Why could young Tom Riddle do wandless magic? Dumbledore recounts the following memory to Harry via the Pensieve in Half-Blood Prince:

‘It’s ... it’s magic, what I can do?’

‘What is it that you can do?’

‘All sorts,’ breathed Riddle. A flush of excitement was rising up his neck into his hollow cheeks; he looked fevered. ‘I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to.’

Half-Blood Prince - pages 253-254 - UK - chapter 13, The Secret Riddle

Are there canon examples of any other character(s) demonstrating such prodigious, purposeful, and focused magical skill at the mere age of eleven? What about wandless magic that is not accidental?


7 Answers 7


Intentional wandless magic? Sure; look at Lily flying up from the swing-set, and making the flower flex.

“Lily, don’t do it!” shrieked the elder of the two.
But the girl had let go of the swing at the very height of its arc and flown into the air, quite literally flown, launched herself skyward with a great shout of laughter, and instead of crumpling on the playground asphalt, she soared like a trapeze artist through the air, staying up far too long, landing far too lightly.


“But I’m fine,” said Lily, still giggling. “Tuney, look at this. Watch what I can do.” Petunia glanced around. The playground was deserted apart from themselves and, though the girls did not know it, Snape. Lily had picked up a fallen flower from the bush behind which Snape lurked. Petunia advanced, evidently torn between curiosity and disapproval. Lily waited until Petunia was near enough to have a clear view, then held out her palm. The flower sat there, opening and closing its petals, like some bizarre, many-lipped oyster.

Seems pretty intentional to me :) It's also implied that Snape caused the branch to fall, scaring Petunia, but that is on the edge of intention/unintentional magic, like Harry's Hair, flight up the wall, and vanishing of the glass; each was a response to an impulse, not a direct choice, like Lily's magic.

Harry was oppressed for what he did, and didn't pursue it, but it's likely that he could have done much more (specifically, at least as much as Tom Riddle could) had he tried; he just had enough negative reinforcement that he didn't try.

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    Nice solid answer -- thanks especially for the canon references :) Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 2:46

Technically Harry produced such abilities himself. Making his hair regrow overnight, flying to the top of a roof while being chased by bullies, and of course the vanishing glass. However, he was far too frightened of what his Aunt and Uncle might do, that he never explored it. He preferred to ignore that the occurrences were strange in anyway, or that he cause them, lest he be starved for a week.

The case was different for Voldemort. People feared him as opposed to vise versa. He had the opportunity to experiment and fine-tune.

There are no other cases of intentional use of magic abilities without a wand that I can think of off the top of my head. I will say, however, that there is a serious lack of documentation in these books about young wizards born into wizarding families. So while she doesn't give us more examples of this, she also doesn't lead us to believe it doesn't just happen all the time.

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    Yes, but all the examples you gave for Harry are of accidental magic. Take a peek at the next two answers for canon examples of wandless magic that was purposeful, as opposed to accidental. :) Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 2:43

In Deathly Hallows (ch. 33), in Snape's memories, Lily had pretty good control of her magic. She made the flower open and close and used magic to jump high from a swing and fall slowly. These, and presumably other things, were what made Petunia jealous, eventually to the point of convincing herself wizards were "freaks." Lily evidently had a fair amount of control over her abilities at a young age too, but in contrast to Tom Riddle, she used her powers for fun and games, not manipulating and torturing others.


In Harry Potter, younger children are able to do magic without wands, but it is also unpredictable, like when Harry inflates his aunt in book three.

Wizards without training are like a wild horse, the strength and talent is there, but they have no way to control it. That is, until they go to one of the Wizarding Schools.

  • Riddle could control it, according to what Dumbledore told Harry in HBP Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 14:24

There are several times throughout the books and movies that people did magic without wands (however in the movies it could have just been for effect) For example, in the third book when Harry first gets to the leaky cauldron, Tom the barkeeper simply snaps his fingers to make a fire appear in the grate. There are all the times when young children perform magic without wands, either accidentally or purposefully, but they don't have a wand. Usually, by the time you acquire a wand, you wouldn't normally do magic without it unless your emotions got away from you (Book 3, Book 5, etc) Then there is of course the time in the seventh book when Voldemort is able to fly without any kind of support, a feat which had not been accomplished yet. However, this can be attributed to his enormous power at the time. Overall, I think magic without a wand is unusual for grown witches and wizards, but not unheard of. It isn't mentioned much in the books for whatever reason. I also think that you can normally achieve more powerful magic with a wand, as it is something magical to channel it through (and you will never get as good results with another witch's or wizard's wand)


Why Could Young Tom Riddle Do Wandless Magic?

  1. It seems that all magical children are expected to be capable of wandless magic. Neville Longbottom's relatives were 100% willing (okay, one proved willing) to risk Neville's life on the belief that he was capable of wandless magic.

Are there canon examples of any other character(s) demonstrating such prodigious, purposeful, and focused magical skill at the mere age of eleven? What about wandless magic that is not accidental?

  1. There aren't any cases in the books where a child that young performed magic at that level. I take Voldemort's mental manipulation of humans as the bar that nobody else reached. He knew the items that others treasured most, an awareness that strongly suggests legilimency. Legilimency is a skill of which only four living wizards/witches are known experts: Snape, Dumbledore, Voldemort, and whoever use Legilimency on Draco Malfoy in his Occlumency training (presumably Bellatrix, but possibly somebody else.) That's a VERY high bar.

  2. There are cases where young wizards and witches use magic intentionally. Lily is the best example, since it's so detailed. There is some debate as to whether or not McGonagall and Snape intentionally performed magic, but Snape's reaction to questioning and McGonagall's repeated use of the Accio charm are indications of intent. Hermione also used magic, possibly before a wand, but that was very close to her entrance to Hogwarts: it may not count as young enough even if she didn't use a wand.

    • Some of the strongest support for the existence of wandless magic by youths is from the Ministry of Magic. The Trace spell they use to track underage wizardry is targeted at all below 17, but NOT above 11, when most wizards get a wand. This very strongly indicates intentional, wandless use of magic by children, since there would be no point in monitoring usage that by its nature couldn't be controlled.

I maybe wrong,but in Voldemort and Harry case , there is something special. When Tom´s mom was pregnant she went through a depression that result in the loss of her power , it´s in half blood prince book (thought i dont remember exactly the citation but i ´ll take a look) and in this time all her power was concentrated in the little boy. So he born with a lot of "natural power" that only grow throught the training in hogwarts.That power were transfered to Harry in the night when he kill his parents.

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    Welcome to SciFI SE. if you are not sure, feel free to comment your thoughts. If you find it correct later on, post it as an answer then. Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 8:08

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