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When Newt and Tina enter MACUSA, we see a scene of a house-elf being handled over a wand to polish it. Even if it is a "servant" job, a house-elf holding a wizard's wand is seen as outrageous in the Harry Potter series. In Deathly Hallows part 2, Bella says:

"How dare you take a witch's wand?" —Bellatrix Lestrange to Dobby.

Sure, she says take, not hold, but I also had this impression in the books, considering house-elves have a wand ban. Also, the house-elf at that tavern in the movie seemed to have some degree of freedom by the way he acted. So I was wondering if anyone knows something about this? Are they free or do they have more freedom than house-elves in the UK?

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    You also have to consider the fact that Bella and Death Eaters and some Purebloods from their clique are essentially Nazis. We don't really see an ordinary witch's/wizard'd house elf taking a wand, so there's very little background (to my, admittedly limited, memory on this subject) – Gallifreyan Nov 23 '16 at 5:19
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    @Gallifreian That's correct but didn't the Ministry Squad sent to Quidditch cup in Goblet of Fire react in a similar manner when Crouch's elf (Winky, was it?) was found with a wand nearby? – Aegon Nov 23 '16 at 6:39
  • Yes! Thank you for remembering this incident too! And for the other person, please don't forget the wand ban, house elves and wands is a polemical issue in the UK, regardless of Nazi Death Eaters or not. – HollyK Nov 23 '16 at 13:08
  • @holly wand ban was on the goblins I think – user13267 Nov 23 '16 at 13:52
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    @user13267 Arthur Weasley: "Come off it, Amos. You don't seriously think it was the elf? The Dark Mark's a wizard's sign. It requires a wand." Amos Diggory: "Yeah. And she had a wand." Arthur Weasley: "​What?" Amos Diggory: "Here, look. Had it in her hand. So that's clause three of the Code of Wand Use broken, for a start. No non-human creature is permitted to carry or use a wand." — Arthur Weasley and Amos Diggory discover Winky with a wand following the Reappearance of the Dark Mark" – HollyK Nov 23 '16 at 16:08
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It’s unknown - but they mightn’t have to be free to polish a wand.

The house-elf working in MACUSA isn’t carrying or wielding a wand - he’s given one to polish, with the clear expectation that he’ll return the wands to their rightful owners.

“Owls circulate, witches and wizards in 1920s dress are hard at work. Tina guides an impressed-looking Newt through the bustle. They pass several wizards sitting in a line, waiting to have their wands shined by a house-elf who operates a complex contraption of feathers.”
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - (The Original Screenplay)

There’s no reason to believe that house-elves might not be allowed to clean wands. They’re not allowed to carry wands, but that’s more likely to mean “carry as if it were theirs” than mean they’re not allowed to touch a wand to clean it and give it back.

The status of American house-elves in general isn’t really clear.

Throughout the movie, we see five individual house-elves. There’s the house-elf working for MACUSA, and there are four house-elves at The Blind Pig - one who serves Jacob at the bar, one who brings Gnarlak a drink, one who brings Gnarlak a document to sign, and one who’s carrying a crate of bottles.

The house-elf in MACUSA is only seen using the wand-polishing machine. He doesn’t speak, or do anything indicating whether he’s free or not. It also isn’t clear if the house-elves in The Blind Pig are free or not. The one behind the bar, at least, seems to have a less subservient attitude towards humans than the British house-elves we’ve seen. He’s impatient with Jacob, and not genuflecting like British house-elves generally do. The Hogwarts house-elves, for example, all bow to wizards. However, the difference in attitudes could possibly be because he suspects Jacob isn’t a wizard.

Though it’s unclear how house-elves are typically treated in America, and whether they’re generally free, there are a few ways we can reasonably speculate. Since, in general, American wizarding society seems to be even stricter than British wizarding society with regard to separation from Muggles as well as the control of magical creatures, it’s unlikely they’d have a particularly more friendly position towards house-elves. It’s still possible that house-elves might be mostly free, but it seems unlikely. In addition, since there are fewer wealthy wizarding families in America, house-elves may be rarer there.

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It seemed to me that there were both free and non-free house-elves in the show. We routinely saw house-elves wearing clothing, but there were still a few wearing bags. House elves who wear clothing are clearly free, because giving clothing to a house elf sets them free. The house elf that was handed a wand was, if I remember correctly, wearing clothing. And so was the female house elf who was singing in the underground pub.

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    I'm not sure what you mean by show, but in the Harry Potter series free house-elves are very rare. Now if you're talking about Fantastic Beasts, you're mistaking them with goblins, the female singing is not a house elf. – HollyK Dec 6 '16 at 18:37
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I don’t know how much this might have to do with it, but consider the different histories of the us and the uk in relation to slavery, and the wizarding world’s relation to the non-magical world. Britain and the uk outlawed slavery in the earlier 1800’s, and though I know slavery was a huge deal in Britain throughout its history, and I’m not sure on the details, it seems to have been outlawed without catastrophe. The British wizarding world (or the one we see most in the books and movies) have been removed from the muggle world for a long time- most wizards seem to have little knowledge of the average muggle life, and it’s possible that the act of slavery and indentured servitude remained in the wizarding world while it didn’t survive in the muggle world. Americans, on the other hand, fought a great and bloody war between itself on the issue of keeping or abolishing slavery. The wizards we see in the movie are from the city, where though they don’t associate with no-maj’s they’re certainly in closer proximity to them. It’s possible there was more cultural crossover in the US than in the UK and the magical world in the US also decided to outlaw slavery or indentured servitude. This is nothing to say about racism or speciesism in the US or UK, but a general overall “maybe” about cultural differences between rural Britain and urban United States.

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