10 Powerful Quotes by Albus Dumbledore
When readers picture Albus Dumbledore, they might imagine a man with bright blue eyes; half-moon glasses perched on a long crooked nose; a tall, thin build; flowing robes; a long silver beard tucked neatly into his belt; and a face lined with age and wisdom. Within the magical world of Harry Potter, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is known for the greatness of his power and the depth of his wisdom. Throughout J.K. Rowling’s seven novels, Dumbledore guides Harry, thwarts evil, and is a hero to many.
After revelations about Dumbledore’s past that emerged in The Deathly Hallows, debates continue to rage over Dumbledore’s motivations, but this is a discussion for another article. Dumbledore polarizes fans, yet no matter one’s personal feelings about this character, it is impossible not to admire the wisdom, wittiness, and insight that flow from his mouth. Through my multiple readings of Rowling’s novels, I have discovered ten quotes that have encouraged me in tough times, changed my outlook on life, and nourished my soul.
“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
From: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Context: When Dumbledore visits Harry in the hospital, he explains that he and Nicholas Flamel planned to thwart Voldemort by destroying the sorcerer's stone and that Flamel will die in the process. Dumbledore is telling Harry that Flamel's death will not be a tragedy but rather a carefully planned and welcomed sacrifice for the greater good.
Meaning Within Context: Voldemort doesn't have the kind of wisdom that Dumbledore and Flamel have, the kind exemplified in the quote. Voldemort's fear of death controls him and makes him sacrifice everything, including sanity, in order to cling to life. This is just one more example of how Voldemort is controlled by fear, and how his fear deranges him.
Personal Meaning: All humans fear death, because we doubt what may come after this life is finished. Is there an afterlife, or is this it? Dumbledore reassures us that there is life after death, and not just any life, but an adventurous life of hope and joy. Philosophy teaches us that the overwhelming consensus of human thought and religion believes in the reality of an afterlife.
“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.”
From: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Context: When Harry is killed by Voldemort, he finds himself in another world, one that is calm and peaceful, where Dumbledore is waiting for him with these words.
Meaning Within Context: In this moment, Harry has to choose between life and death, and he feels torn. Part of him wants to stay with Dumbledore. If he returns to life, it will be hard, dark, and painful. But if he chooses life, he can try to do something to stop Voldemort and prevent him from victimizing others. It is a hard decision made easier by the fact that Harry has people in life whom he loves. Voldemort, on the other hand, loves and is loved by nobody, and so his existence is the most pitiful.
Personal Meaning: Recently, I witnessed a funeral procession that many people stopped to watch drive by. I could see pity in the faces of several people. After walking for less than a minute, I saw a man lying in a side alley, covered with newspapers. His jeans were torn and filthy, his face aged by the weather and the brutality of life, and his hair matted with muck. This was a man who had been shown little love in life, and though his plight was obvious to all on the street, not one person took pity on his situation. As my eyes filled with tears, I looked up and saw skyscrapers. Suddenly, I realized that even among those hallways of offices of corporations wander some unfortunate souls who are struggling to live a hollow life devoid of love. Dumbledore understood this and said as much: It is the unloved living who suffer most.
“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”
From: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Context: This quote comes in the same scene as above, after Voldemort has killed the Horcrux inside Harry. Dumbledore and Harry have a long conversation in a peaceful, quiet world that looks like King's Cross Station.
Meaning Within Context: Dumbledore tells Harry that the next move is his choice: Harry can stay in this afterlife and perhaps catch a train to somewhere else, or he can go back to his body and continue to fight the hard fight. In other words, he can choose to escape or to go back and lead the fight. Harry hasn't yet embraced his role as leader of the battle against Voldemort—Harry often feels conflicted about leading—and Dumbledore is explaining that the best leaders are not those who seek power (like Voldemort) but those take the responsibility for doing the right thing in the moment (like Harry).
Personal Meaning: This quote by Dumbledore is quickly validated by a brief examination of history. The greatest leaders arose from unexpected backgrounds to lead peoples, tribes, nations, and empires.
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
From: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Context: After Voldemort kills Cedric Diggory, Dumbledore addresses everyone—the students at Hogwarts plus students who came from other schools to participate in the Triwizard Tournament—to announce what has happened.
Meaning Within Context: Cedric's death triggers rumors and fear amongst the students. Once again, Voldemort's actions manage to sow distrust and discord amongst the wizarding community. Dumbledore's speech seeks to repair this break and bring the students together again. He reminds them that although they come from different places, know different customs, and speak different languages, they share certain core values. Remembering this will help them form bonds and fight together for common goals and ideals.
Personal Meaning: This is a message that I believe all of America needs to hear. We live in an age in which politics is divisive instead of unifying. What we must all realize is that conservatives, liberals, republicans, democrats, capitalists, and socialists are all striving toward the same ultimate goal: to make this beautiful country we live in a better place. If we take Dumbledore’s advice and open our hearts and minds up to those who think differently, then perhaps we will begin to sincerely work to build better communities, stronger states, and a healing nation for a brighter tomorrow.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
From: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Context: Dumbledore finds Harry looking in the Mirror of Erised again. He warns Harry that the mirror "shows us nothing more or less than the deepest and most desperate desires of our hearts." He also warns, "This mirror gives us neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away in front of it, even gone mad." He says he is going to move the mirror and asks Harry not to try to find it again.
Meaning Within Context: Having lost his parents as an infant, Harry is susceptible to getting lost in the past, in what-ifs and what-might-have-beens. Instead of living in the present moment, Harry feels drawn to sit on the hard floor in a cold room for hours, not moving, lost in the fantasy depicted in the mirror. He is at risk of choosing fantasy over reality and becoming addicted to his dream.
Personal Meaning: Dumbledore reminds us that having dreams is important, but focusing on your dreams too much can hinder life every day. We are meant to enjoy life to the fullest every day! Do not let your dreams for the future suffocate your life in the present.
“It is important to fight and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay though never quite eradicated.”
From: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Context: These words were spoken after Harry met Voldemort for the first time since Voldemort killed his parents when Harry and Dumbledore discussed the odds of winning against the Dark Lord. Later, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry remembers these words and reflects on how many battles have been fought against the Dark Lord since that first encounter.
Meaning Within Context: Dumbledore knows that there may be too much evil to kill it all at once but we must continue striving, in small ways and large, to fight against wrong. Dumbledore admits that he does not know if evil can ever be thwarted completely but it is important to keep trying, no matter how hopeless the cause might feel.
Personal Meaning: Dumbledore realizes that the world is a dangerous place full of evil, and that, at times, we must be willing to fight against that evil whether it is slavery, Nazism, communism, or terrorism. We must be willing to confront poverty and brokenness. We must never give up hope when all seems hopeless. Dumbledore triumphed over Grindelwald and Harry triumphed over Voldemort. Good will triumph over evil.
“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”
From: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Context: Dumbledore says this line to the students at Hogwarts, just after the traumatic death of Cedric Diggory and the frightful return of Lord Voldemort.
Meaning Within Context: Dumbledore knows that if everyone is willing to make sacrifices and cling to what is good, that's how victory will be achieved.
Personal Meaning: Likewise, in a world that is inundated with temptation, we must strive to live with integrity and stand up for what we know is right even if we are the only ones standing.
“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
From: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Context: After prevailing in the chamber of secrets, Dumbledore speaks to Harry in his office. Harry worries aloud about the similarities he noticed between himself and Tom Riddle, and Dumbledore speaks these words.
Meaning Within Context: Harry and Voldemort have a lot of things in common, but it is their choices that define them and make them different and unique.
Personal Meaning: In the Harry Potter series, many characters are judged by their blood (pure bloods, half-bloods, and mudbloods). Other characters define themselves by their magical abilities or financial situations. Dumbledore reminds us that who we are and the direction of our lives do not depend on our past, the amount of money we make, our parents, our ability to sing, our mental capacity to learn, our looks, or our athletic ability. Rather, it is our choices that determine our character, personality, and the satisfaction we derive from life.
“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
From: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Context: Dumbledore says these words during the first dinner of the school year at Hogwarts. He explains that the school will host several dementors who are there purportedly to guard the students.
Meaning Within Context: Dumbledore knows that dark times are coming, and he takes this opportunity to alert the students. He's trying to give them the information they will need to defend themselves against the dementors and other dark creatures.
Personal Meaning: When I lost my cousin in a car accident, when I lost my best friend when he moved away, and when my great-grandmother suddenly died, this quote reminded me to look at all the good that came from my relationships with these incredible people. When you are struggling with anything in life, try to search for the glimmers of hope that can illuminate your heart.
“It’s the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
From: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Context: The full quote goes like this: There is nothing to be feared from a body, Harry, any more than there is anything to be feared from the darkness... It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more."
Meaning Within Context: Like Voldemort, Harry has to deal with his fear of death. Dumbledore reassures him that this fear is ultimately misplaced and meaningless. This quote also offers foreshadowing, however, since this is the book in which Dumbledore dies.
Personal Meaning: In this quote, Dumbledore explains one of our most common fears: the uncertainty of what happens after death. Humans crave certainty. We need to know what the weather is going to be so that we can make plans. We need to know that we have a job, shelter, food, something to do, a stable government, and a future. We cannot see in darkness; therefore, many fear it. And we don’t know exactly what’s coming when we die. Death is something that we must all face, and we must face it alone. However, realizing that death itself is not to be feared is a comforting thought.