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04 January 2004 @ 04:44 pm
Thoughts on Dumbledore  
I've been re-reading some bits in OOP lately, and it got me thinking about Dumbledore's character, mostly because I always found him problematic, and the problems stand out especially strongly in OOP. On the one hand, I've never subscribed to the "Dumbledore is evil" school of thought. I do believe that he's sincerely working both to protect the world from a great evil (Voldemort and the Death Eaters) and to bring about positive changes in wizard society. On the other hand, I've had major reservations about the old coot ever since his little House Cup switcheroo in the first book, and subsequent books haven't exactly reassured me. Immediately after OOP, my opinion of him was at its lowest, since I found his actions (or rather inactions) throughout that book to be criminally negligent, and his final explanation to be lame and self-serving. After a few months of thought, however, I think I'm beginning to get a better handle on where he's coming from.

Here's what we know about Dumbledore's backstory: he defeated Grindewald in 1945; he suspected Tom Riddle years before Voldemort arrived on the scene, and he led the fight against him the first time around; he expected Voldemort to return and prepared for it, and is now leading the second fight; he disagrees with many Ministry of Magic policies, and is aware of its incompetence and corruption -- a situation that appears to have existed for a long time. Basically, Dumbledore's a very old man who's spent a large chunk of his life in non-stop scheming, both against a succession of wannabe Dark Lords and against his own government. I think this has really warped his view of the world and of other people. At this point, I don't think Dumbledore is capable of not scheming, not even in his ordinary, everyday life. To him, all actions are potential strategic moves and all people are potential game pieces in the strategy. That's why he can do things like setting up 11-year-old Harry to confront Quirrelmort, and then just twinkle about it later.

There are two moments in CoS that I found telling. The first is when Lucius and Fudge arrive to arrest Hagrid and remove Dumbledore from Hogwarts. Dumbledore's response is "You will find that I will only truly have left the school when none here are loyal to me." The second is toward the end, when Dumbledore talks with Harry after Harry gets out of the Chamber. "You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could've called Fawkes to you." That's the very first thing Dumbledore thanks and praises Harry for. Not for rescuing Ginny, or saving the school from the basilisk, or for keeping Voldemort from coming back, but for loyalty.

Dumbledore judges the people he works with based first and foremost on how loyal they are to him. Not because he thinks he's all that, but because, as I said, he views people as game pieces, and you can't have your game pieces acting up, can you? He values his pieces. He wants to advance and protect them. But he doesn't want them running off beyond his sphere of influence and doing their own thing. I think there's something very ambiguous about Dumbledore's habit of seeking out desperate, socially outcast people and doing them one or two huge favors that leave them bound to him for life. Remus, Hagrid and Snape all fit that pattern, and Trelawney and Firenze appear to join the ranks in OOP. It kind of makes me wonder what Dumbledore has done for Fletcher, Moody and Shacklebolt.

The members of the Order appear to have pretty much internalized Dumbledore's view of things. They view him not only as their leader, but as their conscience. Hagrid believes everything Dumbledore believes, and would never question or disobey him. Snape doesn't seem to believe what Dumbledore believes, but still toes the line until the Occlumency lessons in OOP push him beyond his breaking point. In GoF, Snape's most emotionally vulnerable moments are the ones where Fake!Moody suggests that Dumbledore may not trust him. Remus, confessing his sins in the Shrieking Shack in PoA, feels guilty not so much because he endangered lots of innocent people, but because he betrayed Dumbledore's confidence. "Dumbledore says..." is the running refrain on pretty much everyone's lips throughout OOP -- except for Harry and Sirius, whom Dumbledore has effectively abandoned.

Speaking of Sirius, Dumbledore's attitude towards him now begins to make more sense. (For an excellent discussion of Dumbledore's treatment of Sirius, see this post by darkkitten1. No reason for me to rehash her arguments here.) The problem with Sirius is, he's not loyal to Dumbledore at all; he's loyal to Harry. From Dumbledore's point of view, it's as if he's playing wizard chess, and one of the knights suddenly decides that he doesn't care what happens to the king, he's just going to take care of that little pawn on the left. So Dumbledore does the only thing he thinks he can do -- he sticks his recalcitrant knight into a safe, isolated corner of the board and keeps him from making any moves. Perfectly sensible and strategically sound, as long as you don't expect your game pieces to have any pesky emotions or psychological issue that need to be taken into account.

And Dumbledore doesn't expect it. He works to insure the immediate physical safety of the people he's responsible for, but he doesn't allow for the possibility that Harry might be damaged by being raised by bullying bigots who hate him, or that Sirius, post-Azkaban, might be unable to cope with confinement in a place full of little but bad memories, or that Snape might not have the inner resources to effectively teach mental discipline to a kid he hates (and who hates him right back). Dumbledore admits at least part of this error himself in OOP, when he says he says he was wrong to have expected Snape to overcome his feelings. He's wrong about a hell of a lot more than that -- he still doesn't seem to have a clue about what he's really done to Sirius and to Harry -- but I now think that his claim about having come to love Harry is perfectly true. He's come to see Harry as something more than a game piece, and he has no clue how to deal with that. It's probably been decades since he's had to actually treat somebody as a person. His usual routine for personal interactions -- twinkle, offer a lemon drop, say something amusingly nonsensical -- doesn't cover Harry's situation. So Dumbledore ends up avoiding Harry for most of the year.

None of this speculation has exactly raised my opinion of Dumbledore -- I still think he's a callous and manipulative old coot, however admirable his ultimate goals are -- but it did give me a more internally consistent view of him. His behavior in OOP seemed very out of character to me at first reading, but viewed as the behavior of a master manipulator who's finally coming to feel bad about one of his manipulations (but who's still now willing to let go of the habit), I think it begins to make sense.
 
 
 
Alice in Neverland, second rabbithole to the right: Sirius How you doin--by dropsofsunshinehermione_like on January 4th, 2004 02:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for linking to that great Sirius post. :)

As for your post, I never really thought of Dumbledore that way but it does make sense.

Remus, Hagrid and Snape all fit that pattern, and Trelawney and Firenze appear to join the ranks in OOP. It kind of makes me wonder what Dumbledore has done for Fletcher, Moody and Shacklebolt.

Ooh, good point.

Thanks for posting this. :D
mr profit's girl friday (and all week long): sorted truetiferet on January 4th, 2004 02:21 pm (UTC)
I think a lot of people don't get what I mean when I say that I personally find Dumbledore evil, because this IS what I mean.

See, I'm a ceremonial magician, and I don't believe in "Dark Magick". Magick is good or evil in RL or in fantasy novels depending on what you do with it. So when I say I think Dumbledore is evil, I don't mean that I think he's going to turn out to be Voldemort's pawn or creator or anything, or that I think he's worshipping the Devil.

I mean exactly this: that he is, in my particular moral continuum, on the evil side. Because his manipulations are wholly centered not on whether someone does what's right (for them, for the world, for anyone) but on how loyal they are to him personally. He's identified himself with Ultimate Good and now, in his own mind, all that matters is how loyal someone is To Him.

This is why, in HoIF, he writes off Juliana. Because she will never, ever be loyal to him even though she wants to do good and serves Tom out of a sincere belief that he is good.

And this is why, in canon, he writes off the entire house of Slytherin except Snape, and does nothing to change their view of the world. Because no matter whether they are good or evil in the end, they will never be his creatures.

And I loathe him for that.

And I think this is evil. No matter whether his ultimate cause is good or not.

As a true-sorted Slytherin, I'm not going to say that the ends never justify the means, but what I will say is that if the means you have to use to get the end destroy or invalidate the end you are trying to reach, your priorities and your cost-benefit ratio are ultimately screwy.
aegyptus on January 4th, 2004 02:31 pm (UTC)
I agree with a lot of this, actually. I hadn't thought of it until OotP, but a lot of the things that Dumbledore has done has not been something that a responsible Headmaster should do. The children--Harry as well--are his responsibility as a Headmaster, and part of that responsibility is keeping them safe. He warns them off of things, like the Forest, but in such a way that they are intrigued. For example, the twins apparently go into the Forest every year, and though they aren't hurt yet, no discipline has been taken. The detention that Harry and the others serve in his first year is in the Forbidden Forest, Hagrid splits them up and gives Harry and Draco an admittedly cowardly dog for protection. It would be one thing if these kids were fifteen. They're eleven.

Quite frankly, Dumbledore would scare me if my kid went to Hogwarts. That's not healthy behavior for someone who's supposed to be taking care of kids.
Rusalkamarinarusalka on January 4th, 2004 03:55 pm (UTC)
Quite frankly, Dumbledore would scare me if my kid went to Hogwarts. That's not healthy behavior for someone who's supposed to be taking care of kids.

Dumbledore's actions at Hogwarts are another symptom of his general approach. He doesn't treat it just as a school, but also as an instrument in his strategy. People like Snape, Hagrid and Trelawny -- all lousy teachers, in very different ways -- are given their jobs as perks, because of their past of future usefulness to the Order, and because it strengthens their bonds of loyalty to Dumbledore.

OTOH, look at Lupin, who is a talented teacher. Why wasn't he hired before Harry's third year, especially given the difficulty of finding qualified DADA professors? My theory is that Dumbledore didn't consider it necessary. As far as he knew, Lupin was already totally loyal simply because Dumbledore had allowed him to attend Hogwarts. There was no need to bribe him with a job. He was hired only when his familiarity with Sirius became an important factor. Once Sirius proved not to be a threat, Lupin was allowed to resign. Dumbledore didn't have to accept his resignation. Sure, parents would've complained. But parents complained when Hagrid's half-Giant parentage came out, yet Hagrid got to keep his job. Lupin was allowed to go because a)his special knowledge was no longer necessary; b)he showed a lapse an loyalty by keeping secrets about Sirius; and c)his guilt at that lapse made for a better lever than his gratitude for having a job.


venturing a bit off-topic - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 05:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: venturing a bit off-topic - neotoma on January 5th, 2004 07:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: venturing a bit off-topic - caesia390 on January 5th, 2004 01:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: venturing a bit off-topic - neotoma on January 6th, 2004 06:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: venturing a bit off-topic - musesfool on January 5th, 2004 09:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kaiz on January 4th, 2004 06:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - aegyptus on January 4th, 2004 06:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 07:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - aegyptus on January 4th, 2004 07:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 07:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mimine on January 5th, 2004 04:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - aegyptus on January 5th, 2004 04:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mimine on January 5th, 2004 04:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - Hannah Silver on October 18th, 2014 03:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 06:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
A bit tangential, but... - marinarusalka on January 4th, 2004 06:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A bit tangential, but... - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 06:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A bit tangential, but... - aegyptus on January 4th, 2004 07:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A bit tangential, but... - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 07:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A bit tangential, but... - ceilidh on January 5th, 2004 04:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - aegyptus on January 4th, 2004 06:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 06:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - aegyptus on January 4th, 2004 07:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 07:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 5th, 2004 12:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - aegyptus on January 5th, 2004 03:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 5th, 2004 03:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - desevera on January 9th, 2004 04:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 5th, 2004 12:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lucretia_cassia on November 9th, 2004 02:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
Isisisiscolo on January 4th, 2004 02:45 pm (UTC)
Interesting - and that chess metaphor has been done before, and fits very nicely here. So Albus is a Hufflepuff! (Loyal and true...)

Caesiacaesia390 on January 4th, 2004 07:25 pm (UTC)
ha ha, trying to sort dumbledore... i can just imagine it.

hat: '.............well I give up. where do you want to be sorted?'

ickle wee albus: *twinkle*
(no subject) - dr_jekyl on January 6th, 2004 03:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
verstehen on January 4th, 2004 02:51 pm (UTC)
I think there's really two answers here, depending on which you prefer to believe. Personally, I do think Dumbledore is evil. Or, at the very least, manipulative to the point that the ends completely subsume the means. I agree with you in that he doesn't see people, he sees game pieces. And he's not above sacrificing a few of his own or even sending someone like Snape off to remove problem pieces on his own side. This feels internally consistent for a man that, in retrospect, spent five years using Legilimency on Harry and then has the gall to act surprised and sorry when Harry blows up at him at the end of OotP (let alone waiting five years to a) teach him and b) giving him into Snape's responsibility).

The other side seems to believe that Dumbledore is just a kindly old grandfatherly man, as he seems, and that he makes honest mistakes in the pursuit of higher justice. I think this is hogwash, personally, but the idea does have merit. The problem is twofold:
a. By making Dumbledore "good," you completely destroy the theme of corruption and the feeling of... almost a slimy undertone the WW has.
b. "Good" Dumbledore also turns a character into a horrible deus ex machina of the most obvious kind.

So, uh, yeah. Take your pick.
Rusalkamarinarusalka on January 4th, 2004 04:16 pm (UTC)
The thing is, I think Dumbledore's mistakes are honest. He really doesn't get it. He really, truly doesn't understand the damage he wreaks by treating people the way he does. He's 150 years old, the most powerful wizard of his time, and he's been living in a state of either war or emergency for decades. His logic is not our earth logic.

Voldemort is willing to sacrifice both his own people and innocent bystanders to achieve his ends, but he knows exactly what he's doing when he destroys someone, and he's perfectly upfront about it. If Voldemort got stuck with a Sirius on his side, he'd either kill the guy or torture him into submission, and consider it his rightful prerogative. Dumbledore confines Sirius to 12GP and thinks, no doubt, that he's being very fair and forbearing, patiently putting up with a surly and mentally unstable convict just because Harry is fond of the bloke.

It's only in OOP that Dumbledore finally begins to get it, and only in regard to Harry.
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 04:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Nailed it... - rikibeth on January 7th, 2004 11:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - neotoma on January 5th, 2004 08:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 4th, 2004 03:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Caesiacaesia390 on January 4th, 2004 04:08 pm (UTC)
What is Dumbledore's game? Is Harry even the real hero?

Something that I've been struggling with is how Dumbledore's trying to manipulate Harry - to what ends? OotP struck me with the distinct impression that Harry is primarily bait. That Dumbledore has been using Harry to distract Voldemort while Dumbledore gets down to the real business of raising an army.

Look at the major conflicts -

Bk. 1, Voldemort wants the philosopher's stone. Dumbledore engineers it so that Harry stands in the way.

Bk. 2, Lucius is coming under pressure from the ministry and wants to deflect attention onto Arthur Weasley, he uses Tom Riddle to accomplish that, and Harry's connection with Tom draws him into it (a circumstance encouraged by Dumbledore)

Bk. 3, Sirius Black has escaped from prison and wants to kill Peter Pettigrew. Dumbledore hires Remus Lupin to be a thorn in Snape's side (a test for snape?). after the concluding fiasco, dumbledore comments on peter's conflicting loyalties to voldemort and, now, harry. (and let's not forget dumbledore's notion that snape should be loyal to james after the shack incident [pardon me while i vomit])

Bk 4, voldemort needs an enemy's blood to become fully corporeal, and he wants harry's blood so that harry will become vulnerable to him. barty junior is prone to highly elaborate schemes (maybe he had else to occupy his mind, all those years under imperius [more vomiting])

Bk 5, voldemort is continuing his preparation for war, trying to cover all his bases while the ministry's still oblivious, and wants to get his hands on the prophesy that (he thinks) could determine his victory. he only concerns himself with harry when it becomes clear that no one but harry or himself can access it.

it seems to me that harry is not voldemort's primary concern. war is. Dumbledore is his greatest enemy (remember the battle scene in OotP? their dialogue???). while dumbledore is trying to convince harry and everyone else that harry is their savior. is it just because of some highly ambiguous prophecy????

remember what firenze said - humans have only a limited hope of ever grasping the future.

at this point, i wouldn't be at all surprised if harry turned out to be a decoy for neville after all... or if dumbledore has a whole series of saviors to throw at voldemort until he's ready to step up to the plate and take control
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 4th, 2004 05:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 06:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - musesfool on January 4th, 2004 11:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 5th, 2004 12:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: - musesfool on February 3rd, 2004 10:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - musesfool on January 4th, 2004 11:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 5th, 2004 01:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: - musesfool on February 3rd, 2004 10:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 5th, 2004 12:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: - musesfool on February 3rd, 2004 10:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
I disagree - complexphoenix on May 20th, 2004 12:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I disagree - caesia390 on May 20th, 2004 04:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Caesiacaesia390 on January 4th, 2004 04:22 pm (UTC)
god, i'm so glad this discussion is going on. understanding dumbledore. or trying to. O_O

i think another important point is power - dumbledore is the most personally powerful wizard in the world. fudge and voldemort both fear him. he could easily find a way to gain political power over the whole wizarding world, become dictator-king, if he chose to. but he undoubtedly recognized the risks that such a blatant display of power would bring.

so what does he do instead? he runs a school. he exercises influence over every wizarding child in the british/scottish/etc population. he organizes a secret society of wizards politically loyal to him. a guerilla army, almost, a few chosen soldiers who carry on normal lives.

so, to me, the idea of dumbledore being good or bad is a moot point. dumbledore is the only authority for his followers. it's dumbledore, a corrupt ministry, or voldemort. and dumbledore demands absolute loyalty. that he choses to use emotional blackmail rather than torture to ensure it is also, i believe, a moot point.

there's no check to his power. there can be no check to his power, since no one else has the wisdom or strength to oppose him. he holds all the responsibility. people have to trust that he's doing what's good for everyone.

i believe that that is what he's trying to do, but i can't stand the thought of his isolation at the top, his way of manipulating people instead of giving them choices. i understand that, from his point of view, manipulation is a much more reliable way of accomplishing what you want to accomplish. but it's Wrong. for the individual. but for the greater good...? and dumbledore is the only one deciding that, deciding what he can and cannot do.

i LOVE your chess metaphor, especially your description of sirius. i like to imagine that, after OotP, remus will also become a loose cannon, loyal to harry and to revenge and nothing else.
kaikaiz on January 4th, 2004 05:33 pm (UTC)
so, to me, the idea of dumbledore being good or bad is a moot point. dumbledore is the only authority for his followers. it's dumbledore, a corrupt ministry, or voldemort. and dumbledore demands absolute loyalty. that he choses to use emotional blackmail rather than torture to ensure it is also, i believe, a moot point.

This is an excellent point. And I think that it illustrates the likelihood that the Ministry is but a very thin administrative veneer over a society that is highly suceptible to rule by personal- and magical power-based cults of personality.

It's notable that Dumbledore did not seek to "legitimize" his power by accepting (or aspiring to) the position of Minister of Magic. Voldemort did not appear to be interested in such a position, or in climbing up the political ladder either. I suspect Grindelwald didn't try the "legitimate" route either. Instead, each man (speculating about Grindelwald here) successfully consolidated personal power through force of personality (successful recruiting and/or intimidation) and magical skill. Heck, Voldemort was *very* successful...he apparently was winning before he made the mistake of trying to kill Harry.

I'm not saying that the Minister's position doesn't have power, but it's pretty clear that personal power trumps rule by law, such that it is, in the Wizarding world: Dumbledore clearly doesn't recognize Fudge's authority as Minister (after all, he graciously "declines" to be arrested in OotP).
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 05:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marinarusalka on January 4th, 2004 06:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kaiz on January 4th, 2004 06:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kaiz on January 4th, 2004 06:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 07:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 4th, 2004 11:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - neotoma on January 5th, 2004 08:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marinarusalka on January 5th, 2004 10:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - neotoma on January 5th, 2004 11:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
lizbee on January 4th, 2004 04:57 pm (UTC)
Dear heavens, that's brilliant.

I'm enchanted by the notion that Harry is not intended to be the hero, just bait. Or, at least, a puppet. And I'd love to see Harry deal with this realisation.

Heavens, it makes so much sens!
Rusalkamarinarusalka on January 4th, 2004 05:12 pm (UTC)
I don't think Dumbledore is thinking about a hero at all. The prophecy doesn't say anything about a hero, it just speaks of "the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord." So from Dumbledore's POV, it starts out pretty simple. There's Voldemort, who must be destroyed. There's Harry, who appears to be the right instrument for destroying him. The instrument must be honed, adjusted, and generally made ready for use. So Dumbledore goes about doing the necessary honing, until suddenly he gets hit with the realization that, hey, that's not an instrument, that's a child! And I've hurt him! And I, uhm, feel kinda bad about it. But it's kind of too little, too late by then, isn't it?

If Harry does become a hero (and I think he's definitely got it in him), it'll be on his own initiative, not because of anything Dumbledore has set up, and not from some morally neutral prophecy.
(no subject) - gwendolen on January 4th, 2004 05:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 06:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Laurenaustralienne on January 4th, 2004 05:15 pm (UTC)
Very nicely put. I also don't believe that Dumbledore's 'evil' in the sense that he's prone to genocidal mania, but I've got a great many problems with his behaviour. I've never been particularly comfortable with 'the end justifies the means' as an argument, and Dumbledore strikes me as a particularly pernicious example. OK, he's better than Voldemort in that he's not using torture and murder to gain power, but his manipulations are just as ugly, in a slightly different way.

The way he views people as pawns rather than people with feelings is almost as dehumanising as Voldemort's Pure/Mud distinctions, and the fact that he's quite happy to demonise the Slytherins makes him as prone to blanket judgements as his opponent. He also exercises a great deal of almost unopposed power, upon which there are no checks. (Malfoy and Fudge can't really sideline him; I suspect the fact that Sirius wound up under house arrest was closely related to his less-than-total faith in Albus.)

He's using people constantly, with no regards for their emotional states, and he appears not to realise that there are major physical and pyschological dangers to that approach. Or he doesn't care, because he sees defeating Voldemort as the ultimate goal. (Entirely possible, since he seems to have he shaped Harry's life from the moment he was orphaned with a view to keeping him safe for the final showdown - either because Harry's going to do the deed or because he's going to be important in getting the situation to the point where another chosen tool or Dumbledore himself can act.) And I find that approach reprenhensible. It may save the wizarding world from this Dark Lord, but given that there's already an appalling lack of democracy, consensus and oversight, the result is still a single charismatic leader who thinks he has the right to rule people's lives and use them as he deems necessary.

Actually, that's another reason I was annoyed that Sirius was bumped off - because it leaves Dumbledore essentially unopposed from the Order side. Maybe Harry will continue his anger at the way he's been manipulated, maybe Remus will have more to say, but I think Dumbledore really does need someone to point out the flaws in his perception of the world.
Rusalka: Moonymarinarusalka on January 4th, 2004 06:10 pm (UTC)
Actually, that's another reason I was annoyed that Sirius was bumped off - because it leaves Dumbledore essentially unopposed from the Order side. Maybe Harry will continue his anger at the way he's been manipulated, maybe Remus will have more to say, but I think Dumbledore really does need someone to point out the flaws in his perception of the world.

It'll be interesting to see where Remus' storyline goes, certainly. PoA showed that Dumbledore overestimated his hold on Remus. Remus' loyalty was shaky, and driven mostly by guilt; his connection to Sirius was stronger than his connection to Dumbledore. But in OOP Remus seemed to be toeing Dumbledore's party line, possibly as an attempt to atone for his lapse in PoA. How he'll behave in the wake of Sirius' death is anyone's guess.

(no subject) - caesia390 on January 4th, 2004 06:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mimine on January 5th, 2004 04:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - musesfool on January 5th, 2004 09:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Morgan D.morgan_d on January 5th, 2004 03:51 am (UTC)
A question - part 1
Delicious post, Marina. But I need to ask you something, and I hope you'll forgive me if it sounds terribly stupid.

Whenever people start discussing the characters -- particularly Dumbledore and Sirius, for some reason --, I get confused about whether they are discussing their moral values or their effectiveness as literary devices. We tend to talk about them as real people, so the phrasing really doesn't help. ^__^

OotP has left me with the big problem of "what the hell am I going to do with my fics from now on?", and it took me a while to find my way out of the wreckage. I chose an AU approach after all, and started to contemplate the characters with more freedom, because I didn't have to worry about what JKR had in mind for them anymore. It wouldn't matter for me anymore if Dumbledore was meant to be ever-so-evil, or just-human-and-flawed, or the ultimate-Mary-Sue; I was free to analyse the character as he had been presented to me in the first five books and come up with my own conclusions, and build up my HP world from there.

Curiously, the Dumbledore that resulted from that is very similar to the one you describe in your post. I see Dumbledore as someone who wouldn't be able to stop himself from being manipulative even if he tried. As someone that lives in a world of his own, because no one alive has the mind or the power to match his (I'm still pondering about how his relationship with Flamel really worked), so he inevitably started to see the people around him as "beneath" him, as pawns, as tools, and sometimes even as entertainment. The easy, inaccurate analogy would be a child "playing God" with a line of ants, putting objects in their path to see how they react.

This Dumbledore would not be evil in the sense of wishing ill to anyone, but would lack the empathy that makes people truly care about one another. Hence his negligence. Hence his appalling decisions that keep Harry, Sirius, Lupin, Snape, etc. in situations from where even the most heartless reader wants to rescue them.

And as his lines in CoS about loyalty did bother me immensely, not to mention what happens to Marietta in OotP, my Dumbledore would be driven to favour or neglect people according to their loyalty and usefulness to him. Sirius would pay the price for being loyal to Harry first, Lupin would pay the price for second-guessing Dumbledore, Harry would pay the price for losing his invulnerability to Voldemort, and I'm still working on Snape.

So it was quite an experience, reading your post, finding so much resemblance between my AU Dumbledore and what I understand to be your interpretation of canon Dumbledore. Months of brainstorming with tekalynn and ptyx to come up with "my" Dumbledore, and I end up with JKR's Dumbledore all over again? ^__^

So this is my question: are you really saying this is how JKR means Dumbledore to be?

(to be continued)
Rusalka: flamingomarinarusalka on January 5th, 2004 06:13 am (UTC)
Re: A question - part 1
So this is my question: are you really saying this is how JKR means Dumbledore to be?

That's a very good question. The simple answer is, no, probably not. The more complete answer is, it doesn't really matter to me, because I don't much care about authorial intent when I form my interpretation of a story. I do take other meta issues into account -- story structure, symbolism, literary allusions, etc. -- but the bottom line is, I think my job is to read the author's book, not the author's mind.

If pressed, I would have to say that while JKR probably did intend to show us a fallible Dumbledore in OOP, her vision of his fallibility is probably kinder and gentler than mine. But I have to go with what works for me.

Re: A question - part 1 - morgan_d on January 5th, 2004 07:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
Morgan D.morgan_d on January 5th, 2004 03:53 am (UTC)
A question - part 2
Because that's the part I don't see in the books. I feel JKR siding with Dumbledore all the time. For canon Dumbledore to be the way you describe, I'd expect the next books to denounce him as criminally negligent, as too scheming for his allies' health, as self-centred, as dangerously shrewd in his habit of dragging desperate social outcasts into his sphere of influence. Judging by the books and her interviews, I'm afraid JKR does see Dumbledore as a kind, wise, sympathetic man that simply made a few bad decisions -- namely, not realising that Snape's resentment went too deep (!), trusting Sirius to be mature and not flip out just because all his allies were treating him like crap (?!), and not realising that Harry would try to save Sirius unless he was told that this wasn't necessary (!!!). I'll be very surprised if JKR returns to discuss those past decisions of his that have been bothering many of us: not making sure Harry was decently treated by the Dursleys, manipulating Harry into confronting Quirrellmort, the humiliation of the Slytherins at the end of the first book, hiring frauds and creeps for the DADA post, not doing a thing about the Basilisk that could have killed dozens or hundreds of students (and seemed to have been refrained from doing so simply because the author didn't feel it was time to begin the senseless killing yet), delegating the task of helping and feeding Sirius to Harry (of all people!), letting Lupin go when his lycanthropy was revealed (compare with his adamant reaction when Hagrid was put in a similar situation by Rita Skeeter's article), sending Sirius (of all people!) to cross the country in search of the Order members, right before locking him up in Grimmauld Place because it was "too dangerous" for him to be outside (did the Order members at least know that Sirius was innocent and that they shouldn't Avada Kedavra him on first sight?)... Good grief, I could go on forever.

In that sense, the chapter "The Lost Prophecy" was very disturbing to me. Maybe it's just me, but I keep feeling the Author's Presence in it -- you know? when sometimes a story's author can't conceal his/her judgement and moral codes into the characters and the plot? kind of like listening to a parable... Dumbledore says, "It is my fault that Sirius died," but immediately he adds, "Or should I say, almost entirely my fault." And then he starts explaining why Sirius died because he was too reckless to sit at home when others were in danger, too rude to a house-elf that kept insulting him 24/7, and so childish that he let Snape's "feeble taunts to hurt him". To my ear, JKR was saying, "See how wonderful Dumbledore is, he's blaming himself for Sirius' death when it's obvious that he's not guilty at all; he's made a few bad decisions, after all he's human like any of us, but Sirius brought his fate upon himself because he didn't listen to Dumbledore's matchless wisdom and didn't share Dumbledore's kindness." To what I could only react with a "WTF?!"

So... you think JKR will show us more criticism over Dumbledore in the books to come?
Rusalkamarinarusalka on January 5th, 2004 06:17 am (UTC)
Re: A question - part 2
Dumbledore says, "It is my fault that Sirius died," but immediately he adds, "Or should I say, almost entirely my fault." And then he starts explaining why Sirius died because he was too reckless to sit at home when others were in danger, too rude to a house-elf that kept insulting him 24/7, and so childish that he let Snape's "feeble taunts to hurt him".

Heh. I can never re-read that part of OOP without wishing that Dumbledore was real just so I could strangle him. :-P

So... you think JKR will show us more criticism over Dumbledore in the books to come?

What we interpret as criticism is up to us, but I do think JKR will continue showing a more fallible Dumbledore in the books to come. It's a natural part of the coming-of-age story structure that the series is following. Whether Dumbledore is a wise, kindly mentor or a sinister manipulator, sooner or later, Harry must throw away the crutch of mentorship/yoke of manipulation and stand on his own.

Re: A question - Answer, Part 1 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 07:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 07:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - neotoma on January 5th, 2004 11:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 11:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - neotoma on January 5th, 2004 11:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 12:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - neotoma on January 6th, 2004 06:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 6th, 2004 09:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - neotoma on January 6th, 2004 09:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - caesia390 on January 5th, 2004 12:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 02:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - caesia390 on January 5th, 2004 02:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 02:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - caesia390 on January 5th, 2004 03:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 03:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - caesia390 on January 5th, 2004 03:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 04:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - neotoma on January 6th, 2004 06:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 2 - donnaimmaculata on January 6th, 2004 09:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 3 - donnaimmaculata on January 5th, 2004 07:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 3 - neotoma on January 5th, 2004 08:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A question - Answer, Part 3 - daerlyn on March 5th, 2004 11:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
I disagree - complexphoenix on May 20th, 2004 01:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I disagree - morgan_d on May 20th, 2004 02:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I disagree - complexphoenix on May 21st, 2004 07:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: I disagree - morgan_d on May 22nd, 2004 06:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
Cynthia: Mmmm... Danny... in four yearscoell on January 5th, 2004 08:45 pm (UTC)
*applauds*
Hear hear.
Nesshelper: Sigurdnesshelper on January 9th, 2004 12:44 am (UTC)
There are people who believe that Dumbledore is actually an ancient version of Ronald Weasly, probably having met with a Time-Tuner accident or something. Ron, of course, is a Wizard Chess expert. We all also know that Ron can be rather immature at times. So if Dumbledore is seriously Ron, then that would certainly explain his behaviour.

I'm going to bring up something here, and although it isn't really on the topic of Harry Potter, it's worth bringing up for this post. In the Fire Emblem series, you can command an army of troops, and each of those troops have individual strength and weaknesses, as well as their own unique personality. What do you have? Knights, Armors, Aviators who are willing to risk their necks to do the right thing; Infantry including Axemen) that follow your every command and fight with Swords, Lances, and Axes; Archers who will defend their base RIGHT to the bitter end; Magicians who choose to assist using their Tomes regardless of the enemy army's numbers and power; and Clerics who personally get onto the battlefield to keep the front lines strong by using Wands for support.

What did I want to point out? Well, in Fire Emblem, if a unit dies, usually they stay dead. In the older FE games, revival of dead units was possible, but it was VERY, VERY costly too. Luckily, if you're a brilliant strategist, you just might be able to even Arrest (or just avoid killing) most enemies in Fire Emblem 5 WITHOUT so much as a casualty on YOUR side (except the ones for plot reasons, of course), and trust me: FE5 is NOWHERE NEAR a joke. Confused? Let me explain a particular situation in FE7.

In Chapter 29, you have to defend the Ostia castle from Morphs who broke through the outer defenses (the deaths involved are for plot reasons BTW). What do you have for defense? Besides 18 of your own troops (Elwood, Hector, and Lyn included, of course), there are 7 Ostia Troops, all of which are Armors, to help out as NPCs. That would be 25 units, so considering how many Morphs are attacking the castle, I believe it's statistically impossible for one to keep their numbers intact. And what are the flaws in your defense? First and foremost, 4 of your units and 2 of the Ostia Troops are separated from the rest of your other forces. And secondly, the other Ostia Troops are the front line units, and guess what is ready to attack them? That's right! A Shaman! (On Hector's campaign, it's actually 2 Shamans and a Druid.) Of course, Shamans use the powerful Dark attack magic, and since Armors have pathetic Magic Defense and Speed, whichever Ostia Troop(s) that get attacked won't stand a chance of survival. However, if you play your cards right, you can make sure ALL ally units (Ostia Troops included) survive AND you'll be able to pull off a complete rout within the 11 turns you're given. Believe me: I've done it before (albeit on Elwood's campaign) and bought the promotion items in the secret shop to boot. And yes, on most or all maps in each FE, your faction is usually outnumbered a/o outpowered. So much for preventing something statistically impossible from happening because of strategy, eh?
Nesshelper: Sigurdnesshelper on January 9th, 2004 12:44 am (UTC)
(Cont. from last post)

You have some valid points, yes, but don't forget that Dumbledore tried to keep Sirius from leaving the house to fight the Death Eaters, in case the MoM iggits saw and busted him. It's true that Voldemort and his faction was only about 12 units, but Dumbledore willingly allowed only Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Alastor Moody, and Kingsley Shacklebolt to assist him in the battle. That's 5 units, including Dumbledore himself, and one of the DEs actually stood a chance against Dumbledore, not to mention Dumbledore arrived later. It's also likely that Dumbledore realized that with small numbers, each and every unit can make all the difference in the world, so he knew it would have been harder to keep their opposition's victory objective from being fulfilled. Sirius, of course, knocked down a DE (forgot his name) who was about to get the prophecy, so his visit wasn't a complete waste to say the least.

In any case, a battle against Voldemort would have been really serious, and that's what most battles in FE are. Not easy to become a joker when one is 5 at the time Voldemort falls vs. baby Harry Potter, is it? (This is referring to Percy, BTW.)

But yes, Dumbledore definately has his dark side. Who wouldn't though? Besides, there's probably enough light in him for him to have a chance of actually seeing Tom Riddle (NOT VOLDEMORT; Voldemort is basically TR's dark side) redeemed, and that's most likely one of his ultimate goals. (I've seen a fair amount of evidence pointing that way, things about Snape included, and one fanfic I've read (now deleted from fanfiction.net, was an account of Tom Riddle's life at Hogwarts) believed that Tom Riddle and Voldemort were two different entities battling for the same body, and the latter slayed the former in the end.)
Psycheazdaja_dafema on February 7th, 2004 01:46 pm (UTC)
Interesting analysis, i found it fascinating. Dumbledore as a character is quite confusing, but i can understand both sides of the "dumbledore is evil" idea. Fisrtly, is this said due to his use of people as pawns? if so, he is ruthless, not evil. There was only one word in the entire series which made me think that he was, but it was enough to doubt his golden-ness. It was, i think the 4th or 5th book, He is talking to Harry, and Rowling describes a glint in his eye, an evil one at that. Something like that, but it struck me like a train.

Anyone who can tell me what the line was before i trawl the books myself, i'd be very grateful.