Dumbledore is gay

From Newsweek:

In front of a full house of hardcore Potter fans at Carnegie Hall in New York, Rowling, sitting on the stage on a red velvet and carved wood throne, read from her seventh and final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," then took questions. One fan asked whether Albus Dumbledore, the head of the famed Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, had ever loved anyone. Rowling smiled. "Dumbledore is gay, actually," replied Rowling as the audience erupted in surprise. She added that, in her mind, Dumbledore had an unrequited love affair with Gellert Grindelwald, Voldemort's predecessor who appears in the seventh book. After several minutes of prolonged shouting and clapping from astonished fans, Rowling added. "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy."


Andy said…
I know. I saw the Reuters article a couple of days ago.

I'm a little disappointed. Not because I think it's terrible that someone should be gay, but because I'm not sure Rowling understood her own character. Everyone has to be attracted to someone for Rowling. I always saw Dumbledore more of a celibate in a priestly kind of way--focused on his work and on the defeat of Voldemort, etc. There are voluntary celibates in the world.

Oh well.
Hmm, good point. I like the celibate take. I am a firm believer that authors create worlds which have a life of their own; you might say authors are less creators and more stewards of a reality that exists outside of them in a certain kind of way. Rowling may think Dumbledore is gay, but that certainly is not the final or even the definitive word. Authorial intention is not the most important factor when it comes to fiction. It may even be the least important.
Halden said…
I agree, David. To be honest, I don't know if Rowling could really make that determination. I think Dumbledore's character is full of a "surplus of meaning", on most fronts.
I also thought Dumbledore was one of those rare people who are naturally celibate. However, celibacy does not mean "asexual." One still has a sexual orientation even if one has such a low sex drive that it is nearly invisible.

What bothered me was that Rowling did not out Dumbledore in print. It does no good to say that one of the main issues of your children's books is toleration and equality (from house elves to half-giants--and the real target is Britain which is extremely multicultural but is also full of racial discrimination) if one is going to keep something like this "in the closet."
By contrast, Mercedes Lackey's fantasy series set in Valdemar has featured several gay characters (most notably Herald Mage Vanyel) and a celibate warrior priestess.
Derrick said…
Just thought I'd join in and say with Andy and everyone here that I also took Dumbledore as the celibate, priestly type. While I am something of a fence sitter regarding authorial intention and its relation to fiction, I think that, with Michael, the unexpression of Dumbledore being gay in actual print makes Rowling's announcement almost seem like a completely arbitrary eisegesis of her own book! Given the sparcity (or less) of reference in the book (and hence its small, if not non-existant, value as background for reading the story), along with the prepoderance and fervor on the topic of homosexuality, this seems more like pandering to an audience than remaining faithful to a character. I can't say I blame her, especially if she legitimately envisioned him as gay, but it was poor execution in an otherwise fantastic series.
I actually think that it cuts across trend-lines in the explication of Dumbledore's youth in book 7. Rowling's discussion of the Grindewald / Dumbledore relationship had none of these overtones, and one could argue that if there was such an aspect of the relationship on the Dumbledore side, it would have changed the outcome of the incident with Dumbledore's sister.

On another related note, has anyone made public criticism of Rowling for not really including and homosexual characters? Is this an attempt to provide one after the fact?
Anonymous said…
Who cares, either way?

And while I agree with David to a certain extent (i.e. I think that authors need to create worlds and characters that have an internal sort of integrity) I do think that authorial intent -- although it is not the absolute be all and end all of the meaning one finds in fiction -- is generally authoritative (particularly when it comes to things like the colour of a character's hair, the height of a character, or the sexuality of that character).

Thus, I find Halden's comment to be particularly hilarious. Rowling isn't able to determine the sexual preferences of her characters? Give me a break.

But, really, who cares, either way?
Eric Lee said…
I've been reading a bunch of stuff on this whole weird issue, and the conclusion I've come to based mainly on the writings of John Granger and Travis Prinzi is that I don't really care -- this doesn't change the story for me at all. Not only that, but this is not even anything that you can find in the stories themselves; it is extra-canonical. Hands down the two best post I've read on this are by John Granger here:

“I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.” [ovation.]

“Taking Stories More Seriously Than The Author”

This post by Travis Prinzi is also excellent, where he highlights the follow great observation from Alastair:

"One of the things that I most love about a good book is the manner in which it creates a space within which our imaginations can play, the ambiguities giving us the option of reading the book in many different ways. When an author settles ambiguities like this I feel cheated. It is Rowling’s task to write and it is our task to read; I wish that she wouldn’t do our part for us."

Even though David Lynch is the other extreme of this of utter and total subjectivity, it would seem like Rowling could maybe take a few lessons from Lynch. He doesn't reveal anything about any of his stories.

That being said, this 'revelation' (or whatever) doesn't change my enjoyment of these novels when I read all the way through the whole series this past summer.
David Lynch is a good person to cite, but Umberto Eco (author of the classic book, The Name of the Rose) is even more straightforward. In his discussion of the book (now attached as an afterword), Eco discusses the difficulties of creating a world separate from the author. He speaks of a novel as a "cosmological event," in which the author constructs a world, whole and entire.

After discussing the difficulty of choosing a title that doesn't interpret the story for the reader, Eco writes this beautiful statement:

"The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text. The author must not interpret."

Rowling could learn a bit from Eco here.
Eric Lee said…
Indeed. I haven't read Eco, but that sounds spot on, thanks.