The sudden, unsuspected death of perhaps the second most important figure in the whole Harry Potter series, Albus Dumbledore, may seem to some a drastic decision on the author's part. However, her unsuspecting readers are in for a surprise. I predict Dumbledore will be back in the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. J.K. Rowling has been leaving numerous hints along the way that Dumbledore is an Animagus phoenix. As we know, phoenixes do not die, but are reborn from the flames. If Dumbledore is an Animagus phoenix, he would be reborn as well. There are two key pieces of evidence that support this point:
1. Dumbledore’s Patronus is a phoenix,
2. The appearance of a phoenix at Dumledore’s funeral.
We find out that Dumbledore's Patronus is a phoenix in an incident right after Krum's attack and Bartemius Crouch's disappearance: “[Dumbledore] raised his wand into the air and pointed it in the direction of Hagrid's cabin. Harry saw something silvery dart out of it and streak away through the trees like a ghostly bird.” 1
Later, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we find out that
members of the Order of the Phoenix send messages through Patronuses2: a spell invoked to
ward off Dementors (evil, sightless creatures with the ability to devour
souls). The Patronus is a positive energy that takes the form of the animal
most closely related to the conjurer.
Harry Potter's Patronus takes the form of a stag, because his father was an Animagus stag, which shows that Animagi relationships do show up in Patronuses. We also know that physical appearance is affected by being an Animagus as well. For example: Peter Pettigrew's ratty demeanor, Sirius Black's bark-like laugh, Professor McGonagall's spectacles and the square markings around the eyes of the cat she turns into, etc.
So, what does Dumbledore have in common with a phoenix? Well, we must recall that before his hair grayed, it was vivid red,3 similar to the red-gold plumage of the phoenix. Also, Dumbledore has displayed remarkable agility for someone so old. The phoenix, as well, can bear incredible loads without tiring.
In addition, the appearance of a phoenix at Dumbledore's funeral proves that Dumbledore indeed has been reborn from the flames:
Then several people screamed. Bright, white flames had erupted around Dumbledore's body and the table upon which it lay: higher and higher they rose, obscuring the body. White smoke spiraled into the air and made strange shapes: Harry thought, for one heart-stopping moment, that he saw a phoenix fly joyfully into the blue, but next second the fire had vanished. In its place was a white marble tomb, encasing Dumbledore's body and the table on which he had rested.4
You will notice that you never see Dumbledore in the tomb, and there is no reason to assume he is there. The phoenix Harry saw was Dumbledore.
the series, Rowling has been influenced by concepts from other fantasy
literature and classic tales. For example, in the tale of The Elves and the
Shoemaker, the shoemaker and his wife leave clothes for the elves, who do
not return once they have taken them. The same applies to the house-elves; once
they are given clothes, they are no longer bound to serve their masters.5
Merlin, King Arthur's adviser and protector, and Gandalf the wizard may have provided the inspiration for Dumbledore. All three are the fatherly teachers of the protagonist; all three are ancient, wise and powerful. Both Gandalf and Merlin died and rose again, in a sense. Gandalf fell from Khazad Dûm6 and returned as the white wizard, and Merlin was tricked into enchanted slumber until he was needed again.
Rowling has stated that Dumbledore won’t “do a Gandalf.” 7 However, if not physically, there are many ways that Dumbledore could come back in a spiritual sense. He might be able to communicate through the Pensieve, Fawkes, his portrait, or the two-sided mirror, maybe even the Mirror of Erised. Dumbledore says himself in the second book that “I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me.” 8
This leaves open the question of Snape. Is he working for the Order, and was the murder of Dumbledore a bluff, the ultimate proof of loyalty to Voldemort? Or is he working for Voldemort, and was simply foiled in his attempted murder? These are questions that will remain a mystery until the seventh book is released.
1. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 560.
2. Ibid., Half Blood Prince, 158.
3. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 245.
4. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 645.
5. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 177.
Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring, 322.
Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 263–4.
8. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 263–4.
Grimm, Jacob. The Elves and the Shoemaker. New York: Chronicle Books, 2003.
Pyle, Howard. The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. Unabridged Classics Series. New York: Sterling, 1902, 2003.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. An Evening with Harry,Carrie and Garp: Readings and questions #2, 2 August 2006. Transcript, Accio Quote! http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2006/0802-radiocityreading2.html (accessed 27 April 2007).
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.