"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, gotta 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[2] (b. 1918[1]) 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 and Chastity Barebone.


Early life

"Ma adopted Modesty out of here. From a family of twelve. She still misses her brothers and sisters. She still talks about them."
Credence regarding Modesty's early life[src]

Modesty was born around 1918 in the United States.[1] She lived in a tenement in the Bronx with her mother, father, and nine siblings.[3] 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.[3] She deeply missed her brothers and sisters and would often talk about them to her older adoptive brother Credence.[3]


"Modesty stands in the middle of the busy street. She throws her leaflets high into the air, watching with glee as they fall around her."
—Modesty throws her leaflets into the air as revange for her mother[src]
Fantastic-beasts-modesty fliers

Modesty throws away the New Salem Philanthropic Society leaflets

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, as she was aware of the abusive treatment that her older brother, Credence, received. Out of sight of her mother and her similarly zealous older adoptive sister, Chastity, she rebelliously threw away New Salem Philanthropic Society leaflets.[2]

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 Henry Shaw Junior, the senator, handed the leaflet back to Credence, also unashamedly calling him a freak. Modesty protectively took her brother's hand and left the office with her family.

Mysterious toy wand

Credence Barebone: "Where’d you get this?"
Modesty: "Give it back, Credence. It’s just a toy!"
— Credence asking Modesty about her toy wand[src]
Credence Modesty toy wand

Credence finds Modesty's toy wand under her bed

On 7 December 1926, Credence went into Modesty's room and found a toy wand under her bed. Modesty arrived and protested that it was just a toy, but as they argued Mary Lou entered 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, something which was a punishable sin in her mind. She did not hesitate in asking Credence to remove his belt for a beating.

Fantastic-beasts-modesty mary lou

Modesty preparing to tell Mary Lou that the toy wand belongs to her

As Credence removed his belt so his adoptive mother could punish him again, Modesty confessed saying the wand was hers. Suddenly, the belt whipped out of Mary Lou's grasp, injuring her hand. As she went to pick it up, it was magically flung away. Turning to confront the children, Mary Lou was attacked by Credence's Obscurus, flung against the rafters of the chapel and fell dead with tell-tale scratches 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

"Modesty...There’s no need to be afraid. I’m here with your brother, Credence...Out you come, now."
Gellert Grindelwald assumes that Modesty is the Obscurial[src]
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Modesty hiding in a corner in her 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. Graves found Modesty hiding in a corner, shaking, terrified, and confused, whimpering at the sound of Credence's name. When Graves said to Modesty that she must come out, an opening in the walls broke open revealing Credence to be the true Obscurial. Confronting Graves 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.[4]

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.

Behind the scenes

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Modesty leaning against a pillar in the Second Salemers church

  • Modesty Barebone is portrayed by Faith Wood-Blagrove in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.[5]
  • It is very likely that Modesty is a No-Maj.
  • It was confirmed by David Yates and David Heyman that Modesty won't be appearing in Fantastic Beasts 2.[6]
  • 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).


Notes and references