In the Harry Potter movies, especially The Deathly Hallows, dueling spells that miss their targets almost always cause a building or other inanimate objects to explode rather violently, but that doesn't seem to happen when the spells hits the other wizards.

What is the reason for this?

  • 4
    ...because magic.
    – Adamant
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 1:18
  • 1
    I mean, the energy has to go somewhere right? Wait, never mind, magic. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 2:10
  • 1
    The spells are designed to work on living organic beings (e.g.: humans, trolls, giant spiders, etc.) Without organics and DNA and such, they're just energy. Pour enough energy into something and it tends to go bang.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 3:00
  • 1
    I just finished reading the 5th book with my 7 year old son. And there I realized that in the duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore the same speel even caused different damage to things: One time it explodes a statue, the second time it is used, it sets something to flames... quite inconsistent in the book either...
    – Tode
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 7:34
  • 1
    In the quoted sections, it describes the first blast against a statue that bounces off as "glancing" off it's chest, so maybe the one that explodes is a direct hit and the one that bounces off hits at an angle and is deflected (curvature of the statue may also be a factor).
    – delinear
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 10:47

1 Answer 1


This is speculation but I think it's accurate. Spells carry a certain energy which will do something specific on impact with a target. For example, Avada Kedavra has the potential to silently and immediately kill a creature it hits. This is curious, unusual and very powerful. Now, if there is nothing to kill and it collides with something else, it stands to reason that that energy or magical potential (or whatever you might want to call it) needs to be expended. It also stands to reason that this spell should be quite destructive.

I think the reason that they are destructive/explosive against inanimate objects but less obviously violent when they hit a designated human target is that when hitting a human a specific effect is unleashed - which may just be being magically forced to laugh or fall over. But, if this magical effect literally cannot happen because it is trying to, for example with Riktusempra, cause laughter but there is no mouth, no brain, no vocal cords - then that energy is expended as bangs, light and explosions.

So, send a specific spell at a human or animal and get the specific outcome, but send it at a wall or table and it cannot do its job and a violent outburst of magic is the effect.

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