- "My momma, your momma, gonna catch a witch,
My momma, your momma, flying on a switch,
My momma, your momma, witches never cry,
My momma, your momma, witches gonna die!
Witch number one, drown in a river!
Witch number two, got a noose to give her!
Witch number three, gonna watch her burn,
Witch number four, flogging take a turn."
- — Modesty singing anti-witchcraft rhymes[src]
Modesty Barebone (b. 1918) was an American girl who lived during the 20th century. She was the adopted daughter of Mary Lou Barebone. Mary Lou was the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a No-Maj anti-witchcraft group.
Modesty was the youngest of three adopted siblings. Her older siblings were Credence Barebone and Chastity Barebone. She lived with them and her adoptive mother in the United States of America in 1926 at the Second Salem Church in Pike Street Manhattan.
At the night of 7 December, 1926 at eight years old, Modesty watched as her mother was attacked and killed by the violent Obscurus of Credence Barebone which was triggered when Mary Lou attempted to beat Credence with a belt, as she believed that the toy magic wand under Modesty's bed belonged to him. Terrified of the accident, Modesty ran away and was going to hide in a run-down tenement the Bronx where she once lived with her nine siblings before being adopted. When Gellert Grindelwald in the form of Percival Graves found her and believed that she was the Obscurial, the real Obscurial revealed his Obscurus, and Grindelwald suddenly realised that Modesty was not the real Obscurial. The Obscurus from Credence burst forth and flew away and Grindelwald followed him, leaving Modesty all alone at the Bronx. It's unknown if she's still there, or what happened with her thereafter.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Personality and traits
- 3 Personal possessions
- 4 Relationships
- 5 Etymology
- 6 Behind the scenes
- 7 Appearances
- 8 Notes and references
Modesty was born around 1918 in the United States of America. She lived in a tenement in the Bronx with her mother, father, and nine siblings. However, she was adopted by No-Maj, anti-witchcraft activist Mary Lou Barebone. It is possible that her parents put her up for adoption because they had more children than they could care for. She deeply missed her brothers and sisters and would often talk about them to her older adopted brother Credence.
Under Mary Lou's rules, Modesty spent much of her time singing anti-witchcraft rhymes while playing hopscotch. A precocious child, Modesty learned to hide disobedient behaviour from her strict mother. This behaviour steamed from the fact that she was very aware of the abusive treatment that her older brother received. Out of sight of her mother and her similarly zealous older adopted sister, Chastity, she rebelliously threw away the Second Salem leaflets. This was something Chasity warned against minutes prior when handing the leaflets out to the children within the church.
At some point before December 1926, Porpentina Goldstein, an Auror from the Magical Congress of the United States of America, took to observing the activities of the Second Salmers. During one meeting, Mary Lou used a belt to hit Credence. The witch Porpentina cursed Mary Lou in the presence of her followers to save Credence from the beating. The open use of magic in front of a group of Muggles required extensive Oblivation. Just like her adoptive family and the members of Mary Lou's organisation, Modesty's memories were removed by Aurors and she couldn't remember anything about the incident.
- Credence Barebone: "Where’d you get this?"
- Modesty: "Give it back, Credence. It’s just a toy!"
- — Credence confronts Modesty with her toy wand[src]
On 6 December, 1926, on the steps of the Steen National Bank, Mary Lou Barebone holds a rally to support their organisation the New Salem Philanthropic Society, while Modesty and her siblings Credence and Chastity handing out lealfets to the people in the public. They handed these leaflets out as a way to earn food. Their Adoptive mother warns the people in the public who was listening to her speech that there are bizarre things happening through out New York, that "something stalks our city" and "wreaking destruction." She claims to the people in the public that this was the work of witchcraft and asked them to join their organisation to fight against wizardkind.
Langdon Shaw, a believer in magic, brought Modesty and her family to his father Henry Shaw Senior's office. Mary Lou was interested in garnishing the support and influence of his newspaper company and his elder son's re-election platform to further her goals of suppressing magic and stamping it out. But Henry Shaw, believing it to be nonsense, refused and asked them to leave. While departing, Credence dropped a leaflet which the older son of Henry Shaw Senior, Henry Shaw Junior, the senator, handed the leaflet back to Credence, making fun of him and unashamedly calling him a freak. Modesty protectively took her brother's hand and left the office with her family.
On 7 December, 1926, Credence went into Modesty's room and found a toy wand under her bed. Modesty arrived, because she had registered a small clunk from upstairs. Modesty was terrified when she saw the wand that Credence was holding in his hands. When Credence asked her about the wand, Modesty protested that it was just a toy. But as they argued, Mary Lou entered the room and was appalled to see what Credence was holding. Mary Lou was able to deduce that the object in Credence's hand was a wand and therefore related to witchcraft. She did not hesitate in asking Credence to remove his belt for a beating, as she believed that the wand belonged to him.
As they stood on the upstairs landing, Credence removed his belt so his adoptive mother could punish him again. Mary Lou turned back towards Credence and snapped the wand in half. As Mary Lou offended Credence's biological mother, Modesty forced her way between and confessed, saying the wand was hers. Suddenly, the belt was whipped out of Mary Lou's hands by supernatural means and fell like a dead snake in a far corner. As she looked at her hand, it was bleeding and full of cuts, the same injuries that Credence had. As Mary Lou slowly moved to retrieve the belt, it moved away across the floor before she could touch it. When she turned to confront the children, Credence lost control and his Obscurus burst free. The force threw Mary Lou backwards, striking a wooden beam, and flinging her over the balcony where she smashed down onto the floor of the main church with tell-tale scars covering her face. The Obscurus largely destroyed the church in the immediate events thereafter, also killing Chastity in the process.
Hiding in old childhood home
Terrified of the incident, Modesty ran away to her old childhood home to hide. With the help of Credence, Gellert Grindelwald in disguise as Percival Graves found her, believing her to be the Obscurial he was after. Grindelwald found Modesty hiding in a corner, shaking, terrified, and confused, whimpering at the sound of Credence's name. As Grindelwald extended his hand and said to Modesty that she must come out, the crack began spreading like a spider web. Dust began to fall as the walls shook uncontrollably and the room began to disintegrate around them. Each wall collapsed in front of Grindelwald, until the final wall collapsed and he faced Credence who revealed his obscurus because of the betrayal of Grindelwald. Confronting Grindewald for his betrayal, Credence quickly lost control of his power and became a fully corporeal Obscurus flying away with Graves following, leaving the frightened Modesty all alone once more.
Personality and traits
- "A bleak room. A single bed, an oil lamp, a sampler on the wall: AN ALPHABET OF SIN. Modesty’s dolls lined up on a shelf. One with a little noose around its neck, another tied to a stake."
- — Modesty in her room[src]
Modesty was described as a "haunted" girl with "inner strength and stillness." She also possessed an ability to see into people's psyches and understand them.
A bit precocious, Modesty knew what she should and should not do according to her strict mother, Mary Lou. However, Modesty sometimes felt compelled to go against her mother's wishes. Such rule-breaking entailed acts such as leaving the church to throw the Second Salemers leaflets into the winds when her older sister Chastity said to not dump the leaflets. Modesty successfully managed to hide her disobedience from her strict mother, aware of what happened to her brother Credence.
Modesty often choose to play her favourite game of hopscotch while singing anti-witchcraft rhymes, one of several forms of anti-magical media she was surrounded with daily.
Modesty was well-mannered in public. Even when someone insulted a member of her family, she merely glared silently.
Emotionally, Modesty was much closer to her brother Credence, who listened to her and talked with her about subjects such as her siblings, whom she sorely missed.
- Toy wand: Modesty owned a toy wand, which was made of an unknown wand wood and was carved with the initials "TSM". It is unknown where Modesty obtained this toy wand from, and she played with her wand in secret, hiding it under her bed to prevent anyone else finding it. It was snapped in half by Mary Lou Barebone on 7 December 1927.
Biological mother and father and nine siblings
Before Modesty was adopted by Mary Lou Barebone. She lived with her mother and father and her nine siblings in a tenement of the Bronx. But later, her parents gave her up for adoption. It is possible that her parents put her up for adoption because they had more children than they could care for. It seems that Modesty had a good relationship with her siblings, if she missed them very much when she was adopted by Mary Lou. It is unknown whether Modesty had a good relationship with her parents, if she did not miss or did not talk about them, which is possibly that she did not remember them anymore.
Mary Lou Barebone
Modesty feared her adoptive mother Mary Lou Barebone, as she was very violent and abusive towards her and her adopted brother and sister. Mary Lou abused her, probably in a different way as Credence and probably also much less. Modesty follows the rules of her adoptive mother as expected of her, such as singing anti-witchcraft rhymes about killing witches. However, Modesty secretly breaks the rules behind her adoptive mother's back. Such as throwing the Second Salemers leaflets into the air, as Chastity said to not dump the leaflets, and having a toy magic wand under her bed. This was certainly a risky display of rebellion and revenge towards their unforgiving mother-figure.
Modesty had a close relationship with her adopted brother Credence Barebone, as she was the only one who was kind towards him and gave him affection at that time. Modesty talks with Credence about subjects such as her siblings, who she really misses. This shows that Modesty trusted Credence. Modesty witnessed Credence's beatings and comforted him afterwards. When Henry Shaw Junior insulted Credence, Modesty protectively took her brother's hand to comfort him as no one was looking. When the Obscurus of Credence attacked their mother after she had tried to punish Credence, Modesty became fearful of him.
The relationship between Chastity Barebone and Modesty is not exactly clear. They attended their mother's anti-witchcraft rallies and meetings together and passed out leaflets, so it possible that the two adopted sisters had a cordial relationship with each other.
Modesty is derived from the Middle French modestie (which means freedom from exaggeration, self-control) or the Latin modestia (which means moderation, sense of honour, correctness of conduct), from moderastus (which means moderate, keeping due measure, sober, gentle, temperate) or from modus (which means measure, manner, take appropiate measures). In short, Modesty means "quality of having a moderate opinion of oneself", which was first coined in the 1550s.
Behind the scenes
- It is unknown what became of Modesty after Credence turned into his Obscurus form and began wreaking havoc through the city of New York, given that both her adoptive mother and adopted sister had just been killed.
- It was confirmed by David Yates and David Heyman that Modesty would not be appearing in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
- The anti-witchcraft rhyme Modesty repeatedly sings were all references of non-magical people's stereotypes of and against witches, as well as the Salem witch-trials that were designed to "persecute" them with.
- "Flying on a switch" is a reference to broomstick flying ("switch" was a type of thin stick of wood), a stereotype from the Middle Ages.
- "Witches never cry" is a reference to the stereotype of witches almost always cackling.
- "Drown in a river" is a reference to the myth that witches never cross bodies of water. It may also be a reference to one of the tests used during the Trials to determine who was a witch and who wasn't: a person would be bound in rope and tossed into a body of water. If they sank, they were not a witch. If they floated, they were a witch, as witches were believed to have spurned baptism, and water would be repelled (alternatively, some say that water was so pure an element that it would repel the guilty).
- "Gotta noose to give her", "Gonna watch her burn", & "Flogging take a turn" were all references to punishments meted out against suspected witches (i.e. the Medieval Inquisition and their respective autos-da-fé, and the Salem Witch Trials).
- It's unknown if Modesty was her birth name.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay (First appearance)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (film)
- The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- LEGO Dimensions
Notes and references
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay, Scene 7 - She was described as being eight years-old in December 1926.
- Modesty's blood status is unknown. But she seemed to be a No-Maj. Modesty grew up in an environment where witchcraft was hated. Modesty was mistreated by her adoptive mother and, like Credence, implying she may have been a witch. Despite this, Modesty was never shown to possess any magical abilities of any kind, and appeared to somewhat share her adoptive mother's hatred of witchcraft, and was not found to be an Obscurial, so therefore she was most likely a No-Maj.
- "Full Character Descriptions" from FantasticBeastsMovies.com
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay, Scene 96
- "Full Character Description" from FantasticBeastsMovies.com
- "Casting call for 'Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them' " from Warner Brothers UK
- Etymology - Modesty
- "Fantastic Beasts actress chosen from open auditions" from CBBC
- The Leaky Cauldron - Davids Yates and Heyman Spill Fantastic Beasts Secrets