Dumbledore is one of the most beloved and respected wizards in the world, but why?

Over the series, he has committed many grave errors, some (at the time) intentionally, others accidentally:

  • He played a part in negatively influencing and supporting Grindelwald during his early years, with regards to their plans of rebellion
  • Even after Dumbledore realized the error of his ways, he postponed dealing with Grindelwald
  • He (directly or indirectly) caused the death of his poor sister
  • Did not act on Riddle soon enough
  • As headmaster, he allowed his students to be in danger pretty much all the time
  • He failed to protect Lily and James potter, and numerous other members of the Order during the first war
  • His "plan" to defeat Voldemort only works out because of pure luck, on multiple occasions

In light of this, what "good" things did he do to be considered so great?

  • 8
    He discovered 12 uses of dragon blood, worked with Nicholas Flamel, and was in mail correspondence with most respected wizards and witches when he was still in high school. I think this qualifies him as a certified prodigy, so to speak. Most importantly, he did not kill Grindelwald, which is what your original title said. Mar 3, 2017 at 21:17

3 Answers 3


To quote his eulogy

Albus’s own fame had begun to eclipse that of his father. By the end of his first year, he would never again be known as the son of a Muggle-hater, but as nothing more or less than the most brilliant student ever seen at the school. Those of us who were privileged to be his friends benefited from his example, not to mention his help and encouragement, with which he was always generous. He confessed to me in later life that he knew even then that his greatest pleasure lay in teaching.

He not only won every prize of note that the school offered, he was soon in regular correspondence with the most notable magical names of the day, including Nicolas Flamel, the celebrated alchemist, Bathilda Bagshot, the noted historian, and Adalbert Waffling, the magical theoretician. Several of his papers found their way into learned publications such as Transfiguration Today, Challenges in Charming and The Practical Potioneer. Dumbledore’s future career seemed likely to be meteoric, and the only question that remained was when he would become Minister for Magic.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Other quills will describe the triumphs of the following years. Dumbledore’s innumerable contributions to the store of wizarding knowledge, including his discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, will benefit generations to come, as will the wisdom he displayed in the many judgements he made while Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. They say, still, that no wizarding duel ever matched that between Dumbledore and Grindelwald in 1945. Those who witnessed it have written of the terror and the awe they felt as they watched these two extraordinary wizards do battle. Dumbledore’s triumph, and its consequences for the wizarding world, are considered a turning point in magical history to match the introduction of the International Statute of Secrecy or the downfall of He Who Must Not Be Named.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Even Rita Skeeter had to admit he'd been a prodigy

Now approaching his eighteenth birthday, Dumbledore left Hogwarts in a blaze of glory – Head Boy, Prefect, Winner of the Barnabus Finkley Prize for Exceptional Spell-Casting, British Youth Representative to the Wizengamot, Gold Medal-Winner for Ground-Breaking Contribution to the International Alchemical Conference in Cairo

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

He discovered entirely new forms of magic

Members of the Order use their Patronuses to communicate with each other. They are the only wizards who know how to use their spirit guardians in this way and they have been taught to do so by Dumbledore (he invented this method of communication).

JKR: Original Website - FAQ

He was, in later life also ...

Order of Merlin (First Class), Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

... so it's hardly like he's been slacking off and just kicking back as head-teacher of the local comprehensive school. He's been actively political and ensured that he used his skills to foster a new generation of inclusive wizardry.

You might also want to note that he was

  • The founder of both the original and TNG Order of the Phoenix
  • The possessor of the Elder Wand
  • The possessor (albeit not simultaneously) of all three Deathly Hallows
  • 6
    Erm Harry survived a duel with Voldemort.
    – Doctor Two
    Mar 3, 2017 at 22:14
  • 3
    @DoctorTwo - As did Minerva McGonagall, Horace Slughorn, and Kingsley Shacklebolt.
    – ibid
    Mar 3, 2017 at 22:23

He defeated Lord Voldemort.

It was Dumbledlore's plan all along that resulted in Voldemorts defeat, guiding Harry and Snape. Even dying didn't stop him, he helped Harry and Snape as a picture.

He saved Malfoy's soul

By arranging his own death he saved Malfoy from committing murder and damaging his soul.

He united species

At his funeral, Humans, Mermen, Centaurs and Half-giants all attended.

He was on a chocolate frog card.

The ultimate accolade. Even greater than being chief of the wizangammot.


Dumbledore was just a man.

Valorum and Rand al'Thor have effectively detailed Dumbledore's accomplishments. I thought I'd deal with his defects, as pointed out in the question. If the criticism is that Dumbledore made strategic or organisational mistakes, the man himself would agree.

“But you think you’re right?” said Harry.
“Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being - forgive me - rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10, The House of Gaunt).

Dumbledore was also all-too-aware of his moral failings and shortcomings of character, as his experiences with the Hallows showed.

Harry, I only feared that you would fail as I had failed. I only dreaded that you would make my mistakes. I crave your pardon, Harry. I have known, for some time now, that you are the better man.”
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35, King's Cross).

That said, not all the criticisms of Dumbledore in the question are fair.

Things for which Dumbledore was to blame:

  • Being involved in the death of Ariana. Dumbledore later admitted that his attachment to Grindelwald meant that he didn't do enough to protect his sister. He lived in terror of the knowledge that he may have directly caused her death. He was certainly regretful about what happened.
  • 'Supporting' Grindelwald. Again, Dumbledore came to regret the warmth he had earlier shown Grindelwald when the latter showed his true colours. During their friendship Dumbledore effectively turned a blind eye to Grindelwald's darker aspects.

Things for which Dumbledore wasn't really to blame:

  • Not stopping Grindelwald earlier. Dumbledore is not single-handedly responsible for policing the world. When he felt it was appropriate he stepped in. He may have delayed meeting Grindelwald for a while but that was because of his regret over Ariana.
  • Not stopping Voldemort earlier. He couldn't reasonably have done much more to stop Voldemort. When Voldemort applied for a job at Hogwarts Dumbledore denied him that position. He kept tabs on what Voldemort was doing. When Voldemort started openly challenging the Ministry and causing real damage Dumbledore created the Order of the Phoenix to fight him. He then spent a great deal of time chasing down obscure memories from Voldemort's past which would eventually prove critical in Voldemort's downfall. All in all, he dedicated much of his life to defeating Voldemort.
  • Spending too much time at Hogwarts. As Valorum says, he spent a good chunk of his time outside Hogwarts on political endeavors. He also had good reasons for avoiding the limelight of more prominent roles.
  • Allowing Order members to die. Dumbledore may oversee the Order but he can't really be held accountable for individual deaths. It was a war. Those involved knew what they were signing up for. Dumbledore's job was to deploy the people at his disposal wisely, not to wrap Order members up in cotton-wool. He also wasn't directly responsible for the Potters' deaths. It was Sirius who convinced Lily and James to change their Secret-Keeper; Dumbledore didn't really have anything to do with it.
  • Permitting Hogwarts to be dangerous. Teachers and students alike know that there are elements of danger in attending Hogwarts. It's impossible to make a magical school a risk-free environment. He put in reasonable precautions to try and ensure the safety of his students. Things like the Chamber of Secrets were outside his control.
  • Having a plan that succeeds through luck. Yes, Dumbledore got lucky with the implementation of some of his plans. Voldemort and Harry enjoyed good fortune with their plans at different points as well. This isn't a defect in and of itself. Dumbledore's plans were ambitious but also creative, complex and thoughtful. The ability to make educated guesses and think outside the box was what made Dumbledore such an effective leader of the anti-Voldemort movement.

In conclusion, Dumbledore has his defects. He is just a human. He is also a brave, compassionate, intelligent and resourceful character. His achievements in the magical world are indisputable. Whether he did any good or not is more subjective. By most measures, however, his personal failings were more than compensated by the unique contribution he made to fighting Dark magic.

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