It’s no surprise to Harry Potter fans that while Dumbledore might have started out seeming like a lovable mentor figure and true hero that he turned out to be much more complicated than that. In fact, some fans view Dumbledore more as a villain now than a good guy, but this is still something that’s debated.
Given that Dumbledore is very smart and the one who knows he will have to do something to stop Voldemort, he makes some pretty momentous choices throughout the series and some of those are clear mistakes. And, while some of these choices, like being Headmaster of Hogwarts, seem right, others, like not being there as much as he should have been for Harry, were calls he really messed up.
- 1 10 Foolish: Letting Harry and the trio do so many things alone
- 2 9 Wise: Offering Hagrid a place to stay at Hogwarts
- 3 8 Foolish: Having Harry do Occlumency with Snape
- 4 7 Wise: Believing that Harry was capable despite his young age
- 5 6 Foolish: Keeping his own family and past secrets hidden
- 6 5 Wise: Trying to tell the wizarding world about Voldemort’s return
- 7 4 Foolish: Not telling Harry the truth about the prophecy for so long
- 8 3 Wise: Finally teaching Harry about the Horcruxes
- 9 2 Foolish: Leaving Harry with the Dursleys
- 10 1 Wise: Planning his death to save Draco
10 Foolish: Letting Harry and the trio do so many things alone
This point has to be taken somewhat with a grain of salt because Harry Potter is a story meant for kids and teens. Because of this, the protagonists are going to be young and are going to do things that actual kids and teens wouldn’t do alone.
But, still, the extent to which Dumbledore had Harry and the trio end up in so many dangerous situations was too extreme. He definitely knew everything that was going on in Hogwarts, but he didn’t intervene as much as he should have. For example, letting them take on Quirrel alone in the first year was not the smartest choice.
9 Wise: Offering Hagrid a place to stay at Hogwarts
Hagrid is a character from the series who had a rather tragic life and wasn’t treated fairly. He was blamed for things he didn’t do by Tom Riddle, and he was wrongfully expelled and unable to use magic legally again.
He also had no family and nowhere to go. Because of this, Dumbledore was right to trust in him and also let him remain at Hogwarts so that he would not be left alone. He also gave him a job that he loved to do, and without this help, Hagrid probably would have been almost a complete outcast given the prejudices in the wizarding world against giants.
8 Foolish: Having Harry do Occlumency with Snape
While the idea of having Harry learn Occlumency to protect his mind from Voldemort was right, Dumbledore should have taught Harry himself. The way he handled Harry in Order of the Phoenix was a bad decision all around, even if he thought it was to protect Harry and others.
It really just made things worse and left Harry even more alone during a traumatic period of his life after losing Sirius. Also, Dumbledore knew how much Harry and Snape hated each other, so he should have anticipated that such intense, mind-probing magic would go awry between them. This choice was stubborn and foolish.
7 Wise: Believing that Harry was capable despite his young age
While Dumbledore should have been more involved and stepped in to help Harry often, he did at least respect that Harry was capable of handling a lot. Harry had already been through something so terrible at the hands of Voldemort, and he was always going to be targeted by him and the Death Eaters.
Because of this, Harry did need to know how to defend himself and look out for himself, so Dumbledore trusting that he was capable and had strong intuition and abilities reflected Dumbledore’s wisdom. However, Dumbledore could have used more discretion as to when to step in.
It wasn’t until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that fans, and Harry, learned just how much Dumbledore had kept a secret about his past. He kept information about his own family from Harry, but, worst of all, he didn’t tell Harry about his own relationship and connection to Grindelwald.
All of these lies and omissions showed that Dumbledore was still not completely trustworthy, and it made it seem like he didn’t take full responsibility for his actions. If he’d owned more of his life, he could have built his connection with Harry and maybe influenced him in more meaningful ways. It was foolish not to be honest with Harry and those closest to him.
5 Wise: Trying to tell the wizarding world about Voldemort’s return
When Voldemort came back to full power in his human form at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore was right to believe him. And, he was also right to try to warn the wizarding world about what had happened.
While Cornelius Fudge did his best to discredit both Harry and Dumbledore, it was still the right thing for them to try to warn as many people as possible and tell them the truth. This choice reflected Dumbledore’s true wisdom.
4 Foolish: Not telling Harry the truth about the prophecy for so long
The decision to basically guide and mold Harry so that he would likely have to sacrifice himself in order to kill Voldemort wasn’t a great one, and the ethics of this can be argued as to whether sacrificing Harry to save the many was worth it. But, it’s not hard to agree on the fact that Dumbledore should have been more truthful and upfront with Harry from the start.
Given that he was already basically letting Harry go up against dark wizards and do dangerous things on his own, he should have at least been honest with Harry about the prophecy. Clearly, Harry could handle a lot. Dumbledore could have planned a lot of things better if Harry was more aware and Harry deserved to know. It was foolish not to trust him with this and ended up alienating Harry.
3 Wise: Finally teaching Harry about the Horcruxes
There were many missteps that Dumbledore made when it came to Harry, and it’s hard to forgive him for many of these things. While he should have told Harry a lot of things earlier, he was right to finally take Harry on and teach him all about Voldemort’s past as well as about the Horcruxes.
These lessons and this information were vital for Harry to know if he was ever going to actually defeat Voldemort. But, the truth is that Dumbledore still should have taken a more direct approach like this earlier on. Still, it was wise to finally trust Harry with the truth, especially given that Dumbledore knew his days were numbered.
2 Foolish: Leaving Harry with the Dursleys
On the one hand, it’s true that living with the Dursleys did offer Harry protection in a deep, magical sense from Voldemort, it’s hard to imagine he couldn’t have been just as protected at Hogwarts. Dumbledore did have a good sense of how awful the Dursleys were, yet he let Harry basically be neglected as a child.
Harry really didn’t deserve to have such a horrible childhood because no kid ever deserves that. Whatever protection Dumbledore thought the Dursleys could give, he really messed up leaving Harry with them. It was a near-sighted choice to make.
1 Wise: Planning his death to save Draco
While Dumbledore might have done some rather villainous things, especially when he was younger, one of his most redeeming moments is when he makes the plan to die in a way that will save Draco.
While it’s true that Dumbledore was dying anyway, and that he also had to ask Snape to risk a lot, Draco did have a chance at redemption from Voldemort. Dumbledore was right to enact this plan to save him from actually murdering Dumbledore and give him a chance to live a more normal life. It was truly a wise act.
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