbledore, who explained exactly how it works. “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desires of our hearts.” Not everyone would want their deepest, most desperate desires shared with the world, so it’s a good thing the visions are personal to the gazer, hidden from anyone else who looks. But that tantalizing vision is why it can be so dangerous, as Dumbledore explained.

“However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.”

On Pottermore, J.K. Rowling has written about the dangers further: “The advice to ‘hold on to your dreams’ is all well and good, but there comes a point when holding on to your dreams becomes unhelpful and even unhealthy. Dumbledore knows that life can pass you by while you are clinging on to a wish that can never be – or ought never to be – fulfilled.” Just because you see something doesn’t mean you can ever have it, and maybe more importantly, that you ever should.

That wisdom Dumbledore shared with Harry came 50 years after the events of The Crimes of Grindelwald though, and the young Dumbledore in the trailers has been seen staring into the Mirror of Erised multiple times. It’s likely he only learned how dangerous it can be from experience. And because we know what he sees, we know what his own deepest, darkest desire is–his closest friend and the young man with whom he once plotted to rule the world: Gellert Grindelwald, both as a young man and as the Dark Wizard he became.

The Deathly Hallows told the story about the tumultuous, whirlwind relationship between the two young, powerful wizards, which led to the death of Ariana Dumbledore. Their friendship was already complicated and tragic before J.K. Rowling revealed in 2007 that Dumbledore was in love with Grindelwald.

“Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent, but he met someone as brilliant as he was and, rather like Bellatrix, he was very drawn to this brilliant person and horribly, terribly let down by him.”

This all seems so obvious. Dumbledore sees Grindelwald, both as a young man and the older Dark Wizard, in the Mirror of Erised because he never stopped being in love with him and always hoped they could be together, which is why he was reluctant to fight him for years (he won’t face him until 1945). Unfortunately, we can’t assume the franchise will ever directly and explicitly say any of this. Director David Yates has said The Crimes of Grindelwald won’t address Dumbledore’s sexuality explicitly, and while we hope that’s only because it will happen in the next three prequels, it’s hard to give the full benefit of the doubt to a studio that continues to employ Johnny Depp, someone credibly accused of domestic abuse.

But whether Dumbledore ever reveals to anyone what–or rather who–he sees in the Mirror and why, and whether the films ever address the real reason he sees Grindelwald, it won’t change how we think of the character. We’ll be immensely disappointed and disgusted if this complex personal relationship is only hinted at in the subtext, but we know who Dumbledore really is. He’s a gay man who was asked to fight the only person he ever loved to save the world. That’s a beautiful, haunting story that can’t be taken away from us now.

What do you think the Mirror of Erised means for the rest of the Fantastic Beasts franchise? Tell us in the comments section below.

Images: Warner Bros.

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