34

This question spins off of Why did Hagrid's umbrella work for him?, which discusses whether or not only Hagrid's wand, or indeed any broken wand, can be used.

Hagrid can clearly still use his wand, albeit only for simple spells, and even then, he does so only when Dumbledore gives permission. Ron's wand is broken, repaired with tape, and works, but poorly.

This conversation with Olivander implies that a broken wand might be useable, but shouldn't:

"Rubeus! Rubeus Hagrid! How nice to see you again.... Oak, sixteen inches, rather bendy, wasn't it." "It was, sir, yes," said Hagrid.

"Good wand, that one. But I suppose they snapped it in half when you got expelled." said Mr. Ollivander, suddenly stern.

"Er -- yes, they did, yes," said Hagrid, shuffling his feet. "I've still got the pieces, though," he added brightly.

"But you don't use them." said Mr. Ollivander sharply.

"Oh, no, sir." said Hagrid quickly. Harry noticed he gripped his pink umbrella very tightly as he spoke.

"Hmmm," said Mr. Ollivander, giving Hagrid a piercing look.
Philosopher's Stone - Chapter 5: Diagon Alley

Now it's not made clear that he's not to use them because it's not safe to do so, or if he's simply not allowed to.

In a military court martial (or at least in movies) a soldier is literally stripped of his insignia and emblems of rank. Now there's nothing stopping them from picking them up and sewing them back on, or buying new ones from the PX - the action is meant to signify that they are no longer in the army, and any attempt to present themselves as such will be met with harsh punishment. I've seen similar (more comedic) ceremonies in other professions in films - an accountant's visor is removed and his pencils broken, etc. The implication is "You are no longer one of us", not that the guy is rendered incapable of holding a pencil (unless the ceremony takes a very dark turn).

So the question is, is the breaking of a wizard's wand literally intended to render it inactive, or (my opinion) is it merely a symbolic ceremony intended to indicate that this person is no longer allowed to perform magic?

  • 3
    It is made clear that he is not allowed to do magic. He even states it in Philosopher's Stone, "Strictly speaking I'm not allowed to do magic", which is one reason he was eager to go fetch Harry, as it would allow him to do magic. – JohnP Jun 29 '18 at 17:03
35

Both

Wands work by channeling magic. When the wand is broken, it ceases to be an effective channel.

When Harry's wand breaks in Deathly Hallows, it becomes more or less unusable until the Elder Wand repairs it.

The holly and phoenix wand was nearly severed in two. One fragile strand of phoenix feather kept both pieces hanging together. The wood had splintered apart completely. Harry took it into his hands as though it was a living thing that had suffered a terrible injury. He could not think properly: everything was a blur of panic and fear. Then he held out the wand to Hermione.

‘Mend it. Please.’

‘Harry, I don’t think, when it’s broken like this –

‘Please, Hermione, try!’

‘R – Reparo.’

The dangling half of the wand resealed itself. Harry held it up.

‘Lumos!’

The wand sparked feebly, then went out. Harry pointed it at Hermione.

‘Expelliarmus!’

Hermione’s wand gave a little jerk, but did not leave her hand. The feeble attempt at magic was too much for Harry’s wand, which split into two again. He stared at it, aghast, unable to take in what he was seeing … the wand that had survived so much…
Deathly Hallows - Chapter 18: Bathilda’s Secret

(emphasis mine)

In Chamber of Secrets, when Ron's wand breaks, he (and Lockhart) has significant trouble using it.

‘My wand,’ said Ron, in a shaky voice. ‘Look at my wand.’

It had snapped, almost in two; the tip was dangling limply, held on by a few splinters.
Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 5: The Whomping Willow

Ron plunged his hand into his robes, pulled out his wand, yelling, ‘You’ll pay for that one, Malfoy!’ and pointed it furiously under Flint’s arm at Malfoy’s face.

A loud bang echoed around the stadium and a jet of green light shot out of the wrong end of Ron’s wand, hitting him in the stomach and sending him reeling backwards onto the grass.
Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs

[Lockhart] raised Ron’s Spellotaped wand high over his head and yelled, ‘Obliviate!’

The wand exploded with the force of a small bomb. Harry flung his arms over his head and ran, slipping over the coils of snake skin, out of the way of great chunks of tunnel ceiling which were thundering to the floor. Next moment, he was standing alone, gazing at a solid wall of broken rock.

‘Ron!’ he shouted. ‘Are you OK? Ron!’

‘I’m here!’ came Ron’s muffled voice from behind the rockfall. ‘I’m OK. This git’s not, though – he got blasted by the wand.’
Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets

So since broken wands don't work well, if at all, the purpose of a wand breaking ceromony appears to be funcitonal in nature.

However, since the witch or wizard could simply find another wand if they wanted, or possibly be proficient in wandless magic, the breaking of the wand also appears to be ceremonial.

  • 2
    It's too bad we don't have more from JKR on this on how the ban is enforced. Obviously Hagrid still had the ability to do magic, but never gets a new wand so there must be some sort of enforcement ban in place. – JohnP Jun 29 '18 at 17:38
  • 6
    @JohnP - I'm pretty sure I saw some reference saying there weren't a ton of wand-sellers around. So anyone trying to buy a replacement would have to go to one of the very few sellers, who (as Ollivander demonstrated in the quote) tend to keep track of who has what wand, and are well-aware of disciplinary expulsions. – T.E.D. Jun 29 '18 at 20:53
  • 4
    There's no wand black market though? Stolen wands, or wands bought at Ollivanders and then re-sold by less scrupulous wizards? That sounds right up Mundungus Fletcher's alley. – Jay Jun 30 '18 at 2:07
  • @Jay - That seems like it would be hazardous on the level of getting a back-alley medical implant. – T.E.D. Jul 3 '18 at 14:53
5

Owners can control their wands from a distance

When the Dementors attacked Harry and Dudley, Harry retained some control over his wand even when separated from it:

'Where’s – wand – come on – lumos!'

He said the spell automatically, desperate for light to help him in his search – and to his disbelieving relief, light flared inches from his right hand – the wand-tip had ignited. Harry snatched it up, scrambled to his feet and turned around.

Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 1: Dudley Demented

Although the effect in this case was slight, Harry's susceptibility to the Dementors' influence may have been an issue. In ideal circumstances, a witch or wizard may be able to exert stronger control over greater distance.

Arrests and disciplinary hearings might not cause wands to transfer their allegiance as effectively as defeats (as described in Deathly Hallows) in battle. Destruction of dangerous offenders' wands seems like a sensible precaution even if the risk of remote operation is low.

Preserving wands as evidence

If someone uses a wand to cast an Unforgivable Curse — such as Crucio to torture Aurors — then the law might require the authorities to preserve the wand (with safeguards, of course) for later investigation. In other cases such as Hagrid's — he was not accused of using his wand directly to cause the harm for which he was (unjustly) expelled — there would be no need for the authorities to keep the wand intact.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.