Just the other week on 16 November it was announced that one year from the day the new Fantastic Beasts movie will be in theatres. The new movie is entitled Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. There was even an exclusive look at the cast and characters that will be featured in the new film.
As indicated within the title, a “fantastic” portion, if not the entire film, is to surround the concept of Gellert Grindelwald, the most Dark Wizard of the early to mid twentieth century. The first film of the series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is set in 1926, and Grindelwald is portrayed as a major threat to the Wizarding World. As readers of the Harry Potter series well know, Grindelwald does meet his downfall, but not until the year 1945 by means of the famous Wizarding Duel between him and Albus Dumbledore.
In other words, Gellert Grindelwald is at large within the Wizarding World for twenty-plus (20+) years before he meets his end. It can be imagined that most would agree that this is a long time for a major threat to exist, regardless of if it exists within the Wizarding World or Muggle World. The year in which Grindelwald met his end, the year 1945, is to be considered the height of his power, the point at which Dumbledore believed that he could no longer stand on the sidelines and finally confront his former friend. With this being the case, why did it take so long, specifically twenty-plus (20+) years, for Grindelwald to gain full power?
From what we as readers are presented within the Harry Potter series, there is no reason as to why it took so long for Grindelwald to gain full power. All that is mentioned is what Albus Dumbledore says to Harry Potter regarding why Dumbledore deemed it necessary to confront Grindelwald.
“I delayed meeting him until finally, it would have been too shameful to resist any longer. People were dying and he seemed unstoppable, and I had to do what I could," (HPDH – Chapter 35 – Page 718).
Though there is no obvious evidence within the Harry Potter series as to why it took so long for Grindelwald to gain full power, one is still able to formulate a context within which to establish the setting of Grindelwald’s rise to power. Such context is one that is familiar to readers of the Harry Potter series, a context of comparison that is able to relate the Wizarding World to the Muggle World. This particular context is a historical context.
Multiple readers have commented over the years that certain historical events of the Harry Potter series have run parallel to historical events with the Muggle World. For example, how Lord Voldemort operated his forces and causes during the first and second Wizarding Wars runs parallel to how Nazi Germany operated their forces and causes during the Second World War.
To run parallel with each other does not mean that events within the Wizarding World are to occur at the same time as events within the Muggle World. After all, the events of the first and second Wizarding Wars took place thirty-plus (30+) years after the Second World War. Nevertheless, one is able to present the argument that events within the Muggle World also occur within the Wizarding World; they just do not necessarily occur at the same time.
Therefore, if one is to argue for a historical context within which to establish the setting of Grindlewald’s rise to power, it is evident that rather than “pulling a rabbit out of the hat” and basing an entire theory with no foundational reference to use as warrant juxtaposed to the evidence to be provided, such foundational reference is much needed. When searching through the Harry Potter series, there is nothing written that provides any historical foundation. However, the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay, overall, makes certain claims that would point one in a helpful direction.
Truthfully, the Harry Potter Wiki: Gellert Grindelwald page does a decent job of summarizing these claims:
“Eventually [Grindelwald] and his legions of “fanatics” launched several devastating attacks across Europe, committing mass-slaughter, and garnering international attention from wizarding authorities.”
There is a section that I would like to emphasize, specifically, “attacks across Europe.” Before I continue, it must be stated and completely understood that war has not broken out among the Wizarding World at this point. In fact, during the time of Grindelwald’s rise to power, a Wizarding War never occurs. Yet, attacks by Grindelwald and his “fanatics” are occurring across Europe. From a historical perspective, this particular context of these two historical aspects, the first being that war never occurs and the second being that attacks are occurring across Europe, they do not portray war, but rather, they portray revolution.
To some, it may seem as if war and revolution are the same. After all, to the American audience, we are taught in schools at a young age the United States fought for its independence during the American Revolutionary War, where revolution and war are used together. However, it is acceptable to call it the American Revolution, but it is not acceptable to call it the American War. The same is true for other countries, such as the French Revolution and not the French Revolutionary War.
Furthermore, even when viewing their denotative meaning (Oxford Dictionary), the definitions between revolution and war are differentiated.
Revolution - A forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system.
War - A state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country.
Therefore, with regards to a historical perspective, revolution and war are deemed as being different.
Being that Grindelwald’s rise to power is to be viewed as a revolution and not a war, it is then necessary to proceed in comparing revolutions within the Muggle world to see if any of them portray similar characteristics. Yet, if, once again, we are to focus upon the particular section from the phrase “attacks across Europe,” a single revolution seems to stand out above all others: the Russian Revolution.
The Russian Revolution occurred in Russia during 1917 in the form of a “set” of revolutions, one in February and one in October. From the “February Revolution,” the tsarist regime, the ruling monarch of Russia for centuries, abdicated power, and from the “October Revolution,” the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) took over the Provisional Government, thus giving birth to the Soviet Union. As a result of the Soviet Union, characters such as Josef Stalin and events such as the Cold War would eventually occur and shape the course of human history.
(Though this article does have need of referencing certain events and concepts of the Russian Revolution, I as the writer am not going to give an entire lecture of the history of the Russian Revolution. Therefore, for those that are interested in the historical events that occurred in Russia during 1917 and the years shortly thereafter, I would highly recommend the book written by historian Richard Pipes A Concise History of the Russian Revolution as suggested further reading.)
In relation to the Wizarding World, there are many characteristics that are shared between the Russian Revolution and the Wizarding World in which Grindelwald was able to rise to power. To go into detail regarding every similarity has neither the time nor place within this article. Nonetheless, there are certain characteristics that I would like present minutely in order to present why the Russian Revolution stands out the most when compared to other Muggle revolutions. These characteristics surround the similarities between the Wizarding World and historical facts that were in place within the years prior to the Russian Revolution.
One characteristic that is able to be shared between the years prior to the Russian Revolution and The Wizarding World is the notion of their populations. For the Wizarding World, once the International Statue of Secrecy was established, witches and wizards had need of isolating themselves from Muggles. Such isolation led the Wizarding population to spread themselves far from each other into small groups. Occasionally, a Wizarding village would be built, but even these were far and uncommon. For Russia, the country was spread across the entire northern-Asian continent, but not every acre of land was populated. Like the Wizarding World, citizens were spread far and wide in small groups, with little to no knowledge of what was occurring within the capital, St. Petersburg.
A second characteristic that is able to be shared between the years prior to the Russian Revolution and the Wizarding World is the hardship of people not feeling that they could leave. In the Wizarding World, such as within the United Kingdom, witches and wizards are known to move from their childhood home in the country to the city of London where the Ministry of Magic is located. A prime example of this is Percy Weasley moving out of The Burrow and living on his own in London so he can be closer to the Ministry. Yet, it is not as if witches and wizards are able to build an entirely new village of only magical citizens anywhere they want. Rather, Wizarding citizens must either move to already established Wizarding communities, such as Hogsmeade, or move to areas with Muggle populations and live amongst the Muggles.
In Russia during the years prior to the revolution, like Wizarding citizens, Russian peasants felt tied to their land as a result of the continued implementation of serfdom and peasants having to give a certain share of crops to the landowners, even though it was the peasants who farmed the land. Though in 1861 the emancipation of serfdom in Russia did occur and peasants could purchase the land that they farmed from their landowners, Russian peasants could not afford to pay certain high taxes. Thus, they had no choice but to remain on their land, sell their crops in order to pay the taxes, and attempt to grow a surplus of food so that they could keep whatever food they could for themselves and struggle to survive.
The third characteristic that I would like to present that is shared between the Russian Revolution and the Wizarding World is a sense of backwardness. It is true that witches and wizards are able to be considered backwards in relation to their lack of technology. But throughout the Wizarding World, because of the distance and sense of isolation that witches and wizards experience, their means of connectivity to the rest of their world, especially to their Wizarding government, is seen as backwards.
Based upon the information from Pottermore regarding how the Wizarding community democratically elects a Minister for Magic by means of a public vote, such would indicate that the Wizarding World is governed by democratic principles. Yet, there is a rather low level of democracy that takes place within the Wizarding World, specifically with regards to the political activeness of Wizarding citizens. From what is presented within the Harry Potter series, there exists little to no political activeness amongst its citizens, which is a factor as to why Hermione Granger decides to found the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.), as well as why very few are willing to be active toward her cause. This lack of political activeness reveals the hypocrisy of the Wizarding World, where even though Wizarding society contains “free citizens,” their isolation from their democratic ideology allows them to be “democratically” discriminative toward others, which is, in itself, a “backwards” notion.
When compared to Russia prior to the revolution, there was a time when Western European peasants and Russian peasants did not differ much. However, due to innovations within aspects such as education and a more politically involved people, by the twentieth century, Russia had not experienced these same innovations, as well as not experiencing many others. In other words, the Russian peasants were not politicized, due to not being socialized, thus causing Russia, a world power, to be considered “backwards” compared to the rest of its European neighbors and other world powers. In other words, as the rest of the world was advancing within a multitude of aspects, the Russian government was not implementing any advances of any measure, thus causing Russia to remain both culturally and idealistically “backward.”
These characteristics between the Wizarding World and historical facts that were in place within the years prior to the Russian Revolution are indeed similarities between the two, but they do not answer the ultimate question of why Gellert Grindelwald took so long to rise to full power. Yet, though they do not answer the question, they are indeed factors that would contribute to Grindelwald’s revolution, especially for its predecessor, the Russian Revolution.
Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, and then Soviets, viewed the tsarist regime in Russia as a government that had need of being overthrown, for reasons such as the characteristics mentioned above. However, to overthrow the Russian government was not the only government that Lenin believed that had need of being overthrown. In fact, a driving force for Lenin was not a single revolution in a single country, such as Russia, but worldwide revolutions toward the socialist order. In other words, once a revolution broke out in Russia, other countries, like dominoes, would experience their own socialist revolution, believing that there exists the impossibility of “socialism in one country” and a “permanent revolution” was able to occur within countries across the globe.
Once again, the screenplay Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in New York City during the year 1926, and that Gellert Grinelwald is revealed to be in New York. Grindelwald and his “fanatics” are involved in many “attacks across Europe.” In other words, Grindelwald is involved not just in one country like Lord Voldemort, but also rather in several countries across the globe. When all of this is juxtaposed to the events and ideas of the Russian revolution, the comparison is strikingly similar, but with one crucial difference.
Based upon this perspective, what is to be indicated is that the reason as to why Grindelwald took so long to rise to full power is that he wanted a worldwide revolution. However, unlike the Russian Revolution and having countries take on their own revolution similar to a domino effect, Grindelwald wanted to not have a domino effect but rather have as many countries as possible, if not all Wizarding countries, simultaneously undertake a revolution against their own respective governments. This “simultaneous revolution” would have need of taking time, especially if Grindelwald is doing this mostly by himself. And by the time the year 1945 arrived, everything for Grindelwald was set in place.
From all that has been presented so far, there are two claims that I would like to make. The first is to offer readers and fans of the Harry Potter series a sense of tension and reality of what was at stake during the Wizarding Duel between Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore. If what has been presented by me is indeed true and Grindelwald was in 1945 finally prepared to have the Wizarding World undergo a “spontaneous revolution,” if Albus Dumbledore had not defeated Grindelwald during their famous duel, the Wizarding World would have undergone such “spontaneous revolution,” and Wizarding rule over Muggles would have occurred. As a comparison, this event would have been the “Cuban Missile Crisis” of the Wizarding World.
The second claim that I would like to make is that because of the extreme similarities in both ideas and events between the Wizarding World and the Russian Revolution, this would be a most suitable comparison to use when creating the future Fantastic Beasts films. Additionally, because of such similarities, perhaps certain elements of future films are able to be both conducted and concluded by means of observing what events occurred both before and during the Russian Revolution and how exactly those events played-out. For example, during the “February Revolution” in Russia in 1917, the Russian Tsar abdicated the throne and in his place was created the Russian Provisional Government. Because of its extreme similarities with the Russian Revolution, perhaps within the Wizarding World a Minister for Magic steps down from being Minister and a provisional government, or a transitional government, is created shortly prior to the duel between Grindelwald and Dumbledore.
The Wizarding World and the Muggle World share a historical timeline, though events between the two worlds to not always occur at the same time. With regards to the rise of Gellert Grindelwald, his worldwide revolution is able to be compared most similarly to the Russian Revolution. The two events not only provide a shared historical context between each other, but the Russian Revolution as a basis of historical context and comparison allows the rise of Gellert Grindelwald to be historically explained, such as why it took so long for Grindelwald to gain full power.