Dumbledore: A Powerful Wizard or a Terrible Headmaster?

In the run up to the anniversary of Goblet of Fire, Steph re-examines the role of the Hogwarts headmaster.


The fame of the white haired wizard with bright blue eyes and half-moon spectacles is arguably almost as great as that of Harry Potter. Since the publication of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone in 1997, fans have fallen in love with Dumbledore. 2020 will mark the twenty year anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so we thought it time we revisit Hogwarts and it’s much beloved headmaster.

Throughout the series we, like Harry Potter himself, grew in our trust and awe of Dumbledore. With his quirky penchant for lemon sherbets, wise and poignant sayings, there’s a lot to love about the Hogwarts headmaster. But was the wizard really all we have built him up to be? He may have been the only wizard He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named ever truly feared, and headed up the fight against the Dark Lord, but was he really the best for Hogwarts?

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The Philosopher’s Stone

It was undoubtedly kind of Dumbledore was to offer to protect the Philosopher’s Stone for his friend Nicolas Flamel. However, his protection measures are indeed questionable. I think Ron Weasley sums it up best – ‘What do they think they’re doing, keeping a thing like that locked up in a school?’

Of course, Ron is referring to Fluffy, the three headed dog the students had nearly run a foul of. Though Dumbledore warned them not to go near the third floor corridors, there seems to have been minimal prevention stopping the students from meeting the dangerous dog. After all, Hermione, a first year student could perform the spell to open the locked door. Yes, she’s bright, but surely some extra security measures could have been put in place.


The Chamber of Secrets

Students being attacked and petrified is an obvious problem for any headmaster. But so too is the questionable appointment of Gilderoy Lockheart as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. As headmaster, Dumbledore might’ve let the students education down a bit with that one.


The Prisoner of Azkaban

It seems a fairly major issue that an alleged serial killer is able to get inside the school grounds. Students also seem to be able to sneak around with ease thanks to the invisibility cloak and bewitched maps. The headmaster seems a little out of the loop when it comes to his students and their ability to get into mischief.


The Goblet of Fire

2020 will mark the twenty year anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. The famed Triwizard tournament and the rise of the Dark Lord to power occurs in this installation of the series. Though safety precautions are supposedly in place for the return of this tournament, why bring back a competition that is known to be dangerous and potentially deadly? Pairing up students against fully grown dragons, kidnapping students and fighting underwater foes, and facing deadly beasts in a maze all features in the tournament. With the potential for physical – not to mention mental – pain on students, I’d hate to be the one who had to do the risk assessment.

However, it’s not the danger that the students are faced with in this book that truly causes me to question Dumbledore. It’s his response to Harry following the events after the third trial of the tournament. The poor boy witnesses a murder, and is a victim of attempted murder himself. If this were the real world, Harry would definitely need counselling following the amount of trauma he’s experienced in his time at Hogwarts. Instead, the headmaster recommends Harry get some sleep and not talk about his trauma with those closest to him. This book marks a significant turn in the book, with the content and challenges Harry faces becoming darker as the series progresses.


The Order of The Phoenix

Dumbledore, you should know that ignoring the vulnerable and angry student will only make things worse. Harry’s attitude in this book and refusal to come to Dumbledore with his concerns could be seen as a lack of approachability on the part of the headmaster. Indeed, throughout the series, on many occasions, Harry either decides against approaching Dumbledore, or the headmaster is ‘not available’.


The Half Blood Prince

Finally, Dumbledore lets Harry in on things he has known since the beginning. He invites Harry to help him face the Dark Lord, but ultimately, he does not reveal all to him. The frustration and disappointment Harry feels toward Dumbledore in this, and indeed all the last books of the series is deeply explored.


The Deathly Hallows

Though this series, this book is one of my favourites for the way it shows the growth of Harry toward Dumbledore. He has matured from the boy who idolised Dumbledore, into a man who is able to recognise the humanity, and ultimately the failings of his headmaster.

I think this is something we often forget when it comes to Dumbledore – he was not perfect. Yes, he certainly was a powerful wizard, but he had flaws. Flaws that were pointed out at various times throughout the books, and made us, and the other characters within the stories. question what we thought about him. However, I do believe that Dumbledore deeply cared for his students, including Harry Potter, and tried his best in his role to them as headmaster. The humanity of Dumbledore, which JK Rowling slowly reveals as the Harry Potter series progresses, is one of the reasons he is my favourite characters in the series.

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