Fifth blog post about Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Grimmson, a “beast hunter for hire,” is the opposite of Newt Scamander. When the Ministry wants someone to kill Credence to prevent Grindelwald from using him as a weapon, Grimmson looks at an image of Credence’s face and says, “Is that it?”
“It.” Not “him.”
Newt walks out in revulsion.
But Grimmson does not kill Credence, despite taking on the job for the Ministry. On Grindelwald’s orders, he kills Irma Dugard in front of Credence, a servant who had been kind to Credence and might have been able to tell him more about his own history. In response to this violence, Credence’s Obscurus explodes and attacks Grimmson, but Grimmson smirks at Credence from behind a Shield Charm and Disapparates to Grindelwald.
How did the boy take it?
This is the third time Grindelwald has triggered the appearance of Credence’s Obscurus.
The first time, in the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was unintentional. Grindelwald is still impersonating Graves. The Obscurus bursts out when Grindelwald, thinking the Obscurial is Credence’s sister Modesty, sneers at Credence and starts trying to exploit Modesty. Instead of attacking Grindelwald where he stands, near Modesty, the Obscurus storms out through the city, luring Grindelwald away from the building. Grindelwald follows; it’s the Obscurus he wants, the Obscurial he must control.
The second time, later in that movie, Grindelwald is in the subway tunnel, where Newt has called to the Obscurus by Credence’s name and calmed him back into human form. Grindelwald can’t have that. Knowing that Credence has a history of being whipped, knowing that Credence has protective feelings toward others, Grindelwald methodically whips Newt, long past the point when he has bested Newt in their duel, until he triggers Credence into exploding again. We can see how hard Credence tries to control himself and how violated he appears to feel when he cannot help his reaction. It is in Grindelwald’s interests for Credence to lose his sense of self and be out of control.
An Obscurus is “a parasitical magical force” of destructive Dark magic that usually dies if its human host dies. Both MACUSA and the British Ministry of Magic order Credence killed to eliminate his Obscurus. Tina vehemently opposes this plan; in the first movie, she orders, “Newt! Save him.”
“Him,” not “it.” Tina sees Credence as a person worth saving.
Newt says, determined, “They’re not killing it.” He sees the Obscurus, as well as the human Credence, as a living thing worth saving. When the Ministry impounds his suitcase, including the Sudanese Obscurus he has contained, he cries out, “Don’t hurt those creatures—there is nothing in there that is dangerous.”
In the first film, Grindelwald is interested only in the Obscurus. The human Obscurial, it seems, is an inconvenience to him. When he sees that Newt has an isolated Obscurus, he betrays himself by asking, “So it’s useless without the host?”
By the second film, Grindelwald may have learned something about Credence that makes Credence useful to him as well as the Obscurus, or he may have simply accepted that he can’t have the Obscurus without the Obscurial that keeps it alive. Either way, he orders Grimmson, “You watch over Credence. Keep him safe. For the greater good.”
Grindelwald wants to exploit the Obscurus and possibly Credence as well.
Like Tina, Dumbledore, who tells Newt that Credence “might yet be saved,” is concerned for Credence. Their tender recognition of his humanity is protective and right.
Newt, whom Dumbledore admires “more, perhaps, than any man I know,” goes further.
The Obscurus deserves protection as much as Credence because Credence developed it. Even though the destructive nature of an Obscurus will eventually destroy its host, the Obscurus is of the host, part of the host, something that helped the host survive. In its own way, it is living, and has its own integrity. Attempts to save the host but be rid of the Obscurus may well feel threatening to the Obscurus — that is, to the part of the human that developed the Obscurus out of mortal need.
Dumbledore tells Newt, “An Obscurus grows in the absence of love as a dark twin, an only friend. If Credence has a real brother or sister out there who can take its place, he might yet be saved.”
A dark twin would feel threatened if replaced, would it not, in a darker version of sibling rivalry? Wouldn’t an only friend feel grief if replaced? If a “real” brother or sister takes the place of the Obscurus, what happens to it? Where does it go? An Obscurus is too real, I think, to simply disappear. To kill it, I think, would be destructive, and would wound the host who developed it.
Attempts to save an Obscurial from their Obscurus must find a place for that destructive rage to go, a safe and not hostile place.
I thought, at first, that when Dumbledore said to Newt, “I can’t move against Grindelwald. It has to be you,” he was telling the truth in the first sentence but exaggerating for manipulative effect in the second. But I think now that it’s true that it has to be Newt. The person to find and help Credence has to care equally about saving the person and saving the Obscurus that Credence developed. He must have the skill to save both intact, but separate the Obscurus to halt harm to the host. He must be able to win its trust. Most of all, he must be able to contain the Obscurus, for its own safety. That safety can bring some peace of mind to the Obscurial, I think.
Previous blog posts about Crimes of Grindelwald:
- Closer Than Brothers: What does it mean?
- Your Brother Seeks to Destroy You
- Credence in Search of His Story
- Patriarchy, Racism, Divorce, and Vengeance