Who is Credence Barebone?


Warning: MAJOR spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald below. This is my take on breaking down the big end-of-the-movie reveal, so if you haven’t seen it, click away now.

Are you still here? Okay, here’s the question everyone’s been asking: how could Credence Barebone possibly be “Aurelius Dumbledore”? How could there be any more Dumbledores that we don’t know about? There are a number of possibilities and theories out there, and all of them have serious problems. We don’t even know for sure what’s true and what’s not. Grindelwald describes “Aurelius” as Albus’s brother, but can we believe him? Personally, I think we can’t. I’ve been thinking about it, and I think Grindelwald is faking the whole thing. Yes, including Fawkes (and I do think it is Fawkes). How is this possible? I think most of the theories have been looking in the wrong place. It’s not the Dumbledore family we should be looking at, but Grindelwald himself.

First, let’s look at the timeline. When was Credence born? Unfortunately, we have conflicting data. The screenplay says that the shipwreck where Corvus Lestrange died, when Credence was an infant, took place in 1901. However, Credence’s birth certificate says he was born in 1904. And both his and Leta’s apparent ages suggest he was born in 1906.

Wait, how do I get that? We know Newt Scamander was born in 1897—or at least we think he was. That date is based on his quoted age of 104 in the Fantastic Beasts book in 2001. By extension, Leta Lestrange was also born in 1897. But Leta looks older than 4 or 7 in the shipwreck scene (even though she’s credited, weirdly, as a range, “3-6 Years Old”, in the credits). I don’t have definitive confirmation, but from what I can find, I believe the actress who played her was 9 years old, which would place that scene in 1906. The official screenplay trumps this, of course. Casting is never exact. But then again, look at the first Fantastic Beasts film. There, Credence appears to still be in the legal care of the foster home. While not certain, that would suggest he was no older than 20 (the age of majority was 21 in those days). This would also place his birth in 1906.

As an aside, I will note that the shipwreck was not the Titanic, as many have speculated. The Titanic sank in 1912, and there is no evidence to place Credence’s birth that late.

What about the Dumbledores? Albus Dumbledore was born in 1881, according to Pottermore. His brother, Aberforth, was born in 1883; and his sister, Ariana, was born in 1885. Albus’s father, Percival, was sent to Azkaban in 1891 for attacking the muggle boys who attacked Ariana, and he eventually died there. Albus’s mother, Kendra, and his sister both died in the summer of 1899. So even if Kendra had another child (by any means), there could not have been another Dumbledore brother born any later than early 1899, so close, and yet too far from the shipwreck scene to be convincing.

There doesn’t seem to be any way to close this gap. It seems like it’s impossible for Credence to be Albus’s brother…except we can’t trust the timeline anymore because of one other thing: Minerva McGonagall. J. K. Rowling put Minerva McGonagall in The Crimes of Grindelwald when she wasn’t supposed to be born yet. And as I’ve mentioned before, there is no other McGonagall that could be. If she could do that, she could change anything in the timeline.

But let’s assume that the timeline is accurate, since if we can’t assume that, we pretty much have nothing. One popular theory is that Credence is, in fact, Ariana’s Obscurus personified. One piece of evidence for this is Albus’s statement that the Obscurus is a “dark twin”, implying that it could be a person in its own right. And Newt was able to remove an Obscurus and keep it alive after the death of its host, so Ariana dying in 1899 isn’t necessarily an obstacle. But why roam the world for years before incarnating as a baby? Or did Albus teach Newt the technique after testing it on Ariana before her death, and Credence was the failed result of using it to try to bring her back? It’s possible, but it seems a stretch in half a dozen different ways.

The Super Carlin Brothers came up with a theory of their own today: Credence is not Ariana’s Obscurus, but Albus’s. You see, Albus also noted that an Obscurus forms “in the absence of love.” They postulate that Albus developed an Obscurus as an adult after Ariana’s death when everyone he loved was separated from him, and then he managed to separate it from himself, creating Credence as a side effect.

It’s an interesting theory, but the lore here is inconsistent from the explanation for Obscuri in the first film. The Obscurus is not a product of isolation, but of abuse—specifically, suppressing one’s magic when subjected to abuse like Credence did. Heartbreak instead weakens magical abilities as we saw with both Nymphadora Tonks and Merope Gaunt in Half-Blood Prince. Also, it seems unlikely that an adult wizard who has learnt to control his magic would develop an Obscurus, since it was implied to be a product of a child’s untrained magic, just like accidental magic. It fits better than the other theories, but it still doesn’t ring true.

It’s also possible Grindelwald is just lying. That would be the simplest explanation. But then, we have the phoenix. The phoenix appearing to Credence is meant to prove to him and, more importantly, to us that Grindelwald is telling the truth and that Credence really is a Dumbledore. Grindelwald would have to be faking that, too, but in fact, there is a simple explanation for how he could, and I think it makes this theory the most sensible: the blood pact.

You see, when the young Albus and Gellert make their blood pact and swear not to fight each other, they don’t just forge that weird pendant thing. They also press their hands together. That means Grindelwald has some of Albus’s blood inside him, and that is extremely important in the Wizarding World. Remember how that went for Voldemort? If Dumbledore and Grindelwald are “blood brothers,” it’s possible that it was Grindelwald summoning the Phoenix, not Credence.

This seems a little too simple, almost like the movie is outright lying to us, but considering it a bit more, I think it works. You see, when Dumbledore finally destroys the blood pact, as he will have to do to have his final duel with Grindelwald, that could release Fawkes the Phoenix from Grindelwald’s service and call the phoenix to himself, neatly wrapping up both of those plot holes. That is what I think the big “reveal” is most logically setting up.

So which theory is right? Honestly, I wouldn’t put anything past J. K. Rowling at this point. I do like my theory, though, since it breaks the fewest things about the story and even fixes a few things that were broken in The Crimes of Grindelwald. It neatly ties things together without introducing even more complications, and after the excesses of the most recent film, I hope J. K. Rowling sees the light and goes back in a more reasonable direction.

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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