Wands die with their owner

Following my answer in the question "Why did Voldemort visit Grindelwald?", I came across the following question: after Voldemort concluded that the Elder Wand's last owner was Dumbledore and he effectively desecrated his tomb to steal it, shouldn't he be alerted that since the Wand works and it hadn't just died with its previous (assumed-to-be) owner, then its owner would be alive and someone else?

Voldemort came to the realization that Snape is its true owner much later in the story but right after he wielded it for the first time or even immediately after he read Grindelwald's mind, he should conclude that considering Dumbledore is dead then so would be the Elder Wand. And since the Wand is "alive", then Dumbledore must have lost its allegiance before his death.

I don't believe that Voldemort didn't know that wands "die" along with their owners. He surely didn't know Wandlore (as nearly no one in the Potterverse knew) but as Harry Potter put 2+2 and figured out why he was the ultimate Master of the Elder Wand at the end, so could Voldemort.

  • Very similar (but closed) question: So how is it that Voldemort didn't know the rules of Wand allegiance
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 11, 2018 at 11:49
  • Why do you think that wands die with their owner? I don't recall anything in canon to suggest that this is true. May 10, 2019 at 21:19
  • @HarryJohnston: ‘I’m putting the Elder Wand,’ he told Dumbledore, who was watching him with enormous affection and admiration, ‘back where it came from. It can stay there. If I die a natural death like Ignotus, its power will be broken, won’t it? The previous master will never have been defeated. That’ll be the end of it.’ Dumbledore nodded., Chapter 36, The Flaw In The Plan, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. May 12, 2019 at 7:32
  • That's talking about the Elder Wand's special powers. No reason to think it applies to wands in general. May 12, 2019 at 10:24
  • Yet again, this is the Elder Wand we are talking about. Although, you are correct, I am implying that this applies to all wands in general. I am going to revise the question. May 12, 2019 at 10:25

2 Answers 2


NO. Because Voldemort doesn't understand Wandlore at all.

It is evident from book 4 through 7 that there are "certain kinds of magic" of which Voldemort had no knowledge. In the graveyard when his wand failed to kill Harry he didn't know why and he didn't even question that till much later. Then in the end of Order of Phoenix when he failed to possess Harry physically, he just couldn't fathom that there might be something about Harry which makes him superior to him. Voldemort's biggest mistake was his vanity. Dumbledore says this himself

“And his knowledge remained woefully incomplete, Harry! That which Volde- mort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and

children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and under- stands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power

beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.

Deathly Hallows: Chapter 35: Kings Cross

Only when he went after Harry at the beginning of Deathly Hallows, he borrowed Lucius's wand (As Ollivander told him under torture) and when it failed again, instead of understanding the problem he naturally tried to look for another solution. When he found out about existence of "the most powerful wand" his natural desire was to possess it without understanding how its ownership truly works. I don't think he even knew the concept of Elder Wand's power being destroyed if its owner died undefeated. Voldemort understands only power and to him murder meant the ultimate power over the enemy. So he made sure to murder all the living people who had previously possessed Elder Wand (Gregorovitch, Grindelwald, Snape).

Also, voldemort does realize that the wand is still not working for him properly but he misunderstands it and kills Snape thinking that it was because of Snape that the wand refused to be truly his.

“I have a problem, Severus,” said Voldemort softly. “My Lord?” said Snape.

Voldemort raised the Elder Wand, holding it as delicately and precisely as a conductor’s baton. “Why doesn’t it work for me, Severus?”

“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 extraordi- nary, 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.”

“Why did both the wands I have used fail when directed at Harry Potter?”

“My wand of yew did everything of which I asked it, Severus, except to kill Harry Potter. Twice it failed. Ollivander told me under torture of the twin cores, told me to take another’s wand. I did so, but Lucius’s wand shattered upon meeting Potter’s.”

“I sought a third wand, Severus. the Elder Wand, the Wand of Destiny, the Deathstick. I took it from its previous master. I took it from the grave of Albus Dumbledore.

“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.”

“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.”

Deathly Hallows: Chapter 32: The Elder Wand

This clearly indicates that Voldemort was alerted in some way that the wand didn't truly belong to him. Even when Harry tells him that Snape did not truly defeat Dumbledore since they had planned the death in advance, he failed to understand what it meant or wand might not have power since its last owner was undefeated.

“That wand still isn’t working properly for you because you murdered the wrong person. Severus Snape was never the true master of the Elder Wand. He never defeated Dumbledore.”

“He killed—”

“Aren’t you listening? Snape never beat Dumbledore! Dumbledore’s death was planned between them! Dumbledore intended to die undefeated, the wand’s last true master!

“But then, Potter, Dumbledore as good as gave me the wand!” Voldemort’s voice shook with malicious pleasure. “I stole the wand from its last master’s tomb! I removed it against its last master’s wishes! It’s power is mine!”

Deathly Hallows: Chapter 36: The flaw in the Plan

And lastly I think the power of Elder wand will die if the last owner is undefeated and this is confirmed by conversation between Harry and Dumbledore.

“I’m putting the Elder Wand,” he told Dumbledore, who was watching him with enormous affection and admiration, “back where it came from. It can stay there. If I die a natural death like Ignotus, its power will be broken, won’t it? The previous master will never have been defeated. That’ll be the end of it.” Dumbledore nodded. They smiled at each other.

Deathly Hallows: Chapter 36: The flaw in the Plan

  • (1/2) Regarding the fact that Draco was the Wand's true owner, I totally agree but that does not answer why he didn't immediately went to murder Snape to gain the true mastery -considering that he knew wandlore- believing that by killing Dumbledore, he had stolen its allegiance. Jan 11, 2018 at 13:01
  • (2/2) Now, as for the wandlore; nobody except Ollivander in the Potterverse does not understand it completely but they do know that wands die along their owner. The fact that his original wand shared the same core and more importantly from the identical bird, was not known to anyone except Ollivander and Dumbledore. He would of course not know that any duel between him and Harry Potter would activate a Priori Incantatem event. The sole effect was not even known to him, until the beginning of Book 7, when he extracted the knowledge from Ollivander. Jan 11, 2018 at 13:05
  • Is there a canon evidence that he indeed didn't know the concepts of Wandlore or the fact that wands lose their power upon their master's death? Because this would completely explain my question. Jan 11, 2018 at 13:09
  • I edited my answer to include quotes from the book to help clarify it more. hope that helps.
    – dobby
    Jan 11, 2018 at 13:32
  • Yep, it is clear now. Thanks! Jan 11, 2018 at 13:51

Voldemort thought that he claimed the wand from Dumbledore by stealing it from his body.

"I sought a third wand, Severus. The Elder Wand, the Wand of Destiny, the Deathstick. I took it from its previous master. I took it from the grave of Albus Dumbledore."

-- *HP and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 32: "The Elder Wand"

For some reason, he believed that taking a wand from its master even after its master's death was enough to transfer ownership to him. Perhaps his greed and pride blinded him to the fact that someone else had already killed Dumbledore before Voldemort came to his grave.

Or, perhaps he thought that Snape was just his tool. Since Dumbledore was murdered (as he thought) on his orders, surely that would have passed the wand's ownership to him, Voldemort. In the same way, in fact, as Nagini killing Snape on his orders was supposed to pass ownership to him, not to Nagini. Regardless of who carried out the deed, the order came from Voldemort and so it was Voldemort who was truly responsible for the death. Perhaps he thought that he was already the true master of the Elder Wand before he ever came to Dumbledore's tomb.

  • Also: (1) to him, wands were more important than people and (2) Dumbledore was the only one "worthy" of his attention, so he didn't consider anyone else as plausibly being the previous Master Jan 11, 2018 at 11:55
  • Yes, but he had a previous incident where wands acted on their own, when Harry's wand vanquished Lucious's one. As blinded by his greed and pride Lord Voldemort might have been, he calculated every move. I can understand that he hadn't foreseen what would going to happen the night he tried to kill Harry due to his inability to love but the lack of knowledge in wandlore? That I cannot believe. Jan 11, 2018 at 12:59
  • 1
    @Lefteris008 I'm pretty sure Voldemort doesn't really get wandlore. It's one of those types of magic he just disdains. This has been touched on in other answers on this site before (and, I now see, by dobby's new answer here).
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 11, 2018 at 13:06
  • I think it's a stretch to say that he's saying that that would transfer ownership. If he thought he was the true master he wouldn't have worried about using his wand to kill Severus; but he has Nagini kill him instead. So he did have some understanding. That's why he went after Severus in the first place. The 'took it from is previous master' is figurative: 'I took it from the grave of Albus Dumbledore.' That doesn't mean he took ownership of it. It means he's obtained it. He still had to deal with mastery however, and that's why he went after who he thought was the master: Severus.
    – Pryftan
    Jan 12, 2018 at 17:06

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