The two biggest villains in the Harry Potter franchise are Lord Voldemort and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore‘s Gellert Grindelwald, and here’s why Grindelwald is a better villain than Voldemort. When it comes to Grindelwald vs. Voldemort, Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort was a pretty one-dimensional villain. He was primarily concerned with selfish pursuits of power and immortality and controlled his followers through fear. By contrast, Grindelwald has a grander vision for the world and knows that it can’t be achieved through sheer brute force alone. Instead, he engages in a chess game with the magical authorities. Leading up to The Secrets of Dumbledore‘s events and revelations, it’s a game that he’s winning.
The strength of Grindelwald as a character will be key to the success of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which still has two more movies in the pipeline. Although Newt Scamander is the protagonist of the story, Fantastic Beasts is really the chronicle of Grindelwald’s rise to power and his eventual defeat by Albus Dumbledore. Given that the story will come to a close in 1945, the movies will also inevitably end up incorporating the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, which have already come into play via Grindelwald’s vision of the future. Grindelwald is a better villain than Voldemort because his scheme is ultimately grander.
If Grindelwald is to serve as the wizarding world’s version of Adolf Hitler in this story, then he can’t simply be an evil man with great power searching for magical relics with the help of a small handful of followers. The Fantastic Beasts movies also need to explore how Grindelwald managed to bring a significant portion of the wizarding community over to his side. In The Crimes of Grindelwald, we got a chilling glimpse of how he achieves that, and in The Secrets of Dumbledore, his following has reached an alarming size.
Why Grindelwald Is An Interesting Villain
Grindelwald has ably demonstrated his depth and treachery in the run-up to Fantastic Beasts 3. For most of the first Fantastic Beasts movie, Grindelwald was hidden in plain sight, disguised as the Auror Percival Graves. However, even in that film, it was apparent that Grindelwald is a better villain than Voldemort, favoring manipulation over force. He reached out to the emotionally traumatized Credence Barebone and offered him interest and affection in exchange for helping to find New York City’s Obscurial. But when it seemed that Credence was of no further use to him, Grindelwald callously showed his true colors – telling Credence that he is an unteachable Squib and dismissing him with a declaration of, “I’m done with you.” This triggers the Obscurial to lash out and wreak destruction on New York, setting a key precedent: that Grindelwald does the most damage through words rather than magic.
When we’re reunited with the villainous wizard at the start of The Crimes of Grindelwald, the first thing we learn about him is that he’s a master of manipulation – to the point that MACUSA kept having to change his guard, and eventually cut out his tongue in order to shut him up (or so they thought). The movie’s opening sequence effectively reiterates what we learned about Grindelwald from the last movie: that he manipulates people in order to achieve his goals, treats them sweetly while they are still useful to him, and discards them as soon as they have outlived their use. In this case, it’s a magical lizard that Grindelwald holds with faux affection in the hijacked carriage and then throws out of the door – mocking it for being “so needy.”
Unlike Voldemort, however, Grindelwald takes measures to hide his evil nature and motivations. After slaughtering a muggle family to take over their house, Grindelwald scolds his follower, Rosier, for casually spouting anti-muggle rhetoric. “We don’t say such things out loud,” he reminds her. It’s a sign that Grindelwald cares about moderating his public persona – something that Voldemort never did. Grindelwald is a better villain than Voldemort because he eschews open hatred in favor of professing himself to be a champion of “truth,” “freedom,” “the greater good,” and couches his bigotry in softer language. He tells those who attend his rally that muggles are not lesser, but other, and that they can continue to exist and serve a purpose in his planned new world order. This sly approach allows him to win over Queenie Goldstein, who is frustrated by the magical laws that prevent her from marrying Jacob.
Why Voldemort Is A Thinner Character Than Grindelwald
First of all, it should be noted Fantastic Beasts 3‘s Grindelwald is a better villain than Voldemort because the Dark Lord is rather one-dimensional. It isn’t necessarily a great black mark against the original Harry Potter series. In those books and films, the emphasis was on the heroes and their relationships, struggles, and triumphs, and Voldemort primarily existed as a force for them to work against. In many of the books, he either only popped up at the end or in some oblique form (Chamber of Secrets) – and, sometimes, not at all (Prisoner of Azkaban). We did eventually learn Voldemort’s backstory – that he was the son of an exiled witch from a fallen pure-blood family, and that his father was a haughty muggle who was tricked into marriage through the use of a love potion. However, by all accounts, it seemed as though Tom Riddle was “evil” from a very early age, frightening and tormenting his fellow orphans in the orphanage where he was raised.
Voldemort was never really shown to be a particularly skilled manipulator of people, instead choosing to exert control through fear – to the point that wizards and witches were terrified to even speak his name (which literally translates as “Flight of Death”). He never offered any pretense of having a noble cause or having the Wizarding World’s well-being in his best interests. His followers were made up of pure-blood witches and wizards who feared him almost as much as everyone else, and during his second rise to power, most of them returned to his side out of fear rather than loyalty.
Voldemort’s brute-force approach to power is also reflected in the fact that his strategizing left a lot to be desired. He created his own worst enemy, in Harry Potter, by attempting to kill him as a baby – thereby crippling himself and leaving Harry with an extra layer of protection. With Grindelwald vs. Voldemort, the latter’s most complex plan was executed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when he planted Barty Crouch Jr. in disguise at Hogwarts and manipulated the entirety of the Triwizard Tournament all so that Harry would grab the Triwizard Cup, which had been turned into a portkey, and be transported to the graveyard where Tom Riddle Sr. was buried. Of course, as many fans have pointed out over the years, this plan was laughably over-complicated, especially since the only thing Voldemort actually needed for the ritual was a few drops of Harry’s blood, which Crouch could have gotten at any time. Grindelwald, on the other hand, created a much more nuanced plan.
Basically, Voldemort is shown to be a powerful but rather stupid villain, who is hamstrung over and over again by his own arrogance. His followers joined him out of fear or power-lust, but few were truly loyal to him. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, all it takes is for the Death Eaters to see that Harry has survived Voldemort’s Killing Curse a second time, and many of them Disapparate on the spot. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that dismantling Grindelwald’s support in The Secrets Of Dumbledore and beyond will be so easy.
Why Grindelwald Is A Better Villain Than Voldemort
Perhaps Grindelwald’s greatest and most unsettling strength as a villain is the fact that there is some merit to his arguments – even if they are simply a cover for darker intentions. He taps into the wizarding world’s frustration at being forced to stay “in the closet” for the benefit of muggles, despite muggles being weaker than them. He also provokes the Ministry of Magic into a harsh and heavy-handed response, pushing them to crack down on any support of his ideas and, in turn, generating greater resentment against the current establishment. Theseus Scamander, seeing the trap that Grindelwald has laid for them, warns his Aurors not to use excessive force against those who attend Grindelwald’s rally in Père Lachaise. Ultimately, however, this caution fails when Grindelwald subtly goads one of his new recruits into attacking an Auror, causing them to retaliate with the Killing Curse. The rally attendees then depart, taking with them a story of Grindelwald promising liberation and the Ministry of Magic murdering someone merely for listening to that promise.
Grindelwald is a better villain than Voldemort because by the end of Fantastic Beasts 2, Grindelwald has won over both Queenie and Credence to his side by promising to fulfill their deepest desires. He has also successfully spread the terror of the imminent Second World War among J.K. Rowling’s wizarding community – compounding the animosity towards muggles. He conjures a massive fire dragon that almost destroys Père Lachaise and the rest of Paris, but by that point, the worst damage has already been done.
Grindelwald vs. Voldemort: Who Would Win?
When it comes down to Grindelwald vs. Voldemort, the Dark Lord would win by the skin of his teeth. If it were a truly one-on-one battle, Voldemort has his Horcruxes on his side, whereas Grindelwald doesn’t hold that kind of insurance. Grindelwald was trained at the Durmstrang Insititute, which means that he probably has a wider knowledge of the Dark Arts than the Dark Lord himself. However, Grindelwald wouldn’t have known that Voldemort had Horcruxes up his sleeve. So, even if he did manage to defeat Voldemort outwardly, there would still be pieces of the Dark Lord’s soul lurking about (meaning that he’s technically still alive). It’s true that Grindelwald is a better villain than Voldemort, but the two are vastly different figures with varying fighting styles. The only thing they have in common is their ultimate goal.
In the Grindelwald vs. Voldemort cage match, the situation would be flipped on its head if their followers got involved. Gellert Grindelwald is responsible for starting a global movement, whereas Voldemort focused on the United Kingdom. However, Voldemort also recruited Giants and other magical beasts toward his cause. With the followers involved in the fight, it would turn out to be an extremely intriguing magical battle. With backup, Grindelwald would win because he has sheer numbers on his side. In addition, Voldemort’s followers weren’t entirely loyal, as he ruled with fear rather than manipulation. Fear doesn’t always sustain loyalty, as evidenced by Narcissa Malfoy lying to his face about Harry being alive. It’s a toss-up. In the case of a one-on-one fight, Voldemort would inevitably win. However, if Grindelwald and Voldemort involved their followers, then Grindelwald would beat the Dark Lord hands-down.
Grindelwald vs. Voldemort: Who Is More Powerful?
By Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore, Grindelwald has become more powerful than Voldemort. Truthfully, Grindelwald achieved Voldemort’s goal more fully than the Dark Lord was able to. He sustained a massive amount of followers over the course of 20 years, whereas Voldemort’s followers had flimsy loyalty from time to time. When the Dark Lord came back in Goblet of Fire, he had a small tribe of people return to him. Grindelwald, on the other hand, had the Lestrange Mausoleum packed to the brim and started a global movement toward his cause. Grindelwald is a better villain than Voldemort because Voldemort rejected his humanity, whereas Grindelwald uses others’ humanity to his advantage. In the case of Grindelwald vs. Voldemort, Grindelwald is certainly the more powerful villain. If that’s not enough evidence, Gellert held the Elder Wand for decades, and the Dark Lord only had it for about a year.
It’s hard to deny that Grindelwald is not only more compelling but also infinitely more dangerous than Voldemort. That being said, Fantastic Beasts has also delivered the perfect heroic foil for Grindelwald – and we’re not talking about Dumbledore. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore makes a strong case for why Newt Scamander, not Dumbledore, is the protagonist of this series. As Dumbledore pointed out in Fantastic Beasts 2, Newt has no desire for power, so there’s little that Grindelwald could offer him to sway his allegiance. And while Grindelwald may have vast schemes and intricate knowledge of magic on his side, the simpler things in life are a blind spot for him – which is why he’s ultimately outwitted by a Niffler. The Harry Potter villain would once again be outdone if Grindelwald vs. Voldemort were to happen, and this time not by a one-year-old. Fantastic Beasts 3 should provide a deeper glimpse into the nuances of Grindelwald’s evil.
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)Release date: Apr 15, 2022
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