Dumbledore comes out of the closet

by DaniGirl on October 21, 2007 · 19 comments

in Books

I can’t say I ever overtly suspected it, as that would insinuate that I had speculated about it. But somehow it comes as no surprise whatsover that JK Rowling confirmed on Friday night to a group of American fans at Carnegie Hall that yes, Dumbledore, the late, great headmaster of Hogwarts, was gay.

Asked by a fan if Dumbledore had ever himself fallen in love, Rowling replied, ‘My truthful answer to you is that I have always thought of Dumbledore as gay.” She goes on to explain that his one great love was Gellert Grindelwald, the wizard first befriended by Dumbledore and then, when Grindelwald turns to the darker side of the magical world, is eventually defeated by Dumbledore in a famous wizard duel.

Rowling said she first addressed Dumbledore’s sexuality while reviewing the script for the upcoming movie version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. “I was in a script read-through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying, ‘I knew a girl once, whose hair…’ I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, ‘Dumbledore’s gay!'”

I love this “revelation” as more than just a titilating piece of gossip. On one level, it’s fascinating that we are so captivated by this literary construction even after the last book is complete. But I love the new perspective this adds to Dumbledore’s character, too. I can’t wait to re-read the books (again!) with this nuance in mind!

What do you think? Did you see this one coming? Do you like the idea of an after-the-fact plot twist? Does it add to or take away from the story for you?

Edited to add: my bloggy friends have been having fun with this conversation. For a scholarly take on things, take a look at the links Veronica at Toddled Dredge has put up, and for the best t-shirt ever, plus a pretty funny YouTube offering, stop by Under the Mat Hat.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 b*babbler October 21, 2007 at 8:09 am

Holy crap! Dumbledore was gay?!

Wow. Not that it bothers me, but I totally didn’t see it coming. I really thought of him as asexual, really.


2 Suz October 21, 2007 at 12:21 pm

I agree with babbler…I never much thought of him one way or the other, but I think that the revelation is fun and it will be fun to reread the books with Rowling’s after the fact plot twist in mind.

3 Veronica October 21, 2007 at 12:33 pm

I don’t suppose Rowling wants to hear this, but once the book is done, it really isn’t up to her. It is up to the reader. If she is done writing the series, she no longer has the final word on what any character is or isn’t. She is just one more interpreter, like her readers.

4 bubandpie October 21, 2007 at 12:53 pm

I’m with Veronica – it seems like an abuse of power, in a way, for her to keep “revealing” things about the characters. It feels like a change of genre, almost – within the novels, the celibate professors of Hogwarts are all asexual beings – that’s their function as grown-ups in a children’s novel.

On the other hand, though, JKR isn’t actually done with the series – she is planning a companion volume full of all the back story that didn’t make it into the books. I wonder if this is an unwise move on her part: what makes a novel live is the space it opens up for the reader’s imagination, so to answer all our questions about the characters’ past, present and future will actually narrow the books, in a way, make them less rich.

5 daysgoby October 21, 2007 at 3:13 pm

What bub-and-pie said.

6 revdrmom October 21, 2007 at 5:08 pm

I wasn’t surprised by this..nor am I dismayed.

Madeleine L’Engle used to talk about learning more about her characters, which may be why they kept turning up in other books. So it doesn’t bother me that JKR might be still learning more about her characters.

Interesting to note, too, that she thinks Snape remained evil to the end.

7 crazymumma October 21, 2007 at 7:16 pm

ach. A persons/characters sexuality touches me not one bit. If they are hot they are hot. Not, then not.

But what I need to know is if Snape likes 45 year old women?

mmmm. Snape. So baaaad.

8 Kim October 22, 2007 at 6:28 am

Interesting to note, too, that she thinks Snape remained evil to the end.

Hey! Not all of us are that far, and this was supposed to be one of THE big questions answered in book seven! [**indignant humph**]

9 revdrmom October 22, 2007 at 8:10 am

ooops! Sorry. But you still don’t know what happened….and the reason JKR said that is because so many people are still divided about his true nature.

10 DaniGirl October 22, 2007 at 9:16 am

Yeah, I wouldn’t worry too much about RevDrMom’s comment as a spoiler. But I won’t say more, even though I’d LOVE to! I hadn’t heard that myself, RevDrMom, and I find it very intriguing.

On Veronica’s and BubandPie’s point, I’m not so sure that now that she’s released the characters to us that she forgoes the ability to shape our perceptions of them. It goes toward what I love about the insight that Stephen King often shares about the writing process… I love to know what the author intended and expected and then compare and contrast that to what has been perceived.

I do, however, agree that perhaps the planned companion encyclopedia might be a bit much. I can’t see myself ever picking it up, even if Rowling herself was the author.

11 bubandpie October 22, 2007 at 11:35 am

I’d love to know which interview RevDrMom’s referring to – I know that at the time of the book’s release, Rowling expressed surprise at fans’ loyalty to Snape and characterized him as a bully – is it this or something more recent? In any case, it’s a perfect example of the kind of remark that goes beyond her authority. Of course, she has just as much right as any one to interpret the character, but her reading is not necessarily the “right” one (and if she does write further sequels or commentaries to limit the ambiguity of characters like Snape, that will definitely mar the series rather than enhance it).

12 Sharon October 22, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I’m not sure it was nessary to talk about anyone of those characters sexual orientation. Does it really matter? It has nothing to do with the story in my humble, uneducated opinion. I never thought about it once while reading all 7 books (many times I might add) If he’s gay then he’s gay, if he’s not well then he’s not. And that is totally up to be since I never catch it at all. It drives me insane that this is even mentioned. Like blabber I thought of him asexual. Kids get grossed out to see there teachers in a Human sense. They are Teachers not People! Don’t you remember that? Like the childrens story Ms. Marlarky lives in Room 10.

Nathan sort of freaked out when I had a glass of wine with his Pricinpal last Friday night. LOL!

13 Sharon October 22, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Oh and SNAPE was never eveil to the core. He’s just misguided. And was happy about how it ended. I kept saying he was undercover!

Yes I’m a Snape fan. AND no one but Alan Rickman can play him in the movies. LOL!

14 bubandpie October 22, 2007 at 8:06 pm

Back again. I Googled the transcript of the talk and discovered that Neville marries Hannah Abbot and lives above the Leaky Cauldron! Last interview I read, he was teaching Herbology at Hogwarts and married to Luna Lovegood. Similarly, Ron was a partner in the joke shop a week after Book 7 was published, and a week after that he had become an Auror along with Harry. So I think there’s room to believe that Rowling is doing a bit of leg-pulling herself. On the Snape issue, all I could find was an interview in which she expressed satisfaction that people still have good vs. evil debates about his character even after Book 7.

15 Cakes October 22, 2007 at 10:55 pm

I honestly wish she would become a recluse and never discuss the books again. I’m so thankful to her for writing them, but now she needs to leave it alone.

16 DaniGirl October 23, 2007 at 6:34 am

Ahhh, Prof. BubandPie, we are indebted to your mighty research skills! So, does this nullify the whole Dumbledore is gay thing, too?

Hmmm, I’m beginning to think maybe it would be better if she just hushed up already and went off to count her millions somewhere.

17 Sharon October 23, 2007 at 7:19 am

I agree. No reason to even talk about all this. UNLESS she is maintaning the hype so she can write a different series of books?

18 revdrmom October 25, 2007 at 8:12 pm

“The last question of the night referred to Snape’s portrait and Rowling answered that Harry would have insisted it be hung in the headmaster’s office at Hogwarts but that he probably would not have visited it to converse with Snape. Jo is still surprised when she reads that fans are torn about Snape, who is a complicated character, and unequivocally stated that Snape was “bitter, vindictive and mean.”


19 Mad Hatter October 25, 2007 at 10:20 pm

Yeah, I’m with some of the others here. Rowling is driving me nuts. Why couldn’t she let him be gay in the text instead outside it? Why must he be yet another doomed gay man whose passions form the sinister heart of the story? Just stop talking, Jo, b/c the more you talk, the less I like your books.

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