The Sorting of Queenie Goldstein

Crimes of Grindelwald spoilers.

Shortly after the first Fantastic Beasts movie, I said that if Queenie went to Hogwarts, she would be a Slytherin. Now that Crimes of Grindelwald is out, all I can say is …

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What Deathly Hallow Would They Choose?

In the time period when the Fantastic Beasts movies take place, Grindelwald is searching for the Deathly Hallows. He already has the wand and will never obtain the stone or cloak, so I don’t think they will play a large role in the movies, but the symbol has already appeared, and they’re bound to be mentioned at some point. I wonder if at some point the characters will hear the Tale of the Three Brothers, and if they did, which Hallow they would be most drawn to. Here are my thoughts:

The Wand

Gellert Grindelwald. Although he’s actively looking for all three, Dumbledore claims that they both were drawn more to the first two Hallows and mostly interested in the cloak simply because it completed the set; they did not see much practical use for it. However, while Dumbledore longed to bring his parents back from the dead, he admits to Harry that Grindelwald more likely saw the stone as a way to create inferi, which isn’t what it does at all. Inferi are reanimated corpses, basically zombies, that do the bidding of a dark wizard, while the people the stone brings back are more like ghosts. Its only real purpose is to talk to someone who has died. Therefore, if Grindelwald knew what each of the Hallows really does and knew he would only ever obtain one, he would almost certainly choose the one he already has.

Theseus Scamander. As an auror, his first impulse is to fight. He doesn’t seem to be in mourning for any lost loved ones, and he’s too much a man of action to see the value in the cloak, so I don’t think there’s any doubt he would choose the wand.

Tina Goldstein. At least, Tina before she met Newt would definitely have chosen the wand. The Tina from the second movie, who has “gone middle head”, as Newt puts it, might hesitate a moment longer. She might consider that the cloak has value as well (I doubt she’d be too tempted by the stone). In the end, though, she’s still an auror and still the most practical and straightforward of the main four. I would guess she would still choose the wand.

Credence Barebone. Or whatever his true identity is. Credence has been completely powerless for so long – abused by his adoptive mother, forced to suppress his magical abilities, manipulated by Grindelwald – that an unbeatable wand would no doubt appeal to him. I don’t know who he would want to bring back with the resurrection stone, and an invisibility cloak might be useful when he’s on the run in Crimes of Grindelwald, but it wouldn’t compare with what the wand offers (or seems to).

The Stone

Albus Dumbledore. Even as an old man, in Tales of Beedle the Bard, Dumbledore writes that he would have the easiest time turning down the third Hallow, though he seems aware that the third one is the wisest and “right” choice to make. Dumbledore does end up finding all three Deathly Hallows, but the wand is the only one he keeps and uses for a long period of time. However, he does not seem to think it’s the most valuable Hallow and notes that it is far from unbeatable, having been beaten many times and passed from one person to another when its owner is defeated. It is perhaps the stone that is the greatest temptation for Dumbledore; even as an old man, he tried it on and attempted to use it despite knowing that Voldemort had turned it into a horcrux and that it would be dangerous to do so. Having lost so many loved ones at a young age, it’s understandable he would long to bring them back.

Queenie Goldstein. Queenie’s greatest strength is also her greatest weakness: she loves deeply and cannot let go of those she loves. If she would make the choices she makes in Crimes of Grindelwald for the sake of her romance with Jacob, you can bet she would pick the stone, too. In a heartbeat.

Leta Lestrange. She has spent most of her life feeling guilty about Corvus, a situation which is even compared outright to Dumbledore and Ariana. Surely she would jump at the chance to bring him back.

The Cloak

Newt Scamander. Obviously. Newt rarely uses combative magic and would not see the need for an “unbeatable” wand. While he’s a compassionate person who would no doubt grieve if he lost loved ones, he would also be wise enough to understand that no magic can truly bring back the dead. He would find the invisibility cloak extremely useful in all the sneaking around he does, as well as to hide his magical creatures when necessary.

Jacob Kowalski. As a muggle, Jacob would be unable to use the wand and likely couldn’t use the stone either. Anyone can hide under an invisibility cloak. Even if he were a wizard, he’s a pretty humble guy who probably wouldn’t care for the power offered by the wand, and his willingness to step out into the memory potion rain suggests that he can let go and move on after a great loss, so he probably wouldn’t choose the stone.

Cursed Half-Blood Orphans

Harry and Voldemort have always had a lot in common. They were both orphaned at a young age, raised in cold and uncaring environments, and found the home they had never had at Hogwarts. They were both “half-blood” wizards, coming from old magical families but with muggle relatives as well, and neither of them knew about Hogwarts before they turned eleven. They both spoke Parseltongue and had the option to be in Slytherin house, although Harry chose Gryffindor instead. They were both natural leaders who drew supporters to their cause. Harry and young Tom Riddle are even said to look similar.

It occurred to me that Credence from Fantastic Beasts is a lot like both of them. He is also an orphan, raised in perhaps the cruelest situation of the three, by the leader of a group of witch-hunters who is implied to have killed his mother. He comes from a magical background (spoilers for Crimes of Grindelwald suggest he might be a Lestrange), but is raised by muggles and develops an obscurus by trying to suppress his powers. He does not go to Hogwarts and would be unlikely to be sorted into Slytherin; he’s an antagonist, but he is not ambitious or cunning, and is easily manipulated by others rather than being the one doing the manipulating. However, it seems like he’s become close with the Maledictus character, who is now confirmed to be Nagini, so he, too, has a connection to Slytherin house and snakes.

Credence is who Harry might have been if the Dursleys had tried a little harder to force the magic out of him. If, instead of stubbornly ignoring his early signs of magic, they had gone through with Uncle Vernon’s remark that his abilities were “nothing a good beating wouldn’t have fixed”. Credence is like a version of Harry who never got his Hogwarts letter, never met Ron and Hermione, and instead went on living with the Dursleys until adulthood. Like Harry, he is an unwitting host to a dark force he can’t control, which makes him a target for the main villain of the series: for Credence, his obscurus, and for Harry, the fragment of Voldemort’s soul that attached itself to him when he was a baby. In both cases, it seems as if there is no solution other than their deaths. No one survives being an obscurial, and Harry will have to die in order for Voldemort to die. However, they both survive their near-death experiences – at least for now.

Like young Tom Riddle – and unlike Harry – Credence is a creepy teenager who immediately looks like a suspicious character. His body language and way of speaking tell you immediately that there’s something wrong. And you’d be right. But while Voldemort is a sociopath and a vicious killer from a young age, Credence is an emotional wreck terrified of his own powers. He, like Voldemort, kills several people – including his muggle parent – as a young man, but Voldemort’s actions are cold and premeditated, while Credence is literally possessed by a dark force and is not fully in control of or aware of his actions. Credence, much like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, makes the reader/viewer question who the real monster is: the thing doing the killing, or the person who created it? With Voldemort, no such question needs to be asked. His lonely childhood is not used to excuse or even explain his behavior, and the fact that he was conceived via love potion – the closest thing he has to Credence’s obscurial or Harry’s horcrux status – is something Rowling has described as “symbolic” of his inability to love rather than being the literal cause of it. He is clearly evil through and through.

I just recently read The Cuckoo’s Calling, by “Robert Galbraith” – J.K. Rowling’s adult mystery novel pseudonym. The main character, Cormoran Strike, had a rough childhood. He is not technically an orphan, but he might as well be. Although there is no magic and therefore there are no magical families, Cormoran’s father is wealthy and famous, while his mother was poor and died young. He’s not literally cursed, but things haven’t gone well for him. This is a recurring pattern in Rowling’s work; neither her protagonists and her antagonists come from stable and happy homes or have easy childhoods. Supporting characters like Ron and Hermione are a different story, but Newt Scamander might be the only lead that doesn’t have major family-related baggage.

Understanding Literary Concepts Through Harry Potter: Flat and Round, Static and Dynamic

A flat character is like a pencil sketch of a person. You have some idea of what they look like, what their goals are, even their basic personality, but none of the detail that would make them feel real. A round character is the opposite. They do have those details, and they come across as real people even though the audience knows they are fictional.

There are a lot of round characters in Harry Potter, but there are also many who have only a small part to play and therefore minimal characterization. Pansy Parkinson is Draco Malfoy’s mean-spirited and frivolous girlfriend. Hepzibah Smith was a wealthy and easily-manipulated woman from whom Voldemort stole Slytherin’s locket and Hufflepuff’s cup. Sturgis Podmore is a member of the Order of the Phoenix who Voldemort tries to use to get the prophecy. That’s … pretty much all there is to those characters.

On the other hand, if I said, “Harry Potter is an orphan raised by his aunt and uncle who discovers he has magical powers and is the chosen one of a prophecy”, I have only scratched the surface of who Harry is. I’ve said nothing about his personality, his morals, his friendships, his goals, his hopes, his fears, his doubts, his strengths and weaknesses, or any of the myriad of other things that define who Harry is. And, unlike the characters I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Harry has all those things and more. Flat characters can be summed up in a few words or a sentence, while round characters would require an essay to do them justice.

Another way to classify characters is by their character development. A dynamic character changes over the course of the story, while a static character remains the same. These two concepts are often lumped together, with the assumption that round characters are dynamic and flat characters are static. Most examples fit this pattern. For example, I named Pansy Parkinson as a flat character. Aside from aging seven years over the course of the series, she does not change very much. She does not reconsider her actions, but nor does she go any further down the path that she’s on, (for instance by fighting for Voldemort in the Battle of Hogwarts). In Deathly Hallows, she’s still the same shallow, unpleasant schoolgirl she’s always been. On the flip side, Draco Malfoy looks very much like a flat/static character early in the series. Around the time of Half-Blood Prince, it becomes evident that he is neither. His development in the final two books both deepens his characterization beyond the one-dimensional playground bully and forces him into a situation where he can’t continue to be just the playground bully.

However, a static character (who does not change) can also be a round character whose personality is well developed but remains constant. For example, Hagrid is a major character with a fully-developed and lifelike personality, but he does not change over the course of the story. The Hagrid who delivers Harry to his aunt and uncle’s house in Sorcerer’s Stone is essentially the same Hagrid who carries him back to Hogwarts castle in Deathly Hallows. If he changes, it’s in very small ways. The same is true of many of the other adults in the series as well.

It’s harder to imagine a dynamic character (who changes) somehow not being a round character. In order to understand why someone would undergo a major change, their character would have to be complex. It’s not impossible, though: one example from Harry Potter that comes to mind is Regulus Black. We know he started out as a loyal Death Eater and later chose to betray Voldemort. We know what he discovered that made him reconsider. But his actual personality is extremely vague and is revealed entirely through other characters’ descriptions. Ariana Dumbledore is another such character, one who goes through a dramatic change but is never fully fleshed out as anything more than a plot device. Both are purely backstory characters and are dead before the main narrative begins, and both are defined almost entirely by the change they went through, with very little personality beyond that change.

However, it is true that the vast majority of round characters are also dynamic, and the vast majority of flat characters are also static. Complex characterization usually leads to character development and change over time, while shallower characters who exist only as a pencil sketch idea typically stay the same.

The Five Stages of Obscurial Grief

In the Crimes of Grindelwald trailers, there are clips of Credence apparently pushing away his obscurus – but as I said before, I don’t buy that it’s going to be that easy. I would guess that in this scene, he’s not permanently getting rid of the obscurus; he might be trying to, but I can’t imagine it will just let him go.

Screenshot (11)

According to the first Fantastic Beasts movie, an obscurus is formed when a young witch or wizard tries to suppress their magic. Credence was brought up among fanatical witch-hunters, so he must have been terrified by the early signs of his powers. By the time of Fantastic Beasts, he’s bottled up his magic and no longer seems to be aware of it himself, except when it takes control and turns him into a dark cloud of anger. Obscurials become what they are out of self-preservation, but the obscurus is like a parasite that slowly destroys them.

How do you stop being an obscurial? It’s never been done before. Credence is the only one to even survive to adulthood. Clearly it’s not as easy as simply accepting your magic, because Credence spends most of Fantastic Beasts meeting with “Percival Graves” in secret and wanting to join the magical world. He asks “Graves” to teach him magic and doesn’t argue when “Graves” claims he’s “unteachable”. Simply deciding that Mary Lou is wrong about magic being evil does not get rid of the parasitic dark force inside of him. However, self-acceptance would have to be the first step, because if you’re still trying not to have magical powers, there’s no way you’re going to learn to control them.

By the end of Fantastic Beasts, Credence isn’t denying the existence of his powers. He’s embraced them, and he’s letting them control him. He’s overflowing with anger and not trying to reign it in at all – although I think it’s noteworthy that even in his obscurus form, he never harms Modesty and begins his transformation trying to protect her. The obscurus is all Credence’s anger and violent impulses running wild, but it’s not acting blindly or randomly.

Extreme denial followed by violent anger. That seems to be about as far as most obscurials get, but I wonder if we’re dealing with a Five Stages of Grief type of process. Credence, after the end of Fantastic Beasts, is clearly no longer a dark cloud of anger ripping up buildings and killing people, at least not at the moment. That potential is undoubtedly still inside of him, though. The feelings of fear and betrayal that led him to transform at the end of the movie would certainly not go away overnight. I don’t think a lifetime with the Second Salemers would either; he’s probably still not sure exactly how he feels about magic. There’s no one he can really trust or go to for support: Newt wanted to help him but now believes him to be dead, Percival Graves turned out to be Grindelwald, and his family drove him to become an obscurial in the first place. It looks from the trailers like he’s found a friend in Paris, but until they meet, he’s alone. In other words, he still has a lot of emotional trauma to work through.

The remaining stages of grief are bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It makes perfect sense that his storyline in Crimes of Grindelwald would explore these, especially the first two. He’s now aware of his place in the magical world and presumably doesn’t want to explode into an obscurus, but he won’t know how to go about learning to control his powers, and he may very well still have mixed feelings about doing so. “Please, don’t let me transform into that thing again, I’ll do anything to stay human …” “It feels so strange to hold a wand. What would my mother say if she knew?” “Can’t I just be normal? A normal muggle? A normal wizard? Anything but an obscurial?” That creeping realization that he might never be a normal wizard and will certainly never be a muggle, along with his extreme isolation, could make anyone feel depressed and hopeless. I wonder if the emotional struggle for him in this movie will be less about repressed anger lashing out and more about being tempted to just give up. To stop trying to control the obscurus, stop trying to find a place in magical society, and let the dark smoke loose again.

If I were going to come up with a “cure” for being an obscurial, I think I’d have it be casting a patronus. The patronus charm is powerful and difficult to cast, something that is not even usually taught at Hogwarts, so to be able to do it, from a purely technical standpoint, you would have to be in very good control of your magic. It’s rooted in your happiest memories, and one of its functions is as a magical protector. It can ward off dementors, which – much like obscuruses – are physical manifestations of people’s most dangerous and desperate negative emotions. There’s a difference, of course: an obscurus is a part of the person it’s formed in, while a dementor is an outside force. However, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to say that an obscurial who gained enough control of both their magic and their emotions to cast a patronus would no longer be at risk of letting their obscurus control them, and that such a negative force would slowly fade away in a person who it no longer has power over.