Triggered by Grindelwald (FBCoG #5)

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.

 

GRINDELWALD

How did the boy take it?

GRIMMSON

(shrugging)

He’s sensitive.

 

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:


 

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“Your brother seeks to destroy you”: More about that blood oath (FBCoG #2)

This post builds upon my previous blog post about Fantastic Beasts:  Crimes of Grindelwald. Header image shows the prop used in the film to represent Credence Barebone’s adoption certificate.


Who or what is Credence Barebone?

Grindelwald has an answer.  Whether it is completely true or not, he has a story that he is telling to his followers and to Credence.

He tells his followers that Credence is “the key to our victory,” “the only entity alive who can kill Dumbledore.”  He claims that he knows “the strange and glorious truth” of who Credence is.

According to Dumbledore, “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.”

Assuming that this new information is true, it raises the question:  When an Obscurus is replaced by “a real brother or sister,” what happens to it?

We have seen in at least one instance that it’s possible for an Obscurus to be contained outside its host, and that it may still be dangerous.  Newt warned Jacob away from getting too close to the one in his suitcase.  

But usually, an Obscurus dies when separate from its host.  If it is forced apart from the Obscurial because of a brother or sister, it seems likely that the Obscurus would experience this as a fatal form of sibling rivalry and attack the rival.

Dumbledore and Grindelwald performed a blood ceremony that made them “closer than brothers.”  If Grindelwald had an Obscurus, as Susan Şipal has speculated, then gaining Dumbledore as someone even closer than a brother would have forced the Obscurus out.

But if Dumbledore and Grindelwald shared blood, becoming closer than brothers, perhaps that means that any Obscurus tied to Grindelwald is now tied to Dumbledore as well.  If an Obscurus is developed out of suppression and lovelessness, a bond of love like the one Dumbledore entered into with Grindelwald would be a vow to take on and heal the partner’s pain.

In the final scene of the movie, Grindelwald tells Credence, “You have suffered the most heinous of betrayals, most purposely bestowed upon you by your own blood. Your own flesh and blood. And just as he has celebrated your torment, your brother seeks to destroy you.”

Grindelwald does not say who this “own flesh and blood” is who betrayed Credence.  The wording does not require the person who betrayed Credence to be the same person as the brother who “seeks to destroy” Credence, which is a kind of omission wordplay that J.K. Rowling has used before.  

Speculation:  If Dumbledore mingled his blood and magic with Grindelwald’s, and the Obscurus within Credence was once Grindelwald’s, that might make Dumbledore as well as Grindelwald into Credence’s “own blood.”  If the Obscurus was threatened by Dumbledore’s union with Grindelwald, it might have attacked Dumbledore dangerously enough for a phoenix to come to help.  

We know that phoenixes can intercept a would-be murder attempt, sacrificing themselves, because Fawkes does that for Dumbledore at the end of Order of the Phoenix:  “Fawkes swooped down in front of Dumbledore, opened his beak wide, and swallowed the jet of green light whole. He burst into flame and fell to the floor, small, wrinkled, and flightless.”  Phoenixes also have other miraculous powers, such as the ability to heal fatal wounds or carry heavy loads.

Is it possible that Credence contains an Obscurus that is a brother to Dumbledore because it was once Grindelwald’s “dark twin”?  That this “dark twin” attacked Dumbledore, attracting a phoenix, and that the phoenix somehow became the Obscurus’s new host and took on a human form?  This is speculation upon speculation, but fun enough to be worth taking further.  What if the “entity” known as Credence is a combination of Grindelwald’s Obscurus and a human form of a Dumbledore phoenix, and this is part of what draws Credence into a friendship with Nagini, another hybrid human/magical beast?

This theory would explain how Dumbledore could be considered Credence’s brother even though Percival and Kendra Dumbledore both died before Credence’s birth (which is given as November 9, 1904 on his adoption certificate, even though infant Credence is shown making a sea voyage in 1901).

Grindelwald told Credence that his brother “celebrated his torment.”  If Dumbledore was happy to separate Grindelwald from a parasitic Obscurus that would eventually kill Grindelwald, that might feel to the Obscurus like a celebration of torment.  

As for “your brother seeks to destroy you,” if Grindelwald once hosted this Obscurus, this “dark twin,” he would certainly count as Credence’s brother.  We know he wants the Obscurus to kill Dumbledore and does not care about Credence, the Obscurial; this could count as seeking to destroy him.  Dumbledore’s desire to save Credence by finding a real brother or sister to replace the Obscurus could also be the meaning behind “seeks to destroy you,” if Grindelwald is talking to the Obscurus more than to the Obscurial.

In the hypothetical scenario where young Dumbledore and Grindelwald, having bonded, have encased Grindelwald’s Obscurus within a phoenix or other magical protection, there might have been a disagreement.  Dumbledore might have wanted the Obscurus destroyed or contained; Grindelwald might have wanted to keep it as a weapon, horrifying Dumbledore.  This disagreement could have led to Dumbledore sending the Obscurus away to hide it from Grindelwald.

I went into Crimes of Grindelwald thinking that perhaps Credence will eventually turn into Fawkes after playing a major role in the 1945 duel and sacrificing himself.  After seeing the movie, I believe less in that theory, since the Dumbledore phoenix connection was brought up explicitly at the beginning of the second of five films.  But this theory is too pretty for me to let go of yet:  Credence as Fawkes, dying and being reborn, perhaps reaching a state of greater purity with each rebirth until he can assume his eventual phoenix shape in a form of alchemical transformation, as hinted by the name Aurelius, “golden.”  

If Credence is, or will become, Fawkes, that would explain two things to me:

What will this series do with the fact that unlike Harry and Draco, who avoided splitting their souls by committing murder although each came very close, Credence has actually caused deaths, including the death of his innocent foster sister?  The guilt of having caused death, no matter how unintentionally, is one of the major themes of Potterverse.  If Credence, as Fawkes, sacrifices himself to protect others and is then reborn into a different identity, a higher form of existence, that could address his culpability for those deaths.

If Credence really is a Dumbledore sibling, why was there no mention of him in Deathly Hallows?  How could something that important be omitted completely?  Unless…it wasn’t.  Perhaps he was in the series all along, giving tail feathers for wand cores, fighting the basilisk, living in Dumbledore’s office, gnawing on cuttlebone, appearing to people who showed great loyalty to Dumbledore, healing wounds and singing phoenix song.

Next blog post to come:  Credence in search of his story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Obscurus in Potterverse and BBC Sherlock

This 5-minute talk was presented at a panel about the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at 221B Con, April 9, 2017.

Newt Scamander says about what’s in his case:  “Please don’t hurt those creatures—there is nothing in there that is dangerous.”

What do we know about how Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald?  We know it wasn’t by force.  We know he hoped, for the rest of his life, that Grindelwald felt remorse for his Unforgivable crimes.

Newt’s words about the Obscurus, separated from the Sudanese girl who was its Obscurial, hint at what Dumbledore might have done.  Without a host, the Obscurus is harmless, defenseless.  It does not deserve to be destroyed.  We have seen this before.  Not only in Ariana, but also the flayed baby in King’s Cross.  As Hermione tells Harry about an adult Death Eater with a baby’s head:  “You can’t hurt a baby!”

Dumbledore knew he had a chance of reaching Grindelwald’s vulnerability, the part of him that, like Credence, is frightened by himself and his murders.  I’m guessing that the kindness that Newt shows to the Obscurus is related to how Dumbledore reached Grindelwald.  It’s how Snape and Dumbledore saved Draco, Snape with his healing song after Sectumsempra and Dumbledore with his merciful offer of refuge for Draco and his family, when Draco believed he was beyond help.  Dumbledore’s offer tells Draco:  It is not too late.  You are worth saving.  Harry sees Draco lower his wand and “the tiniest drop of pity mingled with his dislike.”  That drop is enough for Harry to recognize that Draco is a fellow creature who does not deserve to be destroyed, just as the small amount of Harry’s blood was enough to render Voldemort susceptible to empathy.

Newt couldn’t save one Obscurial.  That strengthens his resolve to save Credence.  This is like Dumbledore unable to reach Tom Riddle but wiser for that failure, accepting the agonized Snape rather than attacking him.  Dumbledore trains Harry to confront Voldemort because Harry may be the only person Voldemort has connected with enough to possibly show him his fear.

The words to that vulnerable terror go:  “I’m scaring myself with what I’ve done.  Help me.  Stop me.  Contain me.”  That’s what Credence asks of Graves, who violates that trust and abuses him.  But Dumbledore did respond in good faith to Snape, Snape to both Draco and Harry after Harry casts Sectumsempra.  When Voldemort hunts down Harry Potter, forbidding anyone else to kill Harry, and sits forlornly in the clearing in the forest, saying, “I thought he would come.  I expected him to come,” he’s asking for the same thing.  When Harry offers him the opportunity to feel remorse, he gives Voldemort the choice to be seen, stopped, contained.  Voldemort decides it’s too late and chooses to gamble on Avada Kedavra rather than experience the pain of remorse, but Harry set up that choice for him.

So let’s talk about Sherlock, and the sister who was frightened by her own destructive power.

Eurus said:  “Every time I close my eyes, I’m on the plane.  I’m lost, lost in the sky, and no one can hear me.”

By age five, she had killed and no one could stop her.  No one could even find the evidence.  Prisons cannot hold her; she roams on buses, to 221B, to therapist offices.  Like Credence, she could control her Obscurus, to some degree; she just doesn’t want to.

She had to recall Sherlock from exile.  It was useless to reach out to her parents; her mother wouldn’t wake up and her father wasn’t even on the same plane.  Moriarty is dead; Mycroft has no mercy; Sherlock is her last hope.  She reprograms her prison and reproduces her original crime so she can return to being five and beg Sherlock to find her, save her soul, stop her, contain her.  Once she gets her wish, her Obscurus subsides.  She stops talking, she stops killing people, she stops breaking out.

Sherlock’s kindness to her is like Newt’s to the Obscurus.  One can understand Mycroft’s proposal to let the girl land the plane in the water.  She is, after all, an unstoppable criminal.  There’s mercy for Mycroft here, too; no one but Sherlock Holmes can contain this era-defining genius.  It’s a good touch that when she overpowers Mycroft, she doesn’t kill him; she just locks him in her cell, as Dumbledore did to Grindelwald.  “I could kill you, but I’d rather you learn how you made others feel” — that’s a mainstay of Potterverse, that empathy can both save your soul and be your punishment.

Serial murders are Unforgivables.  Dumbledore doesn’t have to forgive Grindelwald, and Sherlock doesn’t have to forgive Eurus.  But if they recognize that even an Obscurus is a fantastic beast worth protecting, they can help save people’s souls by helping them feel, however painful that may be.  That’s what Eurus asked for.  That’s why Sherlock, who is not even gifted compared to Eurus — an “idiot” — succeeded in containing her:  because she asked him.

“I’m in the plane, and I’m going to crash.  And you’re going to save me.”

“I can bring you home.”

“It’s too late now.”

“Open your eyes.  I’m here.  You’re not lost anymore.”  They change how the story ends.  Eurus has essentially built a Time-Turner and brought Sherlock back with her.  This time, he has grown enough to find her, and she tells him how to save his friend.  I think both Newt and Sherlock listen when Obscurials ask, and respond with kindness and containment.  Dumbledore couldn’t save his own sister, but I wonder if that’s what he did for Grindelwald.