At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (film). As such, spoilers will be present within the article.
The prison was built on the orders of the Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald in order to hold his opponents. Grindelwald's slogan "For the Greater Good" was carved over the prison's entrance. After a number of years terrorising Europe, Grindelwald was confronted and defeated by his former best friend, Albus Dumbledore.
Grindelwald was imprisoned in the top-most cell in the highest tower inside Nurmengard after his defeat by Albus Dumbledore. His cell had a small window, too narrow for a man to leave or enter, a hard bed, and a thin blanket. It is unknown if there were any other prisoners ever held at Nurmengard, but around the time of Grindelwald's death, it is likely that he was the only prisoner present as the past inmates were likely incarcerated there at Grindelwald's behest. Grindelwald was certainly fed and kept alive for fifty-three years, so there was at least a supply of food and someone (or something) bringing it to him, although he was emaciated, frail and missing teeth.
Quest for the Elder Wand
In his quest for the Elder Wand, Lord Voldemort travelled to Nurmengard in 1998, using his skills of flight and possibly human transfiguration to break into Grindelwald's cell. After confronting him for information on the Wand's location, Voldemort killed Grindelwald and then flew away. The ultimate fate of the prison is unknown.
Nurmengard was a gigantic, towering building made of black rock and with high walls, that is described as "jet-black," "forbidding," and a "grim fortress." The cell that was inhabited by Gellert Grindelwald since 1945 had been a dark and ominous room in the highest tower, with a hard bed and a ragged, thin blanket.
Behind the scenes
- Nurmengard may be a reference to Nuremberg, the city in Germany that was the site of many important Nazi rallies, as well as was also the place where the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws were promulgated. Later the city was famous as the site of the prison used to hold infamous Nazi war criminals, as well as the Nuremberg Trials where they were tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Likewise, Nurmengard was created as a monument to Grindelwald's oppressive regime, but later became a symbol of his downfall.
- The suffix "-gard" comes from the Norse "gard," meaning "enclosure" or "walled town." Also, in French, "garder" means "to keep, ward, guard, save, preserve".
- J.R.R. Tolkien used a similar word for his place names in Middle-earth when referring to enclosed spaces: for instance, the fortress of the dark wizard Saruman is named Isengard meaning literally "iron fortress." Isengard was built by the people of Numenor, so the first two syllables of Numenor and the last one of Isengard would be Numengard. It is possible that J.K. Rowling did not read Tolkien's Legendarium, written a few decades ago, but it is more likely that the 'gard' part was more of a coincedence than 'Numen.'
- "The greater good" is an essential idea of the utilitarian philosophy. "For The Greater Good" may also be a reference to "Arbeit macht frei" (German, "Work makes [one] free" or "Work liberates") the motto that was mendaciously inscribed over the entrance gates to several Nazi concentration camps (The exact wording of the inscription at Nurmengard is unknown, since Grindelwald's exact nationality or his language of preference, are not specified in the books: the German translation of his slogan would be "Für das höhere Wohl", although the official German translation in the book reads "für das größere Wohl").
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Nurmengard appears as a large and shadowy building on a mountainside with a tall roof and multiple cell windows. It also appears to be far larger than Azkaban. If theory about the relation to Nuremberg is correct, then the closest mountains from there is the German side of Bayerischer Wald or Oberpfälzer Wald.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (First appearance) (Appears in vision)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Appears in vision)
Notes and references
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret) - Harry Potter: "What's Nurmengard?" Hermione Granger:"The prison Grindelwald had built to hold his opponents.
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret) - Hermione Granger: "They say 'For the Greater Good' was even carved over the entrance to Nurmengard."
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret) - Hermione Granger: "He [Grindelwald] ended up in there himself, once Dumbledore had caught him."
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 24 (The Wandmaker) - Deeper and deeper Harry sank into the grave, and he knew where Voldemort had been tonight, and whom [Grindelwald] he had killed in the topmost cell of Nurmengard, and why…
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - looking up, up to the topmost window, the highest tower
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - The window was the merest slit in the black rock, not big enough for a man to enter...
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - “Kill me, then!” demanded the old man [Grindelwald]. “You will not win, you cannot win! That wand will never, ever be yours –“ And Voldemort’s fury broke: A burst of green light filled the prison room and the frail old body was lifted from its hard bed and then fell back, lifeless
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - A skeletal figure was just visible through it, curled beneath a blanket... Dead, or sleeping...?
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - The emaciated figure stirred beneath its thin blanket and rolled over toward him, eyes opening in a skull of a face... The frail man sat up, great sunken eyes fixed upon him, upon Voldemort, and then he smiled. Most of his teeth were gone...
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - and he [Voldemort] rose into the night, flying straight up to the windows at the very top of the tower
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - he [Voldemort] forced himself through the slit of a window like a snake and landed, lightly as vapour inside the cell-like room
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - He [Voldemort] was hiding around the high walls of the black fortress
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - Harry's scar, which was stretched tight across his distended forehead, burned savagely. More clearly than he could make out anything around him, he saw a towering building, a grim fortress, jet-black and forbidding: Voldemort's thoughts had suddenly become Razor-Sharp again; he was gliding toward the gigantic building with a sense of calmly euphoric purpose...