We know that Voldemort knew that Grindelwald was not killed by Dumbledore, as he himself killed Grindelwald.

We also know that Voldemort knew that Dumbledore was the last person to wield the Elder Wand with its full allegiance because he killed Snape in an attempt to inherit that allegiance from him, who he assumed inherited it from Dumbledore.

Now Voldemort is no idiot.

Following this chain of logic, based off of what he knew, he must have realized that Dumbledore didn't gain the wand's allegiance through murder as he never killed Grindelwald, so why did he feel the need to kill Snape in order to win the wands allegiance for himself?

Surely he must have known that disarming him would have been enough. Was he so blinded by his desire for the wand that he was willing to try anything? Or was he so pressed for time that he didn't fully consider the matter?

I can't imagine the latter to be true as Voldemort himself said to Snape before killing him that he considered the matter for a long time, but that, of course, could be a lie.

Or perhaps he decided that what with Snape no longer being a competent spy after being outed that he had outlived his purpose and would be more valuable dead as a result of this last ditch effort to gain the wands true power.

I'm just answering my own question at this point, but I'd like to put it to you all. Is there something I am missing here? Is there any word from JKR that can clear up this seeming lapse in Voldemorts judgement?

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    I believe a defeat counts, not just a kill. Dumbledore did defeat Grindlewald and take his wand
    – Liath
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 11:49
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    @SayaPerez: looks to me that defeating is always a bit of a "subjective" term. By killing someone, you make sure you have defeated someone for now and ever. Furthermore it doesn't look like Voldemort is having problems with killing just one more: he doesn't feel any remorse. He always has seen his "servants" and by extent Snape as "tools" to complete his task. Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 18:43
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    Now Voldemort is no idiot [citation needed] Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 0:09
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    @leftaroundabout I assume you're joking, but in case you're not, I'll answer honestly. Voldemort received top marks when he was in school and was trusted with a lot of authority at a young age (being prefect and head boy) that showed his intelligence and ability to charm. He preformed feats of magic that many wizards has rarely been accomplished and did some of them at younger age than ever before documented. He is regarded by many to be the greatest dark wizard of all time. I could find sources for all these claims if you like, but I'm pretty sure you're joking so I won't bother until you ask
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 1:36
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    I think you might overthinking this. Here's question: How do you defeat someone who (as far as you know) is allied and subservient to you? Keep in mind: intent matters.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 4:47

14 Answers 14


Let's take a closer look at the scene in question. Voldemort, when explaining he is going to kill Snape, says the following:

"The Elder Wand cannot serve me properly, Severus, because I am not its true master. The Elder Wand belongs to the wizard who killed its last owner. You killed Albus Dumbledore. While you live, Severus, the Elder Wand cannot truly be mine."
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 32, The Elder Wand

The first thing this quote reveals is that Voldemort, even after knowing that Dumbledore was able to take the Elder Wand from Grindlewald without killing him, was unable to put two and two together. He claims that "The Elder Wand belongs to the wizard who killed its last owner," which, as we know, isn't true. It seems that Voldemort isn't as smart as he seems.

In fact, there are multiple instances where Voldemort fails to pick up the subtleties of a particular branch of magic. For example, he took Harry's blood in The Goblet of Fire without realizing the disastrous effect it would have on him:

"He took your blood believing it would strengthen him. He took into his body a tiny part of the enchantment your mother laid upon you when she died for you. His body keeps her sacrifice alive, and while that enchantment survives, so do you and so does Voldemort's one last hope for himself."
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35, King's Cross

And there's the fact he repeated his mistake of killing Harry's parents (which gave Harry magical protection against him) by killing Harry, which protected the students of Hogwarts from Voldemort's magic:

"You won't be killing anyone else tonight," said Harry as they circled, and stared into each other's eyes, green into red. "You won't be able to kill any of them ever again. Don't you get it? I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people..."

"But you did not!"

"I meant to, and that's what did it. I've done what my mother did. They're protected from you. Haven't you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can't torture them. You can't touch them. You don't learn from your mistakes, Riddle, do you?"
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36, The Flaw in the Plan

The second reason has to do with Voldemort's personality. In the first quote I cited, Voldemort claims that "the Elder Wand cannot truly be mine" while Snape lives. I suspect that Voldemort, regardless of whether he understood the subtleties of wand-lore, would have felt like he didn't own the Elder Wand unless he killed everyone who had a claim to it. Remember, Voldemort is obsessed with killing, and sees it as the solution to all problems. As the above quote shows, he incorrectly assumed that killing Harry would lead to his victory, even though it eventually led to his downfall.

To quote from a 2007 JKR interview on Pottercast:

[T]he Elder Wand knows no loyalty except to strength. So it's completely unsentimental. It will only go where the power is. So if you win, then you've won the wand. So you don't need to kill with it. But, as is pointed out in the books, not least by Dumbledore because it is a wand of such immense power, almost inevitably, it attracts wizards who are prepared to kill and who will kill. And also it attracts wizards like Voldemort who confuse being prepared to murder with strength.

This obsession with killing is probably why he ignored the clear evidence that it is not necessary to kill the previous owner of the elder wand to possess it.

To summarize: it's a combination of ignorance (on a wide variety of magical topics) and an obsession with killing that makes Voldemort kill Snape rather than disarm him.

  • 5
    Great answer and well researched! I too think it's largely in part due to his ignorance and his haste. It's interesting that one of Slytherin houses primary traits is shrewdness, which Voldemort shows time and again to severely lack.
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 1:51
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    @Lucharx Voldemort DID give Harry a chance. He told Harry to meet him in the Forest, which he chose to do. Harry also chose to not defend himself in the moment.
    – Bishop
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 19:22
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    @Bishop That does not count. Thats not a real offer. He would have killed him later.
    – Lucharx
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 20:27
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    @Lucharx I agree with Bishop, so I ask you, What does count? If Voldemort's "step aside", i.e. surrender and let me kill your son, counts as giving Lily a chance, then how does surrender and let me kill you not count? Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 22:01
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    It's not just Voldemort's ignorance, but his paranoia, that plays into this too. He sought out to kill a baby for fear of it growing up to overthrow him. Would he really want to keep alive anyone who the wand had given allegiance too? He'd forever live in doubt that the all-powerful wand may one day defect to another wizard that it had already worked for. I think that's part of what he meant when he was trying to make it "truly his".
    – user93707
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 13:18

Simply put, Voldemort is not one for half measures.

Could he be guaranteed the wand’s allegiance by just defeating Snape? What if the wand still did not fully work for him?

Well, then he’d have to kill Snape anyway. So why not take the most logical route for someone with no qualms about murder – just kill Snape and assure the wand’s allegiance.

He has tied up all loose ends in his mind in relation to this wand; Dumbledore is dead, Grindelwald is dead, making Snape dead leaves zero doubt in his mind.

  • 6
    It makes me wonder whether Snape told Voldemort the details of Dumbledore's death; if Snape had said from the beginning that Malfoy disarmed him and Snape only cast the killing curse, would Voldemort have thought to kill Malfoy, instead of Snape?
    – TylerH
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 0:25
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    @TylerH its speculation, but im sure Snape glossed over that part, he probably just said malfoy was unable to kill Dumbledore and so he(Snape) did it. to purposely leave voldy in the dark.
    – Himarm
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 0:27
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    @TylerH remember that Snape's ultimate allegiance was with Dumbledore. Part of Dumbledore's plan was to have Snape kill him on his (Dumbledore's) wish, thereby not being defeated and breaking the wand's power. Malfoy disarming him foiled that plan, but presumably Snape knew about it and was clever enough to not mention with whom the wand's allegiance actually was to mister V.
    – 11684
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 1:04
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    I also think that Draco was perhaps one of the few people that Snape actually cared for. The movies paint a different picture in this regard, but as far as the books go Snape didn't seem to truly care for Dumbledore. They were allies, but that is the beginning and end of their relationship. The only people he shows evidence of caring for in my opinion is Lily Evans, the Malfoy family and Harry Potter. He showed a clear preference towards Malfoy in his classes, comforted Narcissa when she was distressed over his mission from V and was long time friends with Lucius and was the only Death [1/2]
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 2:06
  • 3
    eater that continued to treat the Malfoys well after they fell out of favor with Voldemort. It is possible that this relationship he seemed to have with the Malfoy family was a contributing factor for him possibly not telling V about Draco disarming Dumbledore. Surely he knew this would make him a target and if he truly did care for the family - as it seems to me that he did - then he wouldn't want to put that target on Draco's back. [2/2]
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 2:07

This may not be the best explanation, but to acquire wand allegiance, you need to overpower the owner. If Voldemort wanted the wand's allegiance, he could only do so by defeating Snape in a duel (or killing him). He cannot just ask Snape to stand and then disarm him. Because that won't be overpowering because it had the consent of the owner (Harry couldn't have won Hermione's wand's allegiance when he tried to disarm her with the broken wand.).

“Hawthorn and unicorn hair. Ten inches precisely. Reasonably springy. This was the wand of Draco Malfoy.”

“Was?” repeated Harry. “Isn’t it still his?”

“Perhaps not. If you took it—”

“—I did—”

“—then it may be yours.


“I took this wand from Draco Malfoy by force,” said Harry. “Can I use it safely?”

“I think so. Subtle laws govern wand ownership, but the conquered wand will usually bend its will to its new master.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - The Wandmaker

And secondly, disarming is a very low level kind of thing, and Voldemort, the greatest Dark Wizard, would have found it in a complete contrast with his position.

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    But Draco didn't overpower Dumbledore, yet the wand gave him its allegiance. In fact, I don't believe they even engaged in a duel. Dumbledore hadn't struck or drew his wand. Draco just jumped out and disarmed him. This all seems to suggest that overpowering isn't required, just disarming. Voldemort finding the use of such a simple spell beneath him is a good point, though. It falls in line with his character and is believable.
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 13:45
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    No... It comes under overpowering..Do you remember the wand's allegiance turning to Harry when Harry snatched the wands from Draco? Its kind of similar case here... But Voldy won't do this... You can't imagine him jumping behind Snape, yelling "Expelliarms" and then "I got you, I got the wand..YEE!!!" :D Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 13:48
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    I am nearly making things up, but I think the wand changed his allegiance to Draco after Dumbledore's death. The wand might easily have chose Snape, but given that it was because of both the attacker and the victims consent, and the attacker never really wanted to defeat the victim, The wand didn't chose Snape. This is all mind made stuff with no canon fact. In the end "Wandlore is a complex thing, a wand choses a wizard, and its not known why such thing happen" :) Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 14:04
  • 2
    I don't personally believe that to be the case, but as you and Ollivander have said, Wandlore is a complex thing, so I guess this question can't be answered to 100% satisfaction.
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 14:33
  • 2
    I think their are two main perspectives here: Vold. simply likes killing people and looked down on non-lethal attacks. And, it would simply be impossible, Snape never would of fought Vold., he would bow and scrape and beg, not fight, so overpowering him would actually be impossible.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 19:06

Your reasoning is valid:

  1. Suppose the owner of the Elder Wand must be killed to obtain its allegiance.
    1. Dumbledore won the allegiance from Grindelwald without killing him.
    2. Contradiction of 1 and 1.1.
  2. Therefore, by reductio ad absurdum, the hypothesis is false.

However, your question is flawed:

Following this chain of logic, based off of what he knew, he must have realized

As explained in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,

“This isn’t magic — it’s logic — a puzzle. A lot of the greatest wizards haven’t got an ounce of logic, they’d be stuck in here forever.”

  • 1
    That is a very valid point that I hadn't considered. Good contribution!
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 1:39

I believe your assumption that disarming Snape would have been enough is faulty. The Elder Wand changes allegiance when the previous owner is defeated. If the Dark Lord had disarmed Snape but let him remain one of his most trusted servants, that would not count as a defeat.

When Professor Dumbledore has defeated the dark wizard Grindelwald, he didn't only disarm him and take the Elder Wand. He also put him in a prison cell from which Grindelwald could not escape. This was necessary, because Grindelwald was a powerful dark wizard who could have caused much trouble even without the Elder Wand.

Now if he took some time, perhaps the Dark Lord could also have defeated Professor Snape completely. Maybe he was powerful enough for that. But at that point, Snape would be useless to him, if not dangerous, so the Dark Lord saw no reason to leave him alive. It was easier for the Dark Lord to kill Snape than to defeat him in any other way.

  • 1
    My assumption that disarming would have been enough is based off the fact that it was enough on two separate occasions. Firstly when Draco disarmed Dumbledore. He wasn't the one to defeat him in the sense that you are speaking of, but the elder wand saw that as a defeat and gave Draco its allegiance. Then when Harry disarmed Draco. Again, he did not utterly defeat Draco. Draco still lived and he still was able to oppose him - as evidenced by him later ambushing him in the Room of Requirement - but the wand again considered this a defeat and gave its allegiance to Harry.
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 13:39
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    However, it still stands that Voldemort could have believed that the utter defeat that you detailed was what was needed, since he was unaware of the wands succession to Draco then Harry at the time of him killing Snape.
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 13:41
  • 1
    @SayaPerez: when Harry disarmed Draco Malfoy, he also escaped from captivity from the Malfoy Manor together with his friends. That's enough of a defeat. Had he not escaped that way, the Dark Lord would certainly arrive to the Manor, and Harry and his friends would be doomed. See giantitp.com/comics/oots0021.html
    – b_jonas
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 13:56
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    What constitutes as "enough of a defeat" and what is the evidence for it? The thing that every traceable defeat that was recognized by the elder wand in its allegiance have in common is that they were disarmed. Circumstances vary, but this is the distinct constant. I just did a bit of research on wand succession and the only thing Ollivander had to say was this "where a wand has been won, its allegiance will change." I can't find anything that suggests that the elder wand is an exception to this rule. As for what constitutes a "won" wand, I could find 2 examples quickly - Ron and (1/2)
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 14:16
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    Wormtails wand and Harry and Draco's wand. In the case of Ron and Wormtail, all Ron had to do was physically pry the wand from Wormtail's hand. No duel took place. Ron wasn't even armed with a wand to duel with, The same is true when Harry won the allegiance of Draco's wand. Harry was unarmed and took Draco's wand from his hand and thus won its allegiance. so certainly a duel is not required to gain a wands allegiance. It doesn't even seem like a spell is required. Just taking something by force. (2/2)
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 14:20

I think the answer might lie in the parallel situation between Snape and Dumbledore. If Voldemort and Dumbledore had similar ideas bout how the ownership of the wand passed on, then it would make sense of their actions. Dumbledore believed that ownership would not pass on to Snape because he was willing, because they weren't actually opposed to each other. The situation Voldie thought he was in was exactly the same, so once he realized ownership hadn't passed on it might be because Snape was willing, and the defeat (however the passing on was handled) wasn't genuine.

If it was the case, if Snape had been a willing follower, Voldie was left in a situation where most of the lesser things he could do wouldn't be defeat because his follower was willing. He couldn't think of someone being willing to die, though, as much as he feared death - so believed it was the easiest and most final way to win ownership.

The wand passes through defeat, but it seems the level of the defeat doesn't matter as much as the intent behind it. So a stun and run wins it for Grindlewald, and a wrestling bout wins it for Harry, but death doesn't win it for Snape because he was playing along, not defeating Dumbledore. That might explain how Malfoy got ownership from Dumbledore in the first place - Snape was only acting, but Malfoy was at least trying, so even a minor victory, even Dumbledore letting himself be disarmed, counted because there wasn't any better claim.

Dumbledore believed setting up his own death with Snape would not count as a defeat, and ownership would not pass on, because he was not genuinely trying to win... and it seems to have worked, or at least prevented the wand from passing to Snape with his death. Contrast this with the ownership passing through Malfoy. Harry wrestling the wand away from him counts - because they were enemies, it was a life and death struggle, and they were both serious about the fight.

And, back to Voldie - there was no real way to make Snape be serious about the fight (if he had been a loyal follower), except to raise the stakes higher than he was willing to give. And even if he had come up with some answer short of death - whatever made Snape willing to fight might have made him Voldie's enemy afterwards, so death was both easier and wiser, given what he knew and assumed.

  • 1
    Intent also seems to be a large factor on winning wands generally, that would be why it doesn't seem to happen in practice or schoolyard fights (that we see), but does happen in more serious conflicts, even if it is the same spell, or just physical struggling. But my answer was already getting too long with out that.
    – Megha
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 22:17

I don't believe there is a canon answer to your question, but it makes perfect sense in my mind: Voldemort wants to be absolutely sure his action counts as a defeat.

Killing is a very obvious defeat. What Draco and Harry do are not. And while Grindelwald's defeat was also obvious, the idea of capturing someone and putting them in prison just isn't something that Voldemort would do. Why waste the resources guarding someone, or trying to get them into Azkaban, where it has been shown it is possible to escape?

I see Voldemort as often jumping to killing just to be sure. It's why he's so good with Avada Kedavra--causing death is his goto tactic.

  • 2
    I think the root of my misunderstanding is that I assume Voldemort to think logically, but as another answer has brought out, great, powerful wizards are rarely logical, and Voldemort certainly isn't logical. A logical person would see the value of Snape as an ally and try to preserve his life if possible. They would therefore recognize that with the information they have, saving Snape was possible and beneficial so they would spare him. Voldemort isn't looking for the most logical solution. He is looking for the most sure, which would include killing Snape regardless of logic. Good answer! :)
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 1:42

Voldemort is not an adept at wandlore, just like an excellent car driver does not need to be a good car mechanic. He has hunted down the best wandmakers for clues, and even those are not masters of wandlore but practitioners. The potterverse's wizards generally are easily distracted and have few scientific leanings regarding discovering the origin of wand magic, or non-wand magic or elf or goblin magic or a number of other things. Even dedicated scholars like Hermione seem to be mostly focused on rote learning rather than deriving methodical access to magic.

Now Voldemort in particular specializes in death in his magic: killing others, saving himself from death. If your only tool is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail. Admittedly, to acquire power he can restrain himself to just threatening death, but it's not his natural urge as can be seen when he goes on a killing rampage when brought the bad Gringott's news. "Kill the messenger" is not a reasonable stratagem if you think rationally about it.

So when it turns out that Snape may be a problem, the principal question is whether to kill or not to kill him. The middle way, threatening to kill him, does not appear to make a difference to not killing him with regard to wand magic. Killing him might or might not be a game changer. But if it is, he is not risking to die just because of pussyfooting around.

Voldemort's solution always was "when in doubt, kill" and then some. He would not have it any other way, and in the end kills himself. Because Harry's solution always was "when in doubt, survive". And in the end, he does.


Your assumption, that Voldemort is always perfect, is flawed as a start.

Killing Snape is an example, that shows his extremely bad judgement on things like life, winning and losing. For Voldemort, death is the ultimate defeat while staying alive is the ultimate win - after all he choose 'flight from death' as his new name. So according to his logic in order to win you have to kill your opponent. The fact that it is not necessary does not concern him.

If you think this is his only wrong decision - here a sample collection of his other errors:

  • He insisted on personally killing Harry despite failing to kill him around five times in a row (not counting the one in the forest at the end of book 7). A 'kill on sight' order to every Death Eater and supporter would've been much more effective.
  • He didn't consider that Kreacher could survive after leaving him in the Horcrux cave
  • He created Horcruxes out of notable objects and made it much easier for Harry & Co to find them - a tin box or a pebble thrown in the ocean would've guaranteed his immortality
  • He took Harry's blood to revive himself without considering the consequences
  • In his anger he usually badly punished or even killed his own followers for just bringing bad news or failing to complete a task. This is something insanely stupid if you want to keep having followers
  • Killing Hepzibah Smith was absolutely unnecessary. He could have just stolen Hufflepuff's Cup and modified her memories and the memory of the house elf. Instead he left a trail that was later picked by Dumbledore

The list is much longer.

  • I certainly do not think Voldemort is perfect. Far from it. The confusion I have is more from the inconsistency of it. If Voldemort knew that Dumbledore had the wands allegiance, then he must recognize that killing is not necessary to win the wands allegiance. If, he did not know that Dumbledore had the wands allegiance, then he must believe that Grindelwald had it last and that he being Grindelwalds killer had it currently. In either of these scenarios killing his loyal (to his mind) servant was not necessary and even detrimental, so why do it? It doesn't add up.
    – Saya Perez
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 12:18
  • 2
    It adds up if you consider who Voldemort is. His logic is that way - "I must defeat the master of the wand to become master and for me defeating means killing. So I kill Snape since I think he's the master." He attempted to kill a 1 year year old kid just because the kid could become the one with the power to defeat the Dark Lord. For Voldemort "murder" is the solution for every problem. Servants are just disposable.
    – vap78
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 12:52
  • In my opinion, "Voldemort" does not mean flight from (away from) death. "de", meaning from where you come, what you are "of", not away from. I see it as meaning he is an overtaking force of death. Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 19:24

Plain and simply:

The Elder Wand knows no loyalty except to strength. So it's completely unsentimental. It will only go where the power is. So if you win, then you've won the wand. So you don't need to kill with it. But, as is pointed out in the books, not least by Dumbledore because it is a wand of such immense power, almost inevitably, it attracts wizards who are prepared to kill and who will kill. And also it attracts wizards like Voldemort who confuse being prepared to murder with strength.



An oldie but goodie.

Alright, so let's look at the scene carefully:

Voldemort raised the Elder Wand, holding it as delicately and precisely as a conductor's baton.

'Why doesn't it work for me, Severus?'

In the silence, Harry imagined he could hear the snake hissing slightly as it coiled and uncoiled, or was it Voldemort's sibilant sigh lingering on the air?

'My - my Lord?' said Snape blankly. 'I do not understand. You - you have performed extraordinary magic with that wand.'

'No,' said Voldemort. I have performed my usual magic. I am extraordinary, but this wand ... no. It has not revealed the wonders it has promised. I feel no difference between this wand and the one I procured from Ollivander all those years ago.''


'All this long night, when I am on the brink of victory, I have sat here,' said Voldemort, his voice barely louder than a whisper, 'wondering, wondering, why the Elder Wand refuses to be what it ought to be, refuses to perform as legend says it must perform for its rightful owner .. and I think I have the answer.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - pp.525-7 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 32, The Elder Wand

So, this isn't a question of Voldemort being unable to use the wand, in the way that Harry is unable to use the blackthorn wand. He is able to perform his extraordinary magic just as well as he ever could but he doesn't sense anything special about it.

Why is this, in his opinion? Why does the wand refuse to be what it ought to be, why isn't it revealing wonders? Because he hasn't earned the wand's respect. He believes true mastery of the wand comes through murder and bloodshed. Then it will not just work it will make him invincible.

Now then, why would Voldemort think that the blithering old fool Albus Dumbledore had won the wand's respect? After all, legend has it that the Elder Wand is "a wand more powerful than any in existence: a wand that must always win duels for its owner" (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, p.331). Dumbledore was an immensely powerful wizard, and yet when he duelled with Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Voldemort came off the better.

Why, then, would Voldemort think that "Dumbledore was the last person to wield the elder wand with its full allegiance" merely because he wielded it at all. He had taken possession of it, but need he have won its respect in the Dark Lord's mind? Need he have taken possession of its full powers and range of abilities, merely by winning it from Grindelwald non-lethally? I would say no.

But Voldemort wasn't looking for merely another wand. His old, cherished wand had not defeated Potter. Just another wand, with a different core to Potter's wand hadn't worked. He needed something stronger, something special. He needed the Elder wand as a way to guarantee victory over "the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord", the one who will "have power the Dark Lord knows not". He needed everything it had to give.

'He wanted you to tell him how to overcome the connection between our wands,' said Harry.


'You told him about the twin cores? You said he just had to borrow another wizard's wand?'

Ollivander looked horrified, transfixed, by the amount that Harry knew. He nodded slowly.

'But it didn't work,' Harry went on. 'Mine still beat the borrowed wand. [...]'


'We were talking about the other wand, the wand that changes hands by murder. When You-Know-Who realised my wand had done something strange, he came back and asked about that other wand, didn't he?'


'Yes, he asked,' whispered Ollivander. 'He wanted to know everything I could tell him about the wand variously known as the Deathstick, the Wand of Destiny or the Elder Wand.'


'The Dark Lord no longer seeks the Elder Wand only for your destruction, Mr Potter. He is determined to possess it, because he believes it will make him truly invulnerable.'

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - pp.400-1 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 24, The Wandmaker

He needed its respect. He needed to kill the last person to merely possess it, the last person to merely make it work, he needed to show that he was worthy of the full abilities of the Elder Wand.

And so Snape had to die.

P.S.: Needless to say, I'm suggesting what Voldemort may have thought, given what he knew and believed. I'm not suggesting that Snape really did have to die according to the actual lore of the Elder Wand. I'm trying to show how Voldemort could have believed that Snape had to die, even though Dumbledore was able to use the Elder Wand without having murdered Grindelwald.


To user1807's excellent answer, I will add the conclusion that Voldemort had a fatally mistaken view of what it means to be a master of death.

To him, mastery of death means that death is something that one inflicts on others, at will, but which never happens to oneself.

As Harry later learns (from the wisdom of Beadle the Bard and from Dumbledore), mastery of death means to meet death without fear, at the time and place of one's own choosing.

  • But Voldemort had never heard of the Hallows so had no alternative concept of what it would mean to be a 'master of death'. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 18:33
  • I didn't say that he did. I was borrowing what Dumbledore said to describe Voldemort's view of death. I agree that Voldemort probably did not put his attitude into those same words.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 19:49

He had to kill Snape. Snape is very smart, he knew Voldemort would want the Elder Wand, so he was willing to give it up. That would make defeating Snape impossible. How can you truly defeat someone who wants to lose? This is actually how Dumbledore planned to make ownership of the wand end with him as he planned to allow Snape to kill him, which means defeating someone who wants to be defeated does not transfer ownership. If Voldemort was smart enough to understand Snape would be willing to give the wand up - and if he wasn't, the short dialogue with Snape before killing him confirmed it - he would have realized he would have to kill him.


According to the subtle laws governing the ownership of wands - To win a wand, one must overpower and hence defeat its master in some way.

"Subtle laws govern wand ownership, but the conquered wand will usually bend its will to its new master." —Garrick Ollivander

So, the 3 ways possible to win a wand's allegiance from his old master are:

  1. Steal the wand
  2. Disarm/defeat the original master
  3. Kill the original master

One thing that remains common in all 3 is that to win a wand, one must overpower and hence defeat its master in some way, in a way that is against the original master's will and hence, a real defeat.

Given this, now if we consider the case in point, we can see that even if Voldemort was well aware of all these options to win a wand's allegiance, he would still go with killing. Let's see them one by one,

Steal the wand- The moment at which he realised that the wand's not answering to him was a very crucial moment, the one in which he had lost all (but one) of his Horcruxes. Plus he was in the middle of a war. And, hence too disturbed and pre-occupied to make a plan for stealing and definitely not an effort that he would make to save a life (something that he has no consideration unless it's his own).

Disarm/defeat the original master- Say, he thinks of challenging Snape for a duel to defeat him in order to win the Elder Wand. In this case, he would have to explain to Snape why is he (Voldemort) challenging Snape to fight with his own Lord and that too when a war is already going on. And, in that case Snape would willingly accept his defeat (in order to save his life, of course) which would not be a real defeat and hence, won't work.

This leaves us with the last option, which coincidentally is also his most favourite action and of course his one stop solution for all the problems- Kill him!


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