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The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore was a biography of Albus Dumbledore that was written by Rita Skeeter. Though it ran nine-hundred pages in length, Skeeter completed the book only four weeks after Dumbledore's death in June 1997, meaning that it was probably published in July of that year.
As was her common tendency, Rita swooped down in the immediate wake of a death to ensure that public interest remained high, whilst fully exploiting the legal situation that the dead cannot be libelled.
The book was rated with five stars by the Daily Prophet. Prior to its release, Betty Braithwaite had visited Rita's home for an interview about the title, and Rita served her tea and a slice of pound cake. It is probably because of this "warmth and softness" that Braithwaite's write-up was highly favourable and quite heavily biased in favour of Skeeter.
The book contained some controversial, though partially true, revelations about Dumbledore and his family, for example, the story of covering up of the "sickness" of Dumbledore's sister Ariana. It also talked about how Dumbledore's father was imprisoned in Azkaban for attacking three Muggles, and explored Dumbledore's relationship in his younger days with Gellert Grindelwald, who would later become an immensely powerful Dark Wizard, second only to Voldemort, and would be defeated in 1945 by Dumbledore himself.
In a sneak peek in the Daily Prophet, Rita says that there is a whole chapter on the Dumbledore/Potter relationship. In this article, Rita also comments on the speculation that Harry may have been involved with Dumbledore's murder.
- Harry Potter: "Elphias, I don’t know whether you saw the interview Rita Skeeter gave about Dumbledore?"
- Elphias Doge: "Oh, yes, Harry, I saw it. That woman, or vulture might be a more accurate term, positively pestered me to talk to her. I am ashamed to say that I became rather rude, called her an interfering trout, which resulted, as you may have seen, in aspersions cast upon my sanity."
- Harry Potter: "Well, in that interview, Rita Skeeter hinted that Professor Dumbledore was involved in the Dark Arts when he was young."
- Elphias Doge: "Don’t believe a word of it! Not a word, Harry! Let nothing tarnish your memories of Albus Dumbledore!"
- Muriel: "Rita Skeeter? Oh, I love her, always read her!"
- — Harry Potter, Elphias Doge and Muriel discussing the book's controversial contents[src]
Skeeter's book was widely discussed and opinions toward it were polarised. Some people, such as Ron's Auntie Muriel, praised Skeeter, while others, such as Elphias Doge and Harry Potter, were furious over Skeeter's conspicuous attempt to impugn Dumbledore's character; Doge went as far as to state that the book "contain[ed] less fact than a Chocolate Frog Card." Harry, though angry, did acknowledge the fact of Dumbledore and Grindelwald having once been friends, based on a copy of the letter Dumbledore wrote being printed inside the book.
An article concerning The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore was published in the Daily Prophet, which was supplemented by an interview with Rita Skeeter about her views on her book. This, of course, was also a promotional piece, as the interview was published before the book was released.
Bathilda Bagshot's copy
Not long after the release of Rita Skeeter's book, she had a copy sent to one of her most valuable sources for the most vulgar and interesting lies and half-truths provided, Bathilda Bagshot. While under the influence of Veritaserum, Bathilda unwittingly provided her with background information of Dumbledore himself, and Grindelwald, her great nephew.
Rita had written Bathilda a very cheerful thank you note and had it sent to her, either just before, or at the time that the real Bathilda was killed by Voldemort, and she was taken over by his snake, Nagini.
During the search for Voldemort's Horcruxes, Hermione Granger obtained Bathilda Bagshot's copy of the book after Harry Potter recognised a picture in Bathilda's house of Grindelwald as matching the thief who stole the Elder Wand, having previously seen a similar picture while briefly perusing Dolores Umbridge's copy. From this, she and Harry learned of Ariana's mysterious death and Dumbledore's relationship with Grindelwald.
This part of the book at least was confirmed to be true by Aberforth Dumbledore, and later by the spirit of Albus himself (who explained the background to the fragments Harry had learned), showing that Rita did get at least some of her facts straight, despite not knowing the whole story.
Behind the scenes
- Given the speed at which the book was published in spite of its length, the author may have had much of it planned and/or compiled pre-mortem. However, it is also possible that this speed of publication is not unusual in the wizarding world, with magic to help it along, possibly with the help of a Quick-Quotes Quill.
- Ironically, the book title The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore is probably quite accurate since it is a book about Dumbledore's life and there will undoubtedly be lies about it contained in the book.
- Given Betty Braithwaite's heavy bias in her write-up, it is possible that she, like Skeeter, liked gossip and mistrusted Dumbledore.
- In the novel, Muriel indicates that Bagshot has "gone gaga", which Elphias Doge agrees with, and thus does not blame her for anything that she might have said to Skeeter. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the film adaptation, he describes her having talked with Skeeter as a "monstrous betrayal".
- The book's cover and title resembles the Gregory Maguire book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West which tells the story of the Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch's perspective.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
- Wizarding World (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault (Mentioned only)
- The Art of Harry Potter Mini Book of Graphic Design
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 2 (In Memoriam)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 18 (The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 13 (The Muggle-Born Registration Commission)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 8 (The Wedding)