Watching Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them probably has you reliving some of your long forgotten Harry Potter fanaticism. Some fans are finding themselves re-watching the old movies, looking for hidden clues and Easter eggs in the films. Others have dug back into the books to find every reference to Newt Scamander in efforts to compare and contrast the literary character with Eddie Redmayne’s embodiment. No matter how you’re feeling the Potter-Fever again, it’s likely that you’ve caught it.
Since we’re taking a trip down memory lane to bring back the experiences of the Harry Potter series, let’s dive into the details! Everyone’s talking about the history of Hogwarts and relations discussed with an American wizarding community, but we’re leaving out so many details in our analysis of Fantastic Beasts! J.K. Rowling did such an amazing job of creating a rich, vibrant, colorful, and comprehensive world in her fantasy novels that we owe it to her to factor in various other histories and knowledge when breaking down her work.
Let’s leave all the fantastic beasts behind momentarily and bring our attention back to the more recent history of the wizarding world. The threats to Harry Potter’s world seemed pretty black and white: there was good and evil, the good guys and the bad guys, Harry and Voldemort. However, it was never really that simple: Harry’s world was just as political as Newts! Let’s look at some of the history and details behind the villains of the Harry Potter series: here are fifteen things you didn’t know about Voldemort’s army of Death Eaters.
15. Mission and Vision
The Death Eaters were not terrorists; or, shall we rephrase, Death Eaters were not explicitly interested in creating chaos and terror for the simple joy of watching people suffer. They may have recruited plenty of psychopath wizards that were primarily interested in terrorism, but Death Eaters had a mission and purpose and that was not to make the world a worse place. It was the mission of the Death Eaters to cleanse the wizarding world of impurities. These impurities included “mudbloods,” or wizards who were partially genetic muggles, but it also included breeds of half humans and variants of wizards such as centaurs. Because these groups were all protected by the Ministry of Magic, one of the values of primacy to the Death Eaters was to bring down the Ministry of Magic that they may reform their government to protecting only those wizards “worthy of protection.” If they’d acted in legal avenues, Death Eaters could have been only a wacky political party; but since they acted with violence and through illegal means, they seemed to be only terrorists and elitist ruffians.
14. Fenrir Greyback, Dolores Umbridge, and Narcissa Malfoy Were Not Death Eaters
Just because someone is a supporter of Voldemort does not make them an automatic member of the exclusive Death Eater club. Death Eaters are a very select group of followers that Voldemort is certain he can count on to do his bidding, have his back, and maintain the same messed up principles he holds dear to his heart. There are three surprising candidates that haven’t made it into Voldemort’s club. The first is Fenrir Greyback, the man who kidnapped Olivander and who we see outside the Weasley residence shortly before it’s destroyed. Why didn’t he make the cut? He’s a werewolf, technically a race that Voldemort despises- but he’s just such a darn good fighter! Dolores Umbridge is also never confirmed as a Death Eater, likely because she thinks of Voldemort as a villain and her intentions as good. Narcissa Malfoy, Draco’s mother, is another supporter that’s not a Death Eater, likely at the encouragement of her husband, Lucius, to suppress incriminating rumors about the family.
13. Knights of Walpurgis
Readers and fans have never been given a reason why exactly Voldemort decided to call his followers ‘death eaters;’ perhaps it has something to do with his clear fear of death and his ability to “overcome” the possibility of death with his many horcruxes. However, the Death Eaters had another name that they may have gone by: the Knights of Walpurgis. To explain the significance of this name, Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht in the original German and Dutch) is the superstitious night when witches meet on the highest peak of a mountain. Why didn’t J.K. Rowling go with this name of folklore and history instead of the typical and simple title she opted for? First of all, calling Voldemort’s militants ‘knights’ makes them seem good-willed and we wouldn’t want any confusion there. But secondly, we have to remember that Rowling was writing for kids. Can you imagine if a twelve year old was reading about Knights of Walpurgis terrorizing the 1994 Quidditch World Cup? Sounds like mature material unsuited for kids of that age…
12. The First Wizarding War
For those of you that were more fans of the movies than of the books, you’ve missed out on a bit of crucial information that the movies just didn’t have time to expand upon. The war that is waged between Voldemort and Harry Potter over the course of seven books is not the first that Tom Marvolo Riddle has waged against the world. The first wizarding war took place before and ended shortly after Harry Potter was born. We’ll give you a quick timeline to help you get a better grasp on the events that unfolded over a decade later. Voldemort and his Death Eaters endeavored to dismantle the Ministry of Magic. To do this, they conducted terrorist attacks on both muggles and wizards alike. When that didn’t work (and when Voldemort caught word of a prophecy predicting his eventual demise), Voldemort began targeting prominent wizard families. The Ministry of Magic permitted use of forbidden curses to kill Death Eaters by any means, but the Order of the Phoenix was unable to act before many families were killed, including the Potters. Fortunately, by then, Voldemort’s physical body was destroyed and he was unable to lead his Death Eaters in further quests of destruction.
11. Death Eaters Need a Boss (Igor Karkaroff, Bellatrix, etc)
Remember when Voldemort’s physical body was destroyed? It was when he killed Lily and James Potter. When Voldemort attempted to kill little baby Harry Potter, the killing spell rebounded for some reason (Dumbledore claims it was because of Lily’s love for Harry) and Voldemort was killed, leaving Harry as a horcrux. When Voldemort disappeared suddenly, his Death Eaters were quite befuddled at what to do next. Some immediately went into hiding to avoid persecution; others went on terrorizing tears, destroying and killing everyone they could get their wands near; and more still went in search for Voldemort. Igor Karkaroff, for instance, was so frantic to free himself from persecution that he confessed his position to the Ministry of Magic and sold out other Death Eaters to buy his freedom. Bellatrix Lestrange tortured people to the point of driving them everlastingly insane before she was arrested. Without Voldemort’s formal leadership, they panicked and scattered.
10. Death Eaters Recruited Giants and Dementors
You may have wondered, how have Death Eaters been so successful in their work? Sure, they’re blood-thirsty, but there are plenty of “good guys” that seem to have a hunger for violence (like Mad Eye Moody). They’re unafraid to use forbidden curses, but those fighting for good were unafraid to use such curses when the Ministry approved them to repel the Death Eaters. What made them so powerful that they’ve been able to incite two wars and nearly win both? Well, the Death Eaters weren’t working alone. They were led by a terrible but great leader who was wise enough to know they needed power on their side. You’ll remember when Hagrid attempted to recruit giants to Dumbledore’s aid back in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- he was unsuccessful because the Death Eaters got there first. They also got dementors to come to their aid- how else do you think so many Death Eaters could have escaped Azkaban alive?
9. The Confusing Life of a Death Eater (not knowing enough about Voldemort, the horcruxes, etc.)
Sure, there may be a few appealing qualities about taking up a career as a Death Eater. You get to kill whoever you want without much consequence, you get a cool costume, no one messes with you, you get to be as elitist and snobby as you want- there are some perks to the gig. But being a Death Eater is no cake walk. Voldemort is not exactly the best leader, for one. He likes to compartmentalize tasks when delegating (Bellatrix kills one person, Lucius kills another, etc.), but none of his followers ever get to learn the whole picture. If you’re a Death Eater, you won’t even necessarily know who else is a fellow Death Eater! Voldemort is the only one who knows who is and isn’t a Death Eater at all times because there are several undercover agents and spies. You also never know if Voldemort is going to turn on you and kill you- he’s a bit mercurial, you know.
8. How Death Eaters Wage War
Death Eaters don’t wage war like us muggles do. They don’t announce their intentions to battle their enemies and make clear who they will attack and where it will happen. Instead, they fight like hidden vipers. Like the Slytherin leader that founded them, they quietly slither around their prey before striking and retreating before a counterattack can be mounted. If you remember the beginning of The Half Blood Prince, you’ll recall Death Eaters launching an attack on London. Both muggles and wizards alike were killed in the massive terrorist attack. You’ll notice that, after the damage was done, the Death Eaters scattered away before anything could be done in retaliation or defense. Death Eaters rarely stick around to wait for a response to their attacks; they only tend to stick around if they have been explicitly ordered to do so by the boss or if they are trying to accomplish goals that require extended presence, like kidnapping Ollivander or interrogating Arthur Weasley.
7. The Prime Minister Was Made Aware of Magical Death Eater Activity
A fun fact that is brought up in the books briefly but never really mentioned in the movies is that there are a select group of muggles that know about the wizarding world. Think about it: there’d have to be! Returning to the terrorist attack in London at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, how could muggles not come to learn about wizards?! Apparently, the Minister of Magic is in constant communication with the muggle Prime Minister about significant events in the wizarding community, including terrorist attacks, interesting anomalies, and significant political changes. Since J.K. Rowling has openly talked about these books being set in the early to mid-90s, we know that the Prime Minister that she must have constantly had in mind was none other than John Major. Can you imagine John Major getting calls from Minister Cornelius Fudge with updates on the wizarding community?!
6. The Dark Mark is a Protean Charm
In case you forgot, the dark mark is a tattoo that some of Voldemort’s Death Eaters have. If used with a spell and a wand, this tattoo can somehow send out a signal to other Death Eaters that Voldemort requires a meeting. This works not through some fancy bluetooth technology or any of the muggle crap, but through a protean charm. A protean charm is one that links several objects or people together through a common purpose. For example, when the Dark Mark is touched, all other people with the same dark mark are reached via the protean charm because of the commonality of tattoo. Hermione Granger actually uses the same kind of charm in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on fake coins to be able to communicate meeting times with other members of Dumbledore’s army. Therefore, you can see that the kind of spell involved with the Dark Mark isn’t inherently evil.
5. The Dark Mark=The Highest Honor
In addition to knowing how the Dark Mark charm works, it should also be made known that having the Dark Mark tattoo is one of the highest honors that a Death Eater can have. Not all Death Eaters have the honor and gift of receiving the Dark Mark tattoo or the protean charm that accompanies it. Some well known Death Eaters that do have the Dark Mark include Peter Pettigrew, Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy, and Severus Snape. Snape actually uses his Dark Mark to his advantage when acting as a double agent to alarm Dumbledore of Voldemort’s activity. However, some prominent Death Eaters that don’t have the Dark Mark, including Voldemort himself, interestingly enough. This means that Voldemort has to be with his other followers in order to summon the rest of the Death Eaters to his presence. Weird choice to make when organizing a protean charm, but who are we to question He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named?
4. There Are Only Two Known Female Death Eaters
You can’t exactly be surprised to hear that Voldemort’s probably a bit sexist, can you? You can likely assume that there are just as many female as male wizards out there that would have followed Voldemort in his outlandish quests. So why aren’t there more female Death Eaters? The only two known female Death Eaters (meaning, either shown in the movies, listed in the books, or discussed by J.K. Rowling herself) are Bellatrix Lestrange and Alecto Carrow. Most fans know all about Bellatrix, the strange and kooky killer herself. Played by Helena Bonham Carter in the films, she was Voldemort’s right hand lieutenant and always had faith in her leader. Alecto wasn’t ever really shown in the movies and not much is known about her, other than the fact that she taught Muggle Studies when Snape took control of Hogwarts and was fought by Luna Lovegood in the final battle at Hogwarts. She is presumed either imprisoned or dead.
3. The Most Vicious Death Eater Attack Was Not on the Potters, but on the Longbottoms
When considering Voldemort’s history and the terrible things he did before dying as he tried to defeat little baby Harry Potter, there is usually only one atrocious event that comes to mind: when Voldemort invaded the Potter home and murdered James Potter before killing Lily Potter as she held her baby. Yeah, that was rough. However, it was not the most terrible act ever committed by Voldemort or a Death Eater. Actually, the wizarding community considers one of the most horrendous acts ever conceived by the Death Eaters to be the capture of torture of the Longbottoms. After Voldemort’s physical body was destroyed, Bellatrix Lestrange as well as a few other Death Eaters, captured Alice and Frank Longbottom (baby Neville was likely staying with his grandmother at the time). They then proceeded to use the torturous Cruciatus curse on the Longbottoms in attempts to discern Voldemort’s location. They used the curse on the couple so much for such an extended period of time that the two were driven insane- they still reside in a lunacy institution for the damage inflicted.
2. A Political Statement (KKK hoods)
The Harry Potter books and movies were designed for kids, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some mature content in them. One of the most pointed political statements that producers and J.K. Rowling ever made was in the fourth installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with the original design of the Death Eater costumes. As seen both in the beginning of the film at the Quidditch World Cup and at the end of the film when the Death Eaters are summoned to the graveyard to meet Voldemort, anyone well-versed in American civil rights history can see some significant symbolism in the costuming. Death Eaters had masks and hid under tall pointed hoods as they stormed with torches into their battleground. Sound similar to any outfits from the 1950s or 60s (or, shockingly, the present)? The costumes were essentially black versions of Ku Klux Klan outfits. Rowling was making a bold statement about how the intolerance, elitism, reckless hatred of Death Eaters paralleled the same obtuse values of the KKK.
1. You’ll Find No Hufflepuff Death Eaters
That’s right, suckers! Originally, all of the Death Eaters were from Slytherin house. They were all of Voldemort’s friends that hated their classmates in the beginning! Once Voldemort gained some clout and attention, he was able to recruit other followers. Of them, several were from Ravenclaw and, YES, Gryffindor. Voldemort was even able to recruit Death Eaters from outside of Hogwarts and from foreign schools, presumably from Durmstrang Institute (where former Death Eater Igor Karkaroff was headmaster) at the very least. But never was Voldemort able to recruit any Hufflepuff graduates to his cause! Was it because they were lazy? Scared? Disinterested in politics? NO! It’s because Hufflepuffs are some of the purest and best of us. Hufflepuffs have gone on to be world explorers (like Newt Scamander), heroes (Nymphadora Tonks, for example), and teachers (like Madam Pomfrey). Hufflepuff is the only house that is able to boast that none of its graduates have turned to the dark side.