This question: How could Dumbledore ever become the owner of the Elder-Wand? just speculates on the transfer of ownership of the Elder Wand. But the Elder Wand is supposed to greatly enhance the powers of the wielder. Grindelwald knew he wasn't a match for Dumbledore on even terms:

Over the years, Grindelwald raised an army and began a reign of terror that spread through several European countries and murdered many wizards and Muggles, though he never attempted to take power in Britain for his fear of his former friend, Dumbledore, who was "a shade more skillful" than he was.

But the possession of the Elder Wand should have given him the edge to be able to defeat him. The Elder Wand is supposed to make a wizard nearly invincible, their spells should always be more powerful than the opposing wizard.

How was Dumbledore able to defeat Grindelwald when he was facing the most powerful wand ever made?

  • 4
    I don't think that it 'greatly enhance[s] the power of the wielder'; from the Tales of Beedle the Bard: "...so the oldest brother, who was a combative man, asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence: a wand that must always win duels for its owner, a wand worthy of a wizard who had conquered Death!"...
    – Möoz
    Apr 14, 2014 at 22:07
  • 9
    @Mooz Harry's wand broke and one of the greatest wand makers of the day said it could not be repaired. Harry was however able to use the elder wand to repair his broken one, surely an example of the power of the elder wand not related to dueling.
    – Firebat
    Dec 12, 2015 at 14:30
  • 2
    If the EW had made anyone invincible, all the people trying to steal it would have died but we see it is actually the opposite. As other answers stated, an incredibly powerful weapon doesn't necessarily make its user incredibly powerful.
    – algiogia
    Dec 14, 2015 at 14:11
  • 1
    The same way that Voldemort was able to achieve a score draw against Dumbledore in the Ministry of Magic - with power, skill and wizarding knowledge. May 18, 2016 at 12:05
  • 1
    I've always had a theory about this, but I've been looking for possible canonical answers, but here's the theory anyway: Gellert Grindelwald was the second darkest wizard of all time. it would make sense that he would have a Horcrux. the only way to put your soul back together after making one is to feel remorse. Gellert and Albus used to be lovers, and Gellert may have killed Ariana. Perhaps he felt remorse when Albus showed up to face him, and that (painfully) put his soul back together? all Albus had to do was show up, and that defeated Gellert. Jan 10, 2017 at 21:36

11 Answers 11


Being more powerful does not make you more skilful. If the duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald was strictly about wand versus wand then you would be correct in that Grindelwald should have won. But the duel was also man versus man, and Dumbledore was more skilled, as he says in Deathly Hallows (Chapter 35):

I knew that we were evenly matched, perhaps that I was a shade more skillful.

Thus was Dumbledore able to out maneuver Grindelwald, either through a superior control/knowledge of magic and/or by being more cunning, and so Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald.

  • 3
    You should edit the quote to be the exact quote from DH instead of Wikia Oct 21, 2013 at 13:47
  • 5
    If they were evenly matched, and even if Dumbledore was only "a shade more skillful", the Elder Wand should have given Griendelwald such a huge edge that Dumbledore would have been decimated. I would think that Dumbledore would need to be immensely more skillful to defeat one with the Elder Wand, otherwise it isn't much of a Legendary weapon.
    – JMD
    Aug 6, 2014 at 14:03
  • 27
    I would like to note that Dumbledore's use of "a shade more skillful" could very well mean he was incredibly more skillful. He's not exactly one to boast and the fact that he even said it I think indicates how much more skillful he really was. If you gave two snipers, one skilled with a lesser gun and one not as skilled with a more powerful one, the skill is what would win. Wand to wand they were even, skill to skill, Dumbledore wins hands down
    – Ben
    Aug 6, 2014 at 19:16
  • 6
    @Ben was a time in which he knew Grindelwald to be in possession of the elder wand. He very well could have taken that factor into consideration when comparing his and Grindelwalds capabilities. In other words, perhaps when he said that he was a shade more skillful than Grindelwald, he meant that he was a shade more skillful than Grindelwald with the elder wand and much more skilled than him without it. [2/2]
    – Saya Perez
    Dec 13, 2015 at 2:36
  • 4
    @Krumia: Not so fast. If Grindelwald was not master of the Elder Wand, then Dumbledore could not have won it from him, and he would've had to go find and defeat the rightful owner. That's not impossible, but requires some additional legwork, certainly.
    – Kevin
    Aug 16, 2017 at 4:43

The Elder Wand was indeed powerful but, despite the legend that sprang up around it, it did not make its owner unbeatable. Dumbledore was clearly the most powerful wizard in existence, and probably of all time. Quite simply, he was powerful (and clever) enough to defeat Grindelwald even with the Elder wand on Grindelwald's side. I wouldn't be surprised if JKR made it that way in the book at least in part to show just how powerful Dumbledore is.

  • 16
    Dumbledore was clearly the most powerful wizard in existence - is that canon or opinion? The answers to this question alone show that "power" isn't a simple scale...
    – Izkata
    Mar 6, 2012 at 1:11
  • 2
    Yes, the idea that the Elder Wand bearer was powerful but not unbeatable was, IIRC, clearly mentioned somewhere. There was something about the wand having a bloody history as each new owner killed the previous owner to possess it. Sep 25, 2012 at 13:45
  • 6
    @Izkata He was considered so by everyone in the books. Maybe Voldemort's supporters would have disagreed, but Voldemort himself never even tried to fight him (except at the ministry where he had to run away).
    – Windle
    Sep 25, 2012 at 14:49

The Elder Wand isn’t truly ‘unbeatable’ - it’s been defeated before.

Though the Elder Wand is a very powerful wand, it isn’t truly unbeatable. Dumbledore confirms this in his notes for “The Tale of the Three Brothers” - the Elder Wand’s history shows its owners have been defeated in duels many times and having it is no guarantee of winning every duel.

“What must strike any intelligent witch or wizard on studying the so-called history of the Elder Wand is that every man who claims to have owned it28 has insisted that it is “unbeatable,” when the known facts of its passage through many owners’ hands demonstrate that has it not only been beaten hundreds of times, but that it also attracts trouble as Grumble the Grubby Goat attracted flies.”
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard

There’s another example in the Elder Wand’s history of a wizard who had it, was considered a powerful wizard, and was defeated by another of relatively equal reputation. This seems directly analogous to what happened between Grindelwald and Dumbledore.

“All that is certain is that a wand called the “Eldrun27 Wand” by its owner, Barnabas Deverill, appeared in the early eighteenth century, and that Deverill used it to carve himself out a reputation as a fearsome warlock, until his reign of terror was ended by the equally notorious Loxias, who took the wand, rechristened it the “Deathstick,” and used it to lay waste to anyone who displeased him.”
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Grindelwald having the Elder Wand was no guarantee he’d win every duel, the Elder Wand’s owners have been defeated many times before. Having it wouldn’t in any way ensure him victory.

  • 2
    These examples don't show that the wand isn't unbeatable: it may have been taken by non-magical means (like it happened with its first owner that was killed without any magic), so there wasn't any duel to beat the wand's magical power.
    – Ruslan
    Mar 15, 2020 at 21:22

It may have happened that Dumbledore disarmed Grindelwald(or moved his wand against his will) when Aberforth, Dumbledore and Grindelwald were dueling. Then he may have been the owner of the Elder wand since then. Thats how he owned it since the wand won't work properly against its master.

  • 7
    The easiest way. Even Draco can achieve this!
    – Himanshu
    Aug 7, 2014 at 8:49
  • 6
    But back then Grindelwald hadn't stolen the wand from Gregorovitch yet. He was not the owner.
    – Oriol
    Jan 10, 2017 at 22:54

I think just like Grindelwald took it from its previous owner. Possession of the Elder Wand does not make its owner invincible, just that his spells will be more powerful.

  • 1
    Grindelwald just stole it. He didn't win it in battle.
    – Oriol
    Jan 10, 2017 at 22:56
  • @Oriol likewise, harry nicked draco's - he didn't take it by magical duelling Jan 6, 2019 at 14:53

The only explanation that fits is that of Elder wand being crummy.

It’s only extraordinary function appears to be that it will not work against its true owner.

In fact it will fly into their hand upon use.

Oh no hang on, it will work if you want to kill them and tear part of your soul out of them…

Has JK offered any explanation on the power of this wand? because, to me, it seems unusually woolly - as Hermione would say. It simply does what the story needs it to do, bit annoying really, as the rest of the magical lore is largely practical and logical.

Unfortunately there is no evidence of the Elder wand being more powerful than any other wand, as its only owners in the Novels (except Harry/Draco) are Dumbledore and Voldemort, both of whom are already disproportionately extraordinary.

Dumbledore must have just been better on the day.

Dumbledore should have allowed Harry to win it from him before burying himself with it. Might have made Harry’s victory seem less like ridiculous luck. After all, he left very little else to chance.

  • 1
    That will not work, Harry Potter has to genuinely win it against Dumbledore's will or that will just be Dumbledore giving it to Harry Potter Nov 15, 2016 at 15:40
  • Voldemort never owned the Elder wand.
    – Oriol
    Jan 10, 2017 at 22:57
  • 5
    It is more powerful, since Harry could fix his wand with it even though Hermione's wand couldn't. And neither could anyone else fix a wand broken in half (as we see from Ron's wand in COS) Jun 21, 2017 at 10:06
  • @Apostolis harry should have started a wand-mending business Jan 6, 2019 at 14:55

The wand chooses the wizard.

I think that nobody mentioned in the Potter books could explicitly be stated as the wand's true owner after the Peverell brother was murdered. After that it was fought over, stolen, taken through trickery so it's 'true' owner was never really anyone other than the Peverell guy. Harry was related to him through Peter Peverell and therefore, the Elder Wand 'chose' Harry as it's true master due to his having mastered the other Deathly Hallows, his family connection and his bravery.

All of the other duelling between Grindelwald, Dumbledore, Voldemort etc was just one wizard's skill against another, the wand just happened to be held by each of them for some time without the full knowledge that it wasn't truly invincible except for the master of the Hallows, the master of death. Harry Potter.


There’s also the fact that Grindelwald is a Seer. He predicted that the Obscurial was in the United States and that World War II was going to happen more than a decade before it even started (the second prediction happened very near the end of Crimes of Grindelwald).

I kept thinking how and why a Seer and master of the Elder Wand would lose to Dumbledore. I mean, Grindelwald would not see Dumbledore for some 45 to 46 years, since the last time they meet is in 1899, and the legendary duel happened in 1945. That’s 45 to 46 years of Seer visions. We know how important Sybill Trelawney was to Dumbledore. He literally offered her a position in Hogwarts, and Voldemort wanted her after finding out that such prophecy existed about him and his probable defeat. That is, the three most powerful wizards of all time in the Harry Potter universe needed Seers in some way to stay in power.

And then I came to the conclusion that Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hermione (all three were seriously considered for sorting into Ravenclaw by the Sorting Hat) thought that Divination was very inaccurate and not exact. Dumbledore never took the subject, and McGonagall and Hermione shared the skepticism and personal dislike of Trelawney. Dumbledore himself stated at one point that the future can not be fully predicted due to the consequences of every single present action taken. Perhaps Grindelwald takes some Seer visions he will see too literally and then acts based on those Seer vision and then they are actually wrong or refers to ambiguous entities, and Dumbledore wins because Grindelwald interpreted them incorrectly.

  • Knowledge of the future doesn't necessarily mean victory. If I tie myself to a train track I can easily see the future (splat) but it doesn't mean I'll win in a fight against the train.
    – Valorum
    Dec 23, 2020 at 22:17
  • @Valorum, correct. However, Grindelwald saw World War II more than decade before it happened.
    – Kyle V
    Dec 23, 2020 at 22:36
  • @Valorum, there are far more events that can happen in more than one decade than in the time that it takes for a train to get from one station to another. There’s more steps that one can take to prevent or help make the Seer vision a reality.
    – Kyle V
    Dec 23, 2020 at 22:43
  • Knowing that you're going to duel with another wizard at some ill-defined point in the future doesn't mean that you'll be victorious.
    – Valorum
    Dec 23, 2020 at 22:44
  • @Valorum, if you saw the duel and trained yourself to block or avoid those attacks in the present, then you just might be victorious.
    – Kyle V
    Dec 23, 2020 at 22:47

Elder wand is unbeatable. Because Death itself gave it to first brother, saying that the wand will win any duels for the owner. So no matter how mediocre or powerful the owner might be, the wand will win duels.

The only possible explanation that we can rely on is, unfortunately, that of Rita Skeeter's. That Grindelwald simply conjured a handkerchief from his wand. Or we may say he simply gave in, either due to immense guilt, or fear of Dumbledore.


I'd venture to guess that Grindlewald indeed had rightful possession by stunning Gregorovich and steeling the wand (Deathly Hallows). If Grindlewald chose not to fight but to come quietly due to a relationship with Dumbledore, I'd say that doesn't fall into the category of "winning the wand".

It would have been similar to Dumbledore letting Snape kill him and die undefeated, as was his original plan (Deathly Hallows); the wand's allegiance was indeed Dumbledore's after the duel, suggesting that it was a real "legendary" duel. We know that the wand can be disarmed from its rightful owner against the rightful owner's will as evidenced by Draco's actions at the top of the tower (Half-Blood Prince).

I believe based on the Harry Potter universe rules, that after a lengthy duel, the contest tilted in Grindlewald's favor with the help of the Elder wand, but he hesitated on the fatal blow. He paused before killing Dumbledore perhaps because of the old love or friendship. Dumbledore seized upon the moment to disarm Grindlewald to win the duel. Dumbledore winning by outright skill over Grindlewald seems unlikely due to the wand's power and that Dumbledore admits Grindlewald and he are of equal talent, that he is only a shade more skillfull. Dumbledore is modest, but saying they are close to equal would be far from accurate if he could beat Grindlewald despite him having the Elder wand, if even possible. That's my take on it.


Perhaps Dumbledore didn't defeat him.

To quote Rita Skeeter:

"Oh, now, I’m glad you mentioned Grindelwald,” says Skeeter with a tantalizing smile. “I’m afraid those who go dewy-eyed over Dumbledore’s spectacular victory must brace themselves for a bombshell — or perhaps a Dungbomb. Very dirty business indeed. All I’ll say is, don’t be so sure that there really was the spectacular duel of legend. After they’ve read my book, people may be forced to conclude that Grindelwald simply conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand and came quietly!”

I think Rita is saying the truth here.

  • 2
    Could you explain how a duel where Grindelwald tries to die but Dumbledore refuses to kill him would work?
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 11, 2017 at 10:18
  • 1
    Yes. Grindelwald attacks Dumbledore with such strength that the only way Dumbledore could survive would be through defensive murder. (Obviously, Dumbledore must have found a loophole.)
    – TheAsh
    Sep 11, 2017 at 10:24

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