Gringotts Adventures: A Photographic Tale of Goblins and Gold

Welcome to Diagon Alley—a hidden street where we can find all the magical things needed for a new school year at Hogwarts! Today, we’ll enjoy visiting one of the most beautiful buildings in the Wizarding World, Gringotts Bank! Gringotts is a fantastic object of art and one of the biggest sets in the LEGO Harry Potter product line. But its size is only one of its values. Every part, side, and corner of the bank is rich in well-thought-out details that nearly guarantee that any builder or visitor, for that matter, experiences an atmosphere of magic.

Join us today as we go on a photographic journey of Gringotts Bank, explore the hidden treasures inside, and investigate goblin lore as told through LEGO and a lens. LEGO provided BrickNerd with 76417 Gringotts Wizarding Bank, which I’ve found to be a wonderful architectural creation full of clever and fun surprises. Behind the spectacular scale, I’ve found so many photographic possibilities, so I’m eager to study all of them with you. Great discoveries await us!

A Bank Worthy of Diagon Alley

Harry: “But, Hagrid, how am I to pay for all this? I haven’t any money.”
Hagrid: “Well, there’s the money your parents left you, Harry. In Gringotts, the Wizard Bank. There’s no safer place, except perhaps Hogwarts.”

In the books and movies, Gringotts is the place where Harry meets goblins for the first time. But let’s get acquainted with one before entering the bank. There’s one more unexpected visitor today. A goblin with an eccentric style and detailed face…

Yes, I sculpted this figure, especially for Gringotts. Meet Gnarlak, the guest star of our story! Gnarlak is an American goblin gangster that we met in the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” movie. (Is he Gnarlak Junior or does he have a secret way to prevent aging? Who knows.) I doubt we will get the answer from him!

Gnarlak in ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie

Entering Gringott’s crooked white walls, Harry and Hagrid get a breathtaking view of the main hall. The marble hall looks so recognizable it might as well have been a miniature for the making of the movie!

“Enter, stranger, but take heed of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take but do not earn, must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors a treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware of finding more than treasure there.”

“About a hundred goblins were sitting on high stools behind a long counter, scribbling in large ledgers, weighing coins in brass scales, examining precious stones…”

Harry: “Hagrid, what are these creatures?”
Hagrid: “They’re goblins, Harry. Clever as they come, goblins but not the most friendly.”

This set makes this impressive scene possible even without a camera zoom or forced perspective techniques I’m so fond of. It feels like the hall is vast and significant.

Have a look at these multicolor windows: they are absolutely magical! Even as a sticker, the design adds some much-needed color to the scene. I added a bit more color to complement them, including a small wagon full of gemstones.

You won’t find any simple geometry or empty space in Gringotts: every level has some unique elements and new printed parts like the massive marble columns. Taking photographs from a bottom-up angle can show these various design details from Harry’s eye level.

“Hagrid and Harry approached a counter with the Head Goblin, who gave them a suspicious glance.”

Hagrid: “We’ve come to take some money from Mr. Harry Potter’s safe… oh, and there’s something else as well. Professor Dumbledore gave me this. It’s about You-Know-What in vault You-Know-Which…”

Goblin: “Very well.”

The Journey Underground

Now we’re going to take a journey to explore the hidden depths of Gringotts’ caves. According to Hagrid, “You’d be mad to try and rob Gringotts.” The bank is enchanted, and there are even rumors that dragons guard the high-security vaults. The bank is hundreds of miles under London, deep beneath the Underground…

“A goblin named Griphook escorted the bank’s visitors down to both vaults. Harry, who had expected more marble, was surprised. They were in a narrow stone passageway lit with flaming torches. It sloped steeply downward and there were little railway tracks on the floor. Griphook whistled and a small cart came hurtling up the tracks toward them. They climbed in—Hagrid with some difficulty—and were off.”

I love this photo of the journey down since you can see the spiral movement of the cart in a static photo. You can usually get photos like this using the “fireworks mode” or a longer exposure mode in your camera like I talked about in this article about painting with light.

Harry: “I never know what’s the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite.”
Hagrid: “Stalagmite’s got an ‘m’ in it. And don’t ask me questions just now… I think I’m gonna be sick.”

“At first they just hurtled through a maze of twisting passages. Harry tried to remember them, but it was impossible. The rattling cart seemed to know its own way because Griphook wasn’t steering. They plunged deeper, passing an underground lake where more huge stalactites and stalagmites grew from the ceiling and floor. At last, the cart stopped at last beside a small door in the passage wall, Harry’s vault number 687.”

“Griphook unlocked the door and Harry gasped. Inside were mounds of gold coins… Galleons. All Harry’s—it was incredible! All the time he was poor and wanting, there had been a small fortune belonging to him, buried deep under London.”

I prepared the interior for both vaults, broadening the space of the magical location. That way I could see photograph Harry’s reaction to opening his vault in the Wizarding bank—just like in the movie!

“They were going even deeper now and gathering speed. Vault seven hundred and thirteen had no keyhole. Griphook stroked the door gently with one of his long fingers and it simply melted away.”

Griphook: “If anyone but a Gringotts goblin tried that, they’d be sucked through the door and trapped in there.”
Harry: “How often do you check to see if anyone’s inside?”
Griphook: “About once every ten years…”

“Something really extraordinary had to be inside this top security vault, Harry was sure. He leaned forward eagerly, expecting to see fabulous jewels at the very least—but at first, he thought it was empty. Then he noticed a grubby little package wrapped in brown paper lying on the floor. Hagrid picked it up and tucked it deep inside his coat. Harry longed to know what it was but knew better than to ask.”

We’ll leave Harry and Hagrid’s story there for the moment and revisit our curious visitor from another continent…

The Curious Tale of Gnarlak

“Who let this insufferable chatterbox in!?” the Gringotts goblin thought while Mr. Gnarlak was attempting to persuade him of the truthfulness of his story. The employee of the Wizarding bank must have nerves of steel because he was still trying to understand why his guest wanted his own safe in Gringotts’ depths.”

Gnarlak’s eye fell on and old portrait on the wall, and his story took a different direction…

Gnarlak: “Trust me, sir, I’m a descendant of the glorious goblins who took part in the first gold works, the very expedition that formed the base for this famous ancient bank!”
Gringotts Goblin: “Sorry, I’ve heard another version of Gringotts history. What year did that happen, you say?”
Gnarlak: You are the numbers guy, not me! Ask the Head Goblin when I get my new safe!”

The portrait he pointed to is actually a sticker with a design referencing the very first LEGO goblins. I photographed a few I had that could play the role of Gringott’s founders!

“Once granted entry, Gnarlak stopped near a small unknown safe marked with multiple scratches—evidence perhaps of other adventurers who tried to break into the vault. But Gnarlak was much more skillful and knowledgeable and pulled out a spindly green creature from his pocket.”

That green creature is a Bowtruckle. Do you remember the scene from “Fantastic Beasts” where Gnarlak talked about these creatures? They are known as being safe-breakers which is probably why Gnarlak keeps one in his pocket!

Bowtruckles in ‘the Fantastic Beasts’ movie, ‘Framestore Art Department’ concept art

The scene fades to black. Sometime later, we see Gnarlak back in Diagon Alley, seemingly wanting to hide the evidence of his mysterious little adventure. So how do you hide a living key? Why, he could sell his Bowtruckle in the Magical Menagerie shop next door! The tiny creature had served its purpose and would go to a good home, plus Gnarlak had a huge farm of these useful green guys. So they parted ways even though the Bowtruckle seemed like it wanted to stay with him…

And so today’s mystery ends on a cliffhanger. Nice job, Gnarlak! You’d better disappear with the speed of the best Nimbus broomstick… haven’t you read the warning in Gringott’s entrance hall? And how does Harry’s adventure at Gringotts continue through the years?

As you can tell, 76417 Gringotts Wizarding Bank is bursting at the seams with storytelling and photographic possibilities. Dragons, jewels, and dangerous spells await in the depths of Gringotts. To be continued!

DISCLAIMER: This set was provided to BrickNerd by The LEGO Group. Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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