Kill me, then! You will not win, you cannot win! That wand will never, ever be yours!
~ Grindelwald taunting Voldemort, shortly before his death.
A law that has us scuttling like rats in the gutter! A law that demands that we conceal our true nature! A law that directs those under its dominion to cower in fear lest we risk discovery! I ask you, Madam President — I ask all of you — who does this law protect? Us? Or them? I refuse to bow down any longer.
~ Grindelwald, disguised as Percival Graves, explaining his motives.

Gellert Grindelwald is a minor antagonist, yet very important background character and historical figure from the Harry Potter series of books and their movie adaptations. He acts as the main antagonist of the 2016 live action fantasy film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is also the prequel to the Harry Potter franchise, he will play a major role as the titular and possible main antagonist of it's sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Grindelwald is considered by many to have been one of the most powerful Dark Wizards in history, second only to Lord Voldemort.

In Fantastic Beasts, Grindelwald is shown as a force which has the worldwide wizarding community cowering in fear. Although not yet at the height of his powers, Grindelwald wreaks havoc and death in some big parts worldwide before eventually going undercover. Fleeing Europe, Grindelwald arrives in America where he intends to harvest the powers of a magical beast called Obscurus to use them against his enemies. During his stay in the United States, Grindelwald goes under the alias of "Percival Graves", a high-ranking Auror and director of Magical Security for MACUSA. Grindelwald later attempted to take over Europe during the Second World War, but was defeated by his former friend and ally Albus Dumbledore in 1945 and imprisoned until his death to the Dark Lord.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1, the younger version of Grindelwald was portrayed by Jamie Campbell Bower, while the older version was portrayed by Michael Byrne, who also played Colonel Vogel in Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade. In the Fantastic Beasts film series, he was portrayed by Colin Farrell, in his disguise as Percival Graves, and by Johnny Depp as Grindelwald himself. Johnny Depp also portrayed Sweeney Todd and The Wolf, and Colin Farrell portrayed Jerry Dandridge, Bobby Pellitt ,Charles Ambrose and Lenfranco Cassetti. Both actors portrayed Tony Shepard in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.


Early life

Gellert Grindelwald was schooled at Durmstrang Institute, a reputed school of wizardcraft in Northern Scandinavia, rather infamous for its tolerance towards the Dark Arts, but was expelled at sixteen years old due to his unhealthy experiments. He then took up a friendship with Albus Dumbledore (who wound up falling in love with him) when he lived in Godric's Hollow for a summer with his great-aunt, Bathilda Bagshot, following his expulsion.

Keenly interested in history, lore, and the powerful mystique of magical artefacts, Grindelwald became fascinated with the Deathly Hallows, to the point of appropriating their runic symbol as his own personal emblem and engraving it on the walls of Durmstrang prior to his departure.

After expulsion, Gellert's quest for information about the Hallows led him to Godric's Hollow, England, where Ignotus Peverell, said to have been the first owner of Death's Cloak of Invisibility, had been laid to rest. Conveniently, his great-aunt, acclaimed wizarding historian Bathilda Bagshot, lived there and provided a place for him to stay, complete with a treasure trove of books and documents and a minimum of supervision. It was in Godric's Hollow in late 1898 or early 1899 that Grindelwald met and befriended Albus Dumbledore. The two teenagers had a lot in common: they were intellectuals and class-toppingly talented young wizards who were idealistic and ambitious. Albus, who felt trapped in a boring town out of familial obligation, gained a glamorous, attractive connection to the excitement of faraway places and things in Gellert. Gellert, an ego case, gained a powerful ally, complete with stimulating conversation, who didn't threaten his sense of control. It is clear that the pair were very close and the friendship was genuine on both sides. They shaped one another's ideas, powers, as well as destinies from that day forth.

They also shared two preoccupations. The Deathly Hallows held their fascination for many shared reasons, but their most fundamental reasons they didn't quite have in common. Gellert wanted (together with his friend) to acquire all three and wield the power of Master of Death.

They also dreamed of overturning the Statute of Secrecy and creating a new order in which wise and powerful wizards and witches were the benevolent overlords of their world, including Muggles. Again, Dumbledore's reasons were subtly different from Grindelwald's: as a young man, Dumbledore had witnessed and been powerless to stop a group of Muggle boys tormenting his younger sister, Ariana, to the point that the sweet-natured girl suffered an emotional breakdown and her repressed magic became dangerously unstable. Dumbledore's father was sent to Azkaban for taking revenge on the Muggle boys and his mother was killed in one of Ariana's accidents. He wanted power to protect his loved ones (and by extension the whole world) against cruelty and xenophobia like that shown by the Muggles. They coined the phrase that would become Grindelwald's slogan and the justification for his moral indiscretions and atrocities: "For the Greater Good".

The friends' plans to leave Godric's Hollow, acquire power, and begin their revolution turned serious. When Dumbledore's brother Aberforth became aware of this in the summer of 1899, he was disgusted with Albus's ambition, but was concerned about it as well, knowing that he and Ariana would need to be brought along as she would not receive the care and attention she needed to keep her stable. The tense situation boiled over into a confrontation and Grindelwald, enraged, inflicted the Cruciatus Curse on Aberforth. Albus moved to defend his brother, igniting a vicious three-way duel in which Ariana was accidentally killed. Aberforth and Albus were devastated. Presumably Grindelwald was also remorseful, as there is no evidence he was an emotionally cold person. Unwilling to face Albus, he fled the country and received putative blame for Ariana's death, thus confirming his place on the wrong side of the law and touching off his career as a Dark revolutionary, which would last until 1945.

Following his acquisition of the Elder Wand Grindelwald began amassing an army of followers. Eventually he and his legions of "fanatics" launched several devastating attacks across Europe, committing mass-slaughter, and garnering international attention from wizarding authorities. Several of the attacks also drew the attention of the Muggle world, risking exposure and war. In response to Grindewald's actions an international wizardhunt ensued, and was reported on in periodicals such as the Daily Prophet and the The New York Ghost

At some point Grindelwald was almost captured, but was able to evade his pursuers, and disappear. Magical Congress of the United States of America President, Seraphina Picquery would later lay the blame for Grindelwald's escape on Swiss delegate Heinrich Eberstadt, claiming that he had let the dark wizard "slip through his fingers".

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Unbeknownst to Picquery, Grindelwald had already infiltrated MACUSA by assuming the identity of her right-hand man Percival Graves. Grindelwald believed the mysterious attacks occurring in New York City to be the work of a powerful Obscurial, which he felt would be a great asset for his plans of world domination. Using his disguise as Graves, Grindelwald came into regular contact with Credence Barebone, whom he believed to be connected to the Obscurial due to a vision he received. Believing Credence was an orphaned Squib, Grindelwald pretended to be his father figure and manipulated him into helping him find the Obscurial with the promise of protecting him from his abusive adoptive mother and teaching him magic.

During this time, Grindelwald (as Graves) arrested Newt Scamander, whose escaped beasts were believed by MACUSA to be the cause of the Obscurial's attacks. During his interrogation, Grindelwald discovered the Obscurus within Newt's suitcase, and in an effort to hide his tracks, had him and Tina Goldstein sentenced to death. Afterwards, he approached Credence after Mary Lou Barebone was killed by the Obscurial and had him track down his adoptive sister Modesty Barebone, believing her to be the source of the Obscurial. Once they found Modesty, Grindelwald cruelly rejected Credence, as he had no further use of him.

Will we die, just a little?
~ Grindelwald's last words before he is taken

This angered Credence, who then revealed that he was the Obscurial, much to Grindelwald's surprise. Grindelwald attempted to convince Credence that he had nothing to fear any more and to join his ranks, but this further angered Credence who began rampaging through the city. After the Obscurial's death at the hands of the Aurors, Grindelwald was apprehended by Newt, who then revealed his real identity.

Massing his forces

Grindelwald eventually established a prison, Nurmengard, to serve as a form of containment for his enemies, apparently sufficiently impregnable that he was later imprisoned in it, inaccessible to his former supporters and breached only by Voldemort. In what few accounts of Grindelwald's revolution exist, his great power as a wizard is mentioned often, but there is less mention of his crimes. One murder is noted, that of Viktor Krum's grandfather, and presumably there were others. He was also noted to be capable of darkness from a young age: he and Dumbledore discussed quite openly the idea of ruling Muggles as benevolent overlords, and suggestions were made to the effect that his experiments were too dark even for Durmstrang, a school with a dark reputation to begin with, leading to his expulsion.

Battle Against Dumbledore

In 1945, at the height of his power, his former friend Dumbledore confronted him due to the cries of the public and defeated him in what became known as a legendary duel. Albus Dumbledore hesitated to confront Grindelwald, despite the belief held by many, including quite possibly both men themselves, that he was the only wizard skilful enough to stop his former friend. His reasons for hesitating may have included residual affection for his ex-flame, residual sympathy for his revolutionary goals, or shame over his role in shaping Grindelwald's revolution, but the reason Dumbledore himself gave Harry was that he was afraid Grindelwald knew better than he did who exactly was responsible for killing Ariana and he didn't want to find out. But Dumbledore, at this point about 63 years old and Head of Transfiguration at Hogwarts, was finally importuned by people who suffered from his former friend's actions to move against him. Eyewitnesses stated that it was the greatest duel ever fought between wizards. Dumbledore bested Grindelwald, becoming the master of the Elder Wand. He was convicted and imprisoned in the topmost cell of Nurmengard, where he spent the rest of his life until his murder by Voldemort.


53 years after his defeat, Grindelwald was slain in his prison cell by Voldemort, who was searching for the Elder Wand for himself. It was only during the confrontation in Grindelwald's cell that Voldemort learned Albus Dumbledore had claimed the wand long ago. Grindelwald showed no fear during this confrontation and saying he welcomed death apparently feeling remorse for his past actions. In a rage Voldemort ended Grindelwald's life with the Killing Curse in the spring of 1998.


Grindelwald was charming, brilliant, and enthusiastic as a young wizard. His attraction to the Dark Arts, noted previously, was predictable given his personality and background, and partially malevolent in its initial stages. He was highly intelligent, magically talented, idealistic, as well as ambitious to the point of ruthlessness, with a vicious temper: for example, when Aberforth Dumbledore challenged his and Albus's plans and tried to convince his brother to abandon them, Grindelwald "lost control" and used the Cruciatus Curse on Aberforth. Some considered Grindelwald the most powerful Dark Wizard in history, aside from Lord Voldemort. Of course, history is very long indeed, and the most recent parts are often best remembered.

There is evidence that Grindelwald regained some perspective after his downfall. When Grindelwald faced certain death at the hands of the only Dark Wizard to ever be considered more powerful and dangerous than himself; he was openly defiant and even mocking, goading Voldemort into killing him. Indeed, he seemed to exhibit a grotesque remnant of the "merry, wild" temperament of his youth. His last words consisted of the dressing-down of Voldemort and a rather demonstrative outlook on "the next great adventure" seems clear in its connection to his old friend, Albus Dumbledore.

Perhaps due to his great skill and beliefs in his own superiority, Grindelwald rarely displayed fear. This is best shown during his aforementioned encounter with Lord Voldemort where he neither feared the Dark Lord's power or the likelihood of death. Like Voldemort, however, Grindelwald did seem to have some fear of Albus Dumbledore, as he quickly fled the scene after Ariana was killed trying to intervene in a duel he started, and later in life when he refrained from attacking England despite his possession of the Elder Wand out of fear for his former friend. Dumbledore himself later told Harry that he believed that Grindelwald feared the possibility of duelling him.





  • In the film adaptation of the final book, Grindelwald does not redeem himself as he does in the book, as he tells Voldemort where to find the Elder Wand. Though his death is not made obvious, there is a flash of light as Voldemort Disapparates that could have been the Killing Curse.
  • listed Gellert Grindelwald as among their honorable mentions on their Top 10 "Most Evil Harry Potter Characters" list.
  • Both Johnny Depp and Jamie Campbell Bower started Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) as Benjamin Barker and Antony Hope along with Alan Rickman (who played Severus Snape) as Judge Turpin.
  • Grindelwald is similar to an earlier (or later, depending on how you look at it) Harry Potter villain, Bartemius Crouch Jr. Similar to Crouch's role in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Grindelwald was the main antagonist of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but spent most of the story disguised as a highly respected Auror who was believed to be good: Percival Graves and Alastor Moody, respectively.



           Harry Potter Villains

Death Eaters
Lord Voldemort | Severus Snape | Draco Malfoy | Gregory Goyle | Quirinus Quirrell | Lucius Malfoy | Peter Pettigrew | Barty Crouch Jr. | Dolores Umbridge | Bellatrix Lestrange | Snatchers (Fenrir Greyback & Scabior) | Corban Yaxley | Kreacher | Amycus & Alecto Carrow | Thorfinn Rowle

Other Dark Wizards & Witches
Salazar Slytherin | Marvolo Gaunt | Gellert Grindelwald | Gilderoy Lockhart | Herpo the Foul | Merwyn the Malicious | Ekirzdis | Delphini

New Salem Philanthropic Society
Mary Lou Barebone | Credence Barebone

Basilisk | Acromantula (Aragog & Acromantula Colony) | The Dementors | Centaurs | Giants | Inferi | Nagini | Charlatan