Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is a fictional character in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. For most of the series, he is the headmaster of the wizarding school Hogwarts. As part of his backstory, it is revealed that he is the founder and leader of the Order of the Phoenix, an organization dedicated to fighting Lord Voldemort.
Dumbledore is portrayed by Richard Harris in the film adaptations of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. After Harris' death, Michael Gambon portrayed Dumbledore for all of the remaining Harry Potter films. Jude Law will portray Dumbledore in the untitled sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Rowling stated she chose the name Dumbledore, which is an Early Modern English word for "bumblebee", because of Dumbledore's love of music: she imagined him walking around "humming to himself a lot".
The author has stated that she enjoys writing Dumbledore because he "is the epitome of goodness." Rowling said that Dumbledore speaks for her, as he "knows pretty much everything" about the Harry Potter universe. Rowling mentioned that Dumbledore regrets "that he has always had to be the one who knew, and who had the burden of knowing. And he would rather not know." As a mentor to the central character Harry Potter, "Dumbledore is a very wise man who knows that Harry is going to have to learn a few hard lessons to prepare him for what may be coming in his life. He allows Harry to get into what he wouldn't allow another pupil to do, and he also unwillingly permits Harry to confront things he’d rather protect him from." In a 1999 interview, Rowling stated that she imagined Dumbledore "more as a John Gielgud type, you know, quite elderly and – and quite stately." During his time as a student, Dumbledore was in Gryffindor House. Rowling said in an interview that Dumbledore was about 150 years old. However, on her website, she states that Dumbledore was born in 1881, making him either 115 or 116 when he died.
The character of Albus Dumbledore has been compared to other archetypal "wise old man" characters. Dumbledore acts much like Merlin from The Sword in the Stone, in the manner of an "absent-minded professor"; both Merlin and Dumbledore educate a story's main character in a castle. As writer Evelyn Perry notes, "Dumbledore resembles Merlin both personally and physically; he is an avid lover of books and wisdom who wears flowing robes and a long, white beard." Dumbledore has also been compared with Gandalf from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Dave Kopel draws comparisons between Rowling's writing and John Bunyan's The Pilgrim’s Progress and states that, among the Christian symbols that Rowling has used in her books, Dumbledore acts like "the bearded God the Father" figure in which Harry puts his faith to be saved from Voldemort and his servants. IGN also listed Dumbledore as their fifth favourite Harry Potter character, saying that "[f]or a character that was introduced into popular culture a mere twelve years ago, it speaks volumes that Professor Dumbledore has already taken his place among the great mentor figures in literature and film". IGN's Joe Utichi called Dumbledore his third favourite Harry Potter character, calling the revelation that he wasn't so "infallible" one of the most heartbreaking themes of the final book. Actor Michael Gambon received some criticism for his louder, more aggressive, portrayal of the character, who is depicted as exhibiting a more subdued, unflappable calm in the books. This has been attributed to Gambon's policy of not reading the source material from which his films are adapted.
As a main character of the series, major facts relating to Dumbledore have generated a vast number of essays and discussions. The death of Dumbledore at the end of Half-Blood Prince was discussed by fans and critics alike. A website named DumbledoreIsNotDead.com sought to understand the events of the sixth book in a different way and provided arguments to claim that the character did not really die. However, Rowling confirmed on 2 August 2006 that Dumbledore was, in fact, dead, humorously apologizing to the website as she did so. Along with DumbledoreIsNotDead.com, a collection of essays, Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?: What Really Happened in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Six Expert Harry Potter Detectives Examine the Evidence, was published by Zossima Press in November 2006. In NextMovie.com's Harry Potter Mega Poll, Dumbledore's death was voted as the most unforgettable moment in the whole series.
Rowling's statement that Dumbledore was gay caused a great debate among critics. Melissa Anelli, webmaster of the fan site The Leaky Cauldron, told The Associated Press, "J.K. Rowling calling any Harry Potter character gay would make wonderful strides in tolerance toward homosexuality. ... By dubbing someone so respected, so talented and so kind, as someone who just happens to be also homosexual, she's reinforcing the idea that a person's gayness is not something of which they should be ashamed." Entertainment Weekly's Mark Harris said "her choice to make a beloved professor-mentor gay in a world where gay teachers are still routinely slandered as malign influences was, I am certain, no accident." The stars and director of the Harry Potter films were supportive of Rowling's revelation as well.
Some critics discussed the implications of this statement. New York Times columnist Edward Rothstein said that "Ms. Rowling may think of Dumbledore as gay"; however, "there is no reason why anyone else should". The East Tennessee State University's student newspaper accused Rowling of lying, saying her answer was a publicity stunt. Michelle Smith quoted the Death of the Author principle, stating that Rowling's subsequent commentary is irrelevant to the understanding of the books.
Dumbledore's sexuality was also condemned by several right-wing Christian groups, such as Mission America and the Christian Coalition of America.
Slate quotes an attendee of the book talk who said, "It was clear that JKR didn't plan to out Dumbledore. She just cares about being true to her readers." Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel said that upon reflection, Dumbledore was gay from the beginning, and that this neatly explains the behaviour of his character and his relationship with Grindelwald. Thomas notes the skill Rowling displays in writing a gay character without having to put a gay label on him.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell stated that "It's good that children's literature includes the reality of gay people, since we exist in every society. But I am disappointed that she did not make Dumbledore's sexuality explicit in the Harry Potter book. Making it obvious would have sent a much more powerful message of understanding and acceptance." A spokesperson for Stonewall praised Rowling, saying "It's great that JK has said this. It shows that there's no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster."
On 19 October 2007, Rowling was asked by a young fan whether Dumbledore finds "true love." Rowling said that she always thought of Dumbledore as being homosexual and that he had fallen in love with Gellert Grindelwald, which was Dumbledore's "great tragedy"; Rowling did not explicitly state whether Grindelwald returned his affections. Rowling explains this further by elaborating on the motivations behind Dumbledore's flirtation with the idea of wizard domination of Muggles: "He lost his moral compass completely when he fell in love and I think subsequently became very mistrustful of his own judgement in those matters so became quite asexual. He led a celibate and a bookish life."