• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #250: Albus Dumbledore


I think I know what's in that goblet.

I've always enjoyed the archetype of the ancient, white-bearded mage, repository of arcane wisdom and mystic power. Merlin, Gandalf, Don Herbert. Hogwarts headmaster Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is a worthy heir to that lineage. Secretive, inquisitive, intimidating, mysterious, Dumbledore filled all the buckets. As Rowling's sprawling Harry Potter epic unfolded, we were treated to glimpses of the man behind the beard, his heartbreaks and failures and massive hubris. Dumbledore, like Gandalf before him, was willing to use lesser beings as pawns in his great game, even pawns he cared about as though they were his own children. The battle against Voldemort (or Sauron) was everything, and the HWIC (Head Wizard In Charge) would stop at nothing to blunt the advance of evil.


And yet there's a twinkle in the eye of this cold warrior, an almost childlike fascination with even the smallest wonders in the world, that grounded him, and kept him from becoming either an eccentric hermit or a force for darkness himself. Every Flavor Beans, a silly hat, a silly word at the podium - Dumbledore was still human, still real, despite his staggering power and responsibility.


The great Richard Harris was a wonderful Dumbledore. Aging, coming to grips with the onrushing mortality that awaited him, weighed down by the decades of hard choices and lost friends and students, bent with care and yet still deeply committed to his school, his children, his fight. Michael Gambon was always a little too vital, too spry, too angry for me. Where Harris' Dumbledore was a kindly figure, a happy warrior, Gambon's nursed some deep-seated resentment, some brisk displeasure at the world. Where Harris nurtured Harry and the gang, Gambon berated and browbeat them. I can appreciate an actor's need to take a character in a new direction, but I never warmed to his interpretation of the man.


Was Dumbledore gay? His creator says yes. I don't know that I ever really thought about it. I knew he was a powerful and flawed sorcerer, a powerful and flawed human being. And I knew that he had style.

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