Harry Potter Question

So you’ve read the last Harry Potter book, and you think it makes sense? Then answer me this…

First, let me say that I enjoyed all the books a lot, and the only reason I’m nitpicking is that J.K. Rowling writes such well-constructed plots that we can afford to nitpick. That is, there’s enough logic there that when something doesn’t make sense, it sticks out. And I’ve brought the following point up enough in person without a satisfactory response that I’m opening it up to the LJ world for analysis.

Anyway, recall the pivotal battle scene at the end of the last book in which Harry faces Voldemort. The key factor leading to Harry’s victory is the fact that the Elder Wand didn’t really consider Voldy its true master. This is because to gain ownership of the wand, you have to defeat its previous master, and Voldy did defeat Snape, who killed Dumbledore, but since Snape’s murder of Dumbledore was arranged between the two of them, it wasn’t a true defeat. Instead, it was Draco Malfoy’s Expelliarmus command just before Dumbledore’s death that defeated him, and so Draco was the master of the wand.

Okay, the critical point here is that the wand chooses its owner based on who legitimately defeated its previous owner. But think back, now. Dumbledore earned the wand by defeating its previous owner, Grindewald, in a duel (more on this below). Grindewald got the wand from the wandmaker Gregorovitch. But Grindewald didn’t defeat Gregorovitch — he stole the wand from him! So… ownership should not have changed at that point, and Gregorovitch should still have been the rightful owner.

… up until he is finally killed. And by — guess who? — Voldemort! So it seems that Voldemort should actually be the rightful owner of the wand. Interesting, huh? Oops.

This line of reasoning, though it opens up a significant plot hole in the book, does explain one minor detail. Famously, Dumbledore defeated Grindewald in a duel to gain possession of the wand. But how on earth did he do that? He himself admitted that he and Grindewald were nearly equal in strength… oh yeah, and Grindewald had a wand whose claim to fame is that its owner is unbeatable in duels! Sounds sketchy to me… unless, of course, Grindewald wasn’t really the true master of the wand (it still owing allegiance to Gregorovitch), and thus not a beneficiary of its powers. That’s the only way Dumbledore should have been able to beat him.

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7 Responses to Harry Potter Question

  1. plish says:

    To Rowling’s defense, “steal” is vague word. Grindewald might have stolen it by besting Gregorovitch and then just walked out of the room with it. And it was mentioned in the end that the hallows were just things made by talented brothers and not actually supertoys gifted by Death, so there’s no reason now to assume that the wand was utterly unbeatable. I agree that he whole wandlore subplot was a bit stretched (with Harry’s wand knowing magic that Harry didn’t), but I don’t think that the ownership plothole is gaping.

    • aj says:

      In the book, Grindewald is seen hopping out of a window with the wand as Gregorovitch enters. Definitely sounds like stealing to me. Also, the fact that Dumbledore treated the wand so seriously seems to indicate that it has some powers.

      • plish says:

        You’re right. I just got my copy back and reread it. Wonder if she’s come out with any statement about that. I’m sure she’s received feedback.

        But as to your second point, the wand being powerful is not the same as being unbeatable.

  2. jcliao says:

    maybe the fact that gregorovitch wasn’t able to stop grindewald from stealing it (despite catching him in the act) caused the wand’s allegiance to change? if he’d just stolen it without being seen i doubt it would have had the same effect.

    • plish says:

      Good point. In the fourth book, Barty Crouch was able to use the wand he took from Harry’s pocket pretty well.

      • aj says:

        Right, this must be the explanation. But then it seems utterly improbable that Dumbledore could have bested Grindewald in a duel, unless the wand is totally powerless. (Which, I suppose, is possible, but unsatisfying.)

  3. I can’t help wondering if perhaps, at least one, if not all three characters will be impersonated by Death Eaters in book 7.