Fear or Persuasion: An In-Depth Look at Voldemort and Grindelwald

What is a more successful strategy in gaining followers? Fear or persuasion? That is what I asked myself as I watched Crimes of Grindelwald.

As a lover of Harry Potter, I often wondered how successful a villain Voldemort really was. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done a lot of villainous acts. Such as:

Killing Harry’s parents.

Killing Moaning Mrytle.

Killing his father.

Killing Frank Bryce.

…Okay, basically, Voldemort has killed a lot of people. But what were his true motivations? Did he kill all those people to show that purebloods were ideal? That Muggles were nothing but filth that needed to be slaughtered like pigs?

I mean, but also no. He may have started out like that but then the prophecy happened and heaven forbid the great and terrible Voldemort would be defeated by a mere half-blood. (Spoilers: He is defeated. More spoilers: He’s half-blood himself. So pot meet kettle.)

Voldemort’s motivation behind most, if not all his actions, were to prevent his death. Voldemort’s greatest fear was death, and in the end that was his undoing.

He doesn’t care about his followers. He preaches on and on about ‘pureblood ways’ but really, he manipulated all of those purebloods so he can have people to do his biding. He didn’t care about their ideals. He was afraid of death and wanted to avoid it by any means necessary. He wanted to achieve immortality. Or at least, his twisted form of it.

At first yes, he appealed to purebloods like Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. He appealed to Barty Crouch Jr. and Severus Snape who were lonely outcasts. But how did Voldemort control his followers?


That is how Voldemort controlled them. But that only worked for so long. He was betrayed several times.

Regulus Black.

Severus Snape.

Peter Pettigrew.

Lucius Malfoy.

Voldemort lost his followers because they were no longer afraid of him. Or rather, his broken promises overrode any fear they had of him. He could not deliver so they left him. Their fear did not win. But Voldemort’s fear of dying did.

So while yes, Voldemort is a terrifying villain who did some truly horrific things, fear was not a good strategy. Combine that with his empty promises, and it was no wonder Voldemort fell.

And as I rewatched Crimes of Grindelwald for the 4th time, I came to this conclusion: Gellert Grindelwald terrifies me far more than Voldemort. Don’t get me wrong. Voldemort is terrifying. But there is something even more sinister about Grindelwald. Perhaps it’s because we have seen people like Grindelwald in real life. He is a real tangible human who has goals. We have heard his rhetoric before many, many times. We know of people in history who had ideals like he did. After all, doesn’t Grindelwald remind you of someone very similar in our history?

Voldemort is a villain that can be defeated. We know that the hero always wins against the very clear villain. But with Grindelwald, it’s different. With him, you wonder how the hero can defeat a villain like that. A villain that is so real. Almost too real that it makes you uncomfortable.

Grindelwald looks at someone, and he breaks them down to their baser selves. He asks himself:

How can I get them on my side?

He manipulates them with his voice. After all, the Americans in Crimes of Grindelwald had his tongue removed because he is that persuasive.

Grindelwald as Percival Graves in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, uses Credence in order to figure out who the Obscurial is.

Credence is a lonely, abused boy who has never known affection. Grindelwald gives that to him. He heals his hand after Mary-Lou Barebones once again beats Credence. Grindelwald sweet-talks Credence and gives the poor, downtrodden boy what he wants.



But the second Credence is of no more use to Grindelwald, he (Grindelwald) drops him like a bad penny. But then once Grindelwald realizes his mistake, that Credence is the Obscurial he’s been looking for, Grindelwald back tracks. He has to reassess. Grindelwald appeals to the fact that Credence wants to know who he is. Credence is desperate to find out who he is, where he comes from. Where does his magic come from? Credence is desperate for family. Family that will understand him.

Grindelwald uses this.

Is Credence really Aurelius Dumbledore, younger brother of Albus Dumbledore? Honestly, I doubt that. Grindelwald is a master manipulator. Or I could be wrong and he really is Albus’ younger brother. That’d certainly be a twist. We won’t know until the next movie comes out.

Grindelwald can’t act against Dumbledore because of the blood pact, and Credence is the only one powerful enough to take on Albus Dumbledore.

Grindelwald sees that Queenie is vulnerable without her sister. Sees how Queenie only wants to be with the man she loves. He appeals to that. We all know how he feels about No-Majs. He mentioned earlier that they weren’t going to eliminate all of them. That some would be needed for hard labor.

He is called ‘Silvertongue’ for a reason.

He manipulates his followers to think that the Aurors attacked first and killed a young girl. When really, he ordered a follower to kill the young girl disguised as an Auror. Grindelwald is a master manipulator. He shows visions of World War I and uses that to instill fear into witches and wizards. Is he still using fear like Voldemort? Yes. But rather than threaten his followers, he made the Muggles or No-Majs in American terms, the enemy. The one to be afraid of. He uses this fear in order to persuade wizards and witches to join him. He promises that he will keep them safe from the arrogant No-Majs.

Grindelwald is a villain that (as I stated before) we have seen before. We have heard his sort of rhetoric. And what’s even more terrifying is that people follow him because they either believe in his message or because he’s manipulated the news into thinking. I mean, look at what happened in the 2016 election. Look at all the anti-groups around us. With villains like Voldemort, there’s always a clear winner. Good triumphs over evil. But when it comes to villains like Grindelwald, there is no Chosen One. In the end, we have to be the Chosen Ones. We have to stand up and fight. And keep fighting, otherwise, they win.


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