Linking Voldemort and Grindelwald

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In this recently-released image from The Crimes of Grindelwald, Grindelwald is shown accompanied by Vinda Rosier, one of his supporters. The name should sound familiar to Harry Potter fans, since she shares last name of several minor characters in the original series, all of which have some connection to Voldemort.

Vinda Rosier and Leta Lestrange both seem to be Grindelwald supporters, which in a way is surprising, because Deathly Hallows makes it sound like Grindelwald was never powerful in Britain. It makes sense for some British wizards and witches to think he has the right idea, but his army should be mainly Durmstrang and Beaubatons graduates, not previous generations of Slytherin/Death Eater families.

However, Grindelwald is sort of a precursor to Voldemort. Their goals and methods are slightly different, but they are united in their belief that wizards are superior to muggles and that “pure-blood” wizards are superior to muggle-borns. In that way, it makes sense that a few of the ancestors of the Death Eaters would be drawn to Grindelwald just as their descendants are later drawn to Voldemort.

Which brings me back to the Rosiers. Although they’re not a prominent Death Eater family like the Malfoys or Lestranges, they’re woven into so much of the backstory that they were almost certainly important in a behind-the-scenes way.

Tom Riddle Jr. was born December 31, 1926, not long after the events of the first Fantastic Beasts movie.  At this point, he’s a very young child growing up in a muggle orphanage. Therefore, the unnamed Rosier who was one of his school peers would also be an infant or be born very soon. Could Vinda be his mother? If so, then he would grow up surrounded by Grindelwald supporters and longing for the day when he, too, could fight for them. At school, he meets Tom Riddle, a classmate with ideas very much like what he’s heard at home. Grindelwald is defeated in 1945, around the time Tom Riddle and his classmates leave Hogwarts, leaving a power vacuum he’s all too happy to fill. Rosier, as the child of a Grindelwald supporter, would have no love for Dumbledore and most likely a desire for vengeance. He becomes one of the first Death Eaters.

Evan Rosier, presumably the older Rosier’s son, went to Hogwarts at the same time as Snape, and they were part of “a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be Death Eaters”. Therefore, Evan Rosier was one of the bad influences that led Snape to become a Death Eater himself. He died during the first war against Voldemort, killed by an Auror while trying to avoid capture. Said Auror is implied to be Mad-Eye Moody, who mentions that Rosier “took a bit of me with him”. Although Evan Rosier died before Sorcerer’s Stone begins and is never really developed as a character, he definitely made an impact through his interactions with Snape and Moody.

But it doesn’t end there. Let’s assume that Vinda is Druella Rosier’s mother as well. Druella Rosier grows up much like her unnamed brother, surrounded by pro-Grindelwald sentiment, and in the aftermath of Grindelwald’s defeat, marries Cygnus Black.

When Sirius describes his family to Harry, he says that his parents were never Death Eaters. It’s not that they were against the Death Eaters, per se, but they weren’t about running around in masks and killing people. They were content to cheer from the sidelines. However, Druella’s mother was not, and neither is her brother. We don’t know if Druella was ever a Death Eater or an active Grindelwald supporter, but she definitely had relatives who were, and she might very well have, much like Bellatrix, dreamed of sending her own children to fight for the Dark Lord. Fierce, ruthless Bellatrix would have wholeheartedly embraced the role. Knowing that the Lestranges were another old family of Death Eaters and Grindelwald supporters, I can see her seeking out Rhodolphus Lestrange as a husband, not out of love but as a way to get into Voldemort’s inner circle. Before long, the whole extended family is working for Voldemort.

Now here’s the interesting thing: the Rosiers and Lestranges were longtime Death Eater families, but the Malfoys weren’t, nor is there any sign yet that they were involved with Grindelwald. Older generations of Malfoys come across as more like Sirius’ parents, utterly despicable but uninvolved, and Draco’s grandfather even seems to have been an old friend of the stubbornly neutral Professor Slughorn. I tend to imagine Lucius Malfoy as a first generation Death Eater who joined well after Voldemort’s rise to power began. Snape, Barty Crouch Jr., and Igor Karkaroff would also fall into this general category. These newer recruits typically lack the fierce loyalty of the ones born into Voldemort’s service and were drawn in by promises of greatness but unwilling to go to prison for him once he was gone. They would likely have been recruited by in-laws or classmates, and in the case of Lucius Malfoy, that would be his wife’s family.

And Regulus Black? His parents weren’t Death Eaters, but they had the same kind of twisted morals. He was the youngest of the family, and as he was growing up, his cousins would have already been getting more and more entangled with Voldemort. It wouldn’t have taken much for one of them to whisper in his ear that this is the way to save the family’s honor after Sirius and Andromeda’s betrayals. And he would have believed it, because everything Voldemort did was in line with his parents’ beliefs, if not their actions.

There’s no way of knowing yet if Vinda Rosier is directly related any of these people. Maybe she’s an aunt or a distant cousin instead. Maybe Rosier is her maiden name and she marries into a different family. Maybe she dies childless and has no impact on the main Harry Potter story at all. But it would be an odd choice to give Grindelwald a supporter from an important Death Eater family and not expect there to be some connection. Leta Lestrange can’t be Bellatrix’s ancestor, because Bellatrix is a Lestrange only by marriage, but Vinda Rosier can, and it makes a lot of sense that she would be.

Almost all the high-profile Death Eaters from the main Harry Potter series can be traced back either to the Rosier and Lestrange families or to Tom Riddle’s original group of “friends”, which included members of both families. Now we know that the Rosiers and Lestranges were Grindelwald supporters before they joined Voldemort. While the two had different goals and methods, Voldemort did not just emerge to fill the power vacuum left by Grindelwald but in fact inherited his supporters as well.

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Deadly Dysfunctional Families: King Lear and Harry Potter

I mentioned in my weekly sorting hat post that the siblings from King Lear remind me a lot of Sirius Black and his family. Well, once that occurred to me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and there are a huge number of parallels – as well as a few obvious differences.

Edgar and Sirius

The eldest son of a nobleman, Edgar is forced to run away from home when his younger brother convinces their father he’s plotting against him. Like Sirius, he’s accused of a crime he didn’t commit against a person he would never want to harm. And like Sirius, he’s forced to flee or face a horrible punishment. However, Sirius really did hate his parents, who were pretty awful people. It was his best friend – whose family treated him as their own son once he ran away from home – that he was accused of betraying. Edgar is also one of the few characters to survive the play, whereas Sirius is murdered by his cousin in Order of the Phoenix.

Edmund and Regulus

To be fair, Regulus Black was a better person than Edgar’s younger brother, Edmund. While he did join the Death Eaters, he quickly came to realize how evil Voldemort was and gave his life trying to stop him. Edmund, on the other hand, seems to repent somewhat as he’s dying but never redeems himself the way Regulus does. His decision to call off Cordelia’s execution is too little, too late. However, the rivalry and hatred between the two brothers and the contrast of a heroic older brother and a villainous (or at least morally gray) younger one is similar.

Bellatrix and Regan

Regan is devoted to two things: her own attempts to gain power, and the equally evil man she loves. These two things consume her and drive her down darker and darker paths. She is arguably the worse of the two “bad” daughters, although that’s more up for debate than Bellatrix being the worst out of her family. Regardless, they have a lot in common.

Narcissa and Goneril

Like Regan, Goneril treats her father poorly, forces him to dismiss many of his knights, and eventually joins with Edmund to go to war with him. However, she then poisons her sister and commits suicide, thus ensuring a victory (however hollow) for the heroes. Likewise, Narcissa Malfoy’s lie to Voldemort allowed Harry to conceal his survival and go on to win the battle. As with Regulus, there are more shades of gray in Harry Potter: Narcissa had become disillusioned with her Dark Lord, whereas Goneril turned on her sister out of simple jealousy. The differences are important, but the similarities are there.

Andromeda and Cordelia

Again, these two have as many differences as they do similarities. Cordelia remains loyal to her father and returns to try to save him, while Andromeda walks away from her family and never looks back, never speaking to any of them again except her similarly rebellious cousin Sirius. While Andromeda was disinherited for marrying someone the family didn’t approve of and going against their prejudice, Cordelia’s offense was merely answering a question honestly instead of offering false flattery. However, the idea of a daughter refusing to give up her own principles and suffering for it holds true for both.

I’m not saying the siblings from Harry Potter are exactly like the ones from King Lear. The differences between them are as significant as the similarities: the Harry Potter series has more room for moral ambiguity, is less forgiving of bad parents, and allows different characters to survive the story. The fact that the three sisters and two brothers are cousins, rather than from separate families, impacts the story as well. For example, if Regan had tried to kill Edgar, it would not mean much; when Bellatrix kills Sirius, it’s even worse because they are cousins and likely grew up together.

The fact that Harry Potter is not a tragedy may also have an effect. However, I would argue that this particular family’s story is a tragedy even if the series as a whole isn’t. Sirius’ and Regulus’ stories certainly are, and there are few characters I feel more pity for than Andromeda, who lost her family as a young woman, her only remaining cousin twice after that, and the family she made for herself in a war against the family she was born into.

The families aren’t identical, but the similarities are astonishing: two brothers, three sisters, two good, three evil, the good ones shunned by their parents in favor of the bad ones, all of them pitted against each other in a war that doesn’t benefit any of them in the end. There are so many parallels there that I can hardly believe it was a coincidence, especially knowing that J.K. Rowling has cited another Shakespearean tragedy – Macbeth – as having influenced the series.

Named for the Night Sky

Names are important in the Harry Potter series, and one family – the Blacks – draw their names almost entirely from stars and constellations. Today I’m going to look at a few of those names and what their significance might be.

Sirius Black: Sirius is the dog star, so his name literally means “black dog”, which is his animagus form. Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky, perhaps indicating that he is one of the best people in a dysfunctional family with warped beliefs. Canis Major, the constellation Sirius is part of, was thought to represent Orion’s dog, but Sirius is anything but loyal and devoted towards his father.

Regulus Arcturus Black: Regulus – aside from meaning “king” – is a star in the constellation Leo, an interesting choice for a Slytherin, but Regulus certainly turned out to be capable of great courage, so perhaps the star he’s named after is an allusion to that. Arcturus is one of the brightest stars in the night sky; the only ones brighter are Canopis, Alpha Centauri, and … Sirius. Coincidence? I think not.

Orion Black: Many constellations are based in mythology, and Orion is one of these. The mythological Orion was a hunter, who – among other things – hunted with Artemis and was killed by a scorpion on her orders. But we’ll get to that later. Orion’s constellation seems more important for its connections to Sirius, Bellatrix, and Scorpius than for the mythological character associated with it.

Bellatrix Lestrange: Bellatrix is Latin for female warrior, which the character certainly is. It’s also a star in the constellation Orion; Bellatrix was Orion Black’s niece.

Andromeda Tonks: The constellation Andromeda comes from a myth about a princess who is chained to a rock to be sacrificed to a sea monster. Perseus comes in to save the day, turns the monster to stone with Medusa’s severed head, rescues Andromeda, and marries her. It seems like a fitting name for a girl who rebelled against her family for love, and maybe a commentary on what being born into a family like theirs is like. Chained up and fed to a monster is not much of a stretch, when Bellatrix is fully capable of killing her own cousin and niece.

Nymphadora Tonks: Not an astronomy name, and I think the fact that it’s not is significant. Her mother broke family tradition in many ways, including not naming her daughter after a star. However, Nymphadora – which means “gift of the nymphs” – still has mythological connections, as most of the family’s non-constellation names do. Perhaps Andromeda didn’t fully abandon all of her family’s traditions.

Draco Malfoy: Draco is the Latin word for a dragon or serpent, as well as a constellation. His name comes from his mother’s family and hints at his connection to the Blacks. The constellation is associated with several mythological dragons, including one that was killed by Hercules and another killed by Minerva. Well, he didn’t die, but Professor McGonagall (whose first name is Minerva) certainly didn’t show him the favoritism that other teachers like Snape and Umbridge did.

Scorpius Malfoy: The constellation Scorpius is supposed to represent the scorpion that killed Orion. If Orion and Walburga Black represent the evils that were passed down in the family from even before they became affiliated with Voldemort, it seems fitting that Scorpius, who is born after Voldemort’s downfall and rejects what his family once stood for, would be named for the creature that killed his ancestor’s namesake.

Merope Gaunt: While she’s not directly related to the Blacks, I think Voldemort’s mother is worth discussing here. Merope is one of the Pleiades, a cluster of stars intended to represent the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. In some versions of the myth, her star is the dimmest of the seven because she’s the only one who married a mortal. Almost sounds like a descendant of Slytherin falling for a muggle, doesn’t it?

Previous Generations: There’s really not enough information about the rest of the family to draw too many conclusions about their names, but I do have to point out that the four children of Cygnus Black and Violetta Bulstrode are probably an allusion to four mythological siblings: Castor, Pollux, Helen of Troy, and Clytemnestra. The myth involves Zeus turning into a swan, which is exactly what Cygnus’ name means, and what the constellation is usually taken to refer to. Pollux is the name of the eldest son, and his younger brother Marius was removed from the family tapestry for being a squib, while in the myth, one of the gemini twins was mortal and the other a minor god. Cassiopeia, another constellation name, comes from a mythological beauty whose good looks led to a lot of conflict, much like Helen of Troy. And the youngest daughter, Dorea … let’s hope she didn’t do to Charlus Potter what Clytemnestra did to Agamemnon, but knowing this family, nothing is out of the question.