Dumbledore took Harry along with him to the sea cave where the locket Horcrux was hidden because he felt Harry had earned the right to accompany him. However, why did Dumbledore neglect to bring the Sword of Gryffindor with him to destroy the Horcrux?

First, Dumbledore was sure he had found where the locket Horcrux was hidden -- in the sea cave. He did not know how it was protected or what kind of enchantments it had placed on it. Second, Dumbledore knew for certain by this time that the Sword of Gryffindor could destroy Horcruxes, for he himself used it to destroy Marvolo Gaunt's ring, plus he had arranged to leave the sword to Harry in his will by this time for the purpose of Harry using it to destroy Horcruxes. Third, Dumbledore had no way of knowing beforehand that the Horcrux in the sea cave was a fake, and that he would not need to actually destroy it. Finally, Dumbledore put Harry's life in great jeopardy by taking him along to the sea cave to begin with -- why not bring along the sword for extra magical protection? After all, Dumbledore had no idea how this Horcrux would react, whether it was cursed, poisonous, etc.

To have access to a rare magical object which could absolutely, one-hundred-percent destroy Horcruxes, and to not take it on a Horcrux-hunting mission, is so inexplicable.

Why did Dumbledore do this? Why did he leave the Sword of Gryffindor behind on the night he and Harry went to the sea cave to recover the locket Horcrux?

Please no answers sourced solely from the HP Wiki/Wikia -- answers based in canon or speculative answers based in the spirit of canon are welcome.

  • 7
    ... Because Good IS DUMB! Jun 26, 2012 at 1:28
  • Because Dumbledore is not an HP fan with nothing better to do than read the books over and over again looking for pot holes. Or, if you'd rather phrase it another way, not even the smartest man is guaranteed to think of everything.
    – EvilSnack
    Jun 6, 2019 at 4:19

12 Answers 12


I don't think Dumbledore wanted to risk losing the sword. Dumbledore knew his death was near; he ordered Snape to kill him instead of Malfoy. While he may not have known it was that day, Dumbledore was prepared for it to be that day. Dumbledore used the sword in the summer of 1996 to destroy the Ring Horcrux. What happened after that?

We know Snape treated the immediate effects of the curse. We know Dumbledore expected Voldemort to order Malfoy to kill him. Upon finding out that his death was at hand, Dumbledore commanded Snape to kill him before Malfoy could succeed. I believe at that point, Dumbledore considered each day as his last. He had a specific plan for the Sword. I believe either Dumbledore himself placed the real Sword in a hole in the wall behind where his portrait would be, or he gave it to Snape then, and had him do it after his death. Either way, I don't think Dumbledore was willing to use it at the time. It was too risky to jeopardize his plan for the Sword in order to destroy the Locket that day. He knew Harry could do it when he received the Sword, with much less risk to the Sword. Dumbledore didn't want to remove the sword from either its hiding place or Snape's possession, and risk losing the sword due to his impending death.

  • 4
    I thnk it comes down to, destroying all the horcruxes at once with the sword, or bringing the sword to each unsafe location to destroy them individually.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Oct 8, 2012 at 9:02
  • 34
    Nonsense. The sword could only get lost if the Sorting Hat were lost. Remember that even after Griphook took the sword, Neville was still able to pull it out of the Sorting Hat at the end. Apparently the Sword of Gryffindor can always be pulled out of the Sorting Hat.
    – Kyralessa
    May 14, 2013 at 11:37
  • 8
    Kyralessa is right. Not -1, because this is a good attempt to answer, but it cannot be the right answer.
    – n611x007
    May 14, 2013 at 17:20
  • 5
    I'm not sure you can just pull the hat out of the sword. Doesn't there need to be a "need" for it? (Sorry for the necro)
    – DonyorM
    Mar 26, 2015 at 4:32
  • @DonyorM wouldn't destroying Horcruxes be a good need?
    – ava
    Apr 13, 2021 at 17:43

Don't have a canon answer, BUT several possibilities exist (not even mutually exclusive) that make some sense within canon:

  1. If an emergency situation arose where a sword was needed, surely Dumbledore, as a worthy Gryffindor, had the option of pulling the rabbit sword out of a Hat.

  2. He did not intend to destroy the Horcrux right then and there, since doing so would potentially endanger Harry (either via side effects of destruction or via sealing off the cave).

  3. He did not intend to destroy the Horcrux right then and there, since doing so would make it impossible to study it in detail later (which he didn't have an option of with the first 2 Horcruxes, one of which was destroyed outside of his sphere of control by Harry and one by him in a dire super-emergency (he was being killed quickly).

  4. He preferred to NOT let Harry in on the whole secret, and (given that he didn't want him to have the sword till MUCH later) at that specific time it would have been too early

Another possible option:

  1. Dumbledore DID have the sword on him, hidden in the Hat or otherwise. However, he was too incapacitated at the cave to use it on the Horcrux (or, as per bullet #4, too worried about tipping off Harry too early); and too busy dying at the Astronomy Tower. This one is iffy since how the hell did the sword get from his body back to his office?
  • 7
    " This one is iffy since how the hell did the sword get from his body back to his office?" It was Magic
    – Blue
    Jun 26, 2012 at 16:45
  • 9
    It seems that no matter where the sword is, it can always be pulled out of the Sorting Hat. Remember that Griphook had taken the sword earlier, yet Neville still managed to pull it out of the Sorting Hat at the end of the book.
    – Kyralessa
    Jun 27, 2012 at 2:38
  • The sword doesn't just appear. You have to be in dire need of it. Jul 7, 2018 at 13:22

In addition to what DVK said, carrying a sword is just not practical. It's heavy and unwieldy, could get in the way or get lost. There were still 4 pieces of Voldemort's soul to go, so what were the chances of needing so desperately and quickly to destroy the horcrux that it couldn't wait 10 minutes until they get back? Besides, if it got that desperate I'm sure Dumbledore could have used Fiendfyre or some other magic, he was the most powerful of wizards.

  • 12
    Sorry, I don't buy that. Hermione makes a "bottomless" bag.... surely Dumbledore can figure out a way to carry a sword easily. Jun 26, 2012 at 3:40
  • 1
    Swords are not that heavy. Good quality and balanced medieval longswords, and even two-handed greatswords were surprisingly light.
    – vsz
    Jun 26, 2012 at 6:23
  • @vsz - yep. This page has 3kg for two-handed. Jun 26, 2012 at 15:35
  • I'm sure Dumbledore can make the sword hidden (invisible) and float behind him. A bottomless bag or can just take the sorting hat so he can draw the sword out of it. Jul 7, 2018 at 13:21

Personally I believe it’s entirely possible he didn’t bring the sword because he didn’t need it. My opinion in the matter is that Dumbledore had an alternate method of destroying Horcruxes besides the sword. The only reason the sword was able to destroy them in the first place is because it absorbed the basilisk venom. Why couldn’t Dumbledore have had a basilisk fang with him? Also, Voldemort was able to destroy the hidden Horcrux (Harry) without the sword or a fang. Dumbledore’s insistence that Voldemort had to be the one to kill Harry suggests the creator of a Horcrux can destroy it easily without any aid. So I wonder, what other methods are there that aren’t even mentioned in the books. Any one of which Dumbledore may have had access to in the cave but was too ill/dead to use.

  • 4
    Nice theory, but giving your return key some credit wouldn't harm the answer :)
    – Kalissar
    May 14, 2013 at 8:53

One point that all the answers so far seem to have missed is that Dumbledore did not take the sword with him when he went to retrieve the ring Horcrux either. In Chapter Fifteen of Deathly Hallows Hermione asked Phineas Nigellus when he last saw the sword taken out of its case, and she received the following response:

"I believe that the last time I saw the sword of Gryffindor leave its case was when Professor Dumbledore used it to break open a ring."

This means that Dumbledore did not destroy the Horcrux until he returned to his office with the ring.

Apparently, his regular modus operandi for Horcrux hunting was to capture the Horcrux and bring it back to Hogwarts to destroy it with the sword. As such, the fact that he did not take the sword to the cave represents no deviation from the normal practice. He had no need for the sword in the cave because he generally didn't plan on destroying Horcruxes in the locations he found them.

As for providing extra magical protection, the sword actually doesn't seem very useful in that regard. There is not much the sword could do that one couldn't already do with a wand. In fact, when the Ministry spent weeks examining Dumbledore's will they were unable to come up with a reason why he would leave Harry the sword. When Scrimgeour suggested that the sword might have been meant to help Harry defeat Voldemort, Harry sarcastically responded (Chapter Seven):

"Has anyone ever tried sticking a sword in Voldemort? Maybe the Ministry should put some people onto that, instead of wasting their time stripping down Deluminators or covering up breakouts from Azkaban.

Apparently, there was no known special magic that the sword possessed (aside from the regular properties of goblin armor).


Kyralessa pointed out a problem with Gabe Willard's answer, which led me to this, already (partially) covered by DVK.

One option is that Dumbledore didn't want to lose the sword, but because of the Sorting Hat, he simply couldn't.

So what does that mean? There are DVK's alternatives, that he could get it in the right moment with the hat anyway, that he didn't want to endanger Harry, he wanted to study Horcruxes and that he didn't want rush Harry with the whole secret.

The last one can be unfolded.

Dumbledore knew he was going to die and he didn't want to risk Harry getting in contact with the sword because he knew that Harry will have to go through a very long path with only a very-very few direct help possible. The next most informed man after Dumbledore, Snape, can't help him much or too many times, since it would simply grab the attention of Voldemort. He couldn't just tell him because he must give Harry his own choices or else he wouldn't be better than a dictator, what Harry would eventually find out and would turn against the cause - and he also loved Harry very much. So the key in his plan and Dumbledore's only choice was to get Harry's mind into the right shape and put the information along his (then-projected) path, to be found around right the time when he needs it, and only by him. For this, he had to make Harry think about why Dumbledore did what he did to him, because then their thinking will match and Harry will find out the path where Voldemort could be defeated, the path Dumbledore prepared for him but the path only Harry can walk. He did this all along in Half-Blood Prince, too, stressing that it is of utter importance that Harry knows Voldemort in and out: that way Harry eventually will be able to see the plan on his own, while still having a choice all the time (even if in most of the time he only can find the path without seeing it). Dumbledore had no time to do anything else. And also had little choice because probably the only one who can walk this path is actually Harry.

And there is more, since Harry's mind is simply not very-well protected. Dumbledore couldn't risk Harry knowing anything without understanding the utter importance of every detail at the right time, because only then can he willingfully hide and protect that information from Voldemort and the Death Eaters, with the only other viable possibility is Harry not knowing something yet.

And part of all this was hiding the sword from Harry, so he only gets it under the circumstances that make him think and only at the time when he needs it, and probably making it so much personal that in case Harry lose the object without any clue, he will try to find it because he feels that it's important.

  • 3
    What's Harry Seldon doing in my Harry Potter book? May 14, 2013 at 18:11

I think the reason is quite simple: they wouldn't gain much, but they could easily lose the sword.

No one knew exactly what they would find in that cave. Dumbledore knew for sure that the cave is going to be very dangerous, but he didn't know if he and Harry will be able to get the horcrux. So if they had carried the sword with them, they would have taken a great risk. Yes, you can carry it around in the pouch. But what if the pouch gets lost? What if the person who carries it dies and the sword is gone with him? The disadvantages are clear.

Now, which advantage would they have gained if Dumbledore had taken the sword with them? Immediate destruction of the horcrux doesn't change anything since there are other horcruxes. Extra protection is also unlikely because it is not the horcruxes that pose a real danger, it is the curses set up by Riddle. Remember that of all the horcruxes only the locket had some sort of internal protection, and it was overcome rather easily. The diary doesn't count since it was only able to materialize into young Riddle because of Jinny, and the destruction of the diary itself was quick and easy. The real problem was the curses set up to protect the horcruxes and other Riddle's security measures, and the sword doesn't help against them.

So there are no real advantages, but the disadvantages are quite clear. That's why it makes sense why Dumbledore left the sword in the castle. There could be other reasons, but this seems the simplest one to me.

By the way, I like Kevin's answer, but I wanted to elaborate a little, so I'm leaving this as my own answer rather than a comment.


Gryffindor's Sword needed to be earned, not given, right? Well, a large part of Dumbledore's plan was to have Harry discover this for himself so that the only practical weapon capable of destroying the Horcruxes would remain in Harry's possession once he had virtuously obtained it (not disappear into the Sorting Hat because it had simply been handed to him). So Dumbledore had to ensure that Harry was kept in the dark about the Sword until the right time; bringing the Sword with them to the Horcrux Cave would have given everything away and perhaps rendered the Sword of Gryffindor useless in the long run.


We note in Deathly Hallows that there already seems to be an antipathy between the sword and the Horcruxes.

Dumbledore was probably taking the precaution of not taking a powerful magical artifact to a location where setting off any kind of alarm could cause the operation to go pear-shaped.


My bet is he planned on destroying the horcrux in a more protected location where they would not be under attack from the water creatures and an enchanted cave.

  • 3
    "He didn't plan on destroying the Horcrux in the cave" is covered by several other answers already
    – RDFozz
    Jan 13, 2019 at 4:48

I think he didn't have access to the real sword. So much of the book is about when the sword is the real one, and when the fake. D used the sword to fix the ring but that was quite some time previous to this sea cave episode. The real sword could have been with James - he certainly needed the protection - and could have been the next intended horcrux. I have wondered about its path after that.


Because Harry would've stood a better chance and actually learn something from it if he had the sword to destroy the remaining pieces of Voldermort Dumbledore's whole goal was to make sure that Harry stayed meek and humble so that the great Albus would always be there to rescue Harry from dumb decisions because face it there are a LOT of WTF Harry moments.

Having a weapon in Harry's hands would also start giving him Ideas about being independent that don't flow well with Dumbledore's greater good theory which has holes the size of Texas in it.

He likely wanted to die from the ring in his hands so that it would create the panic needed to start the final war with Voldermort or otherwise it would've all been too easy in Dumbledore's mind to keep everybody safe.

Dumbedore is a very dangerous headmaster and puts people's lives in danger for his own foolish theories and should share Sirius Black's old jail cell. Hey that's an idea for a fanfic! :)

This is just like when a Liberal does something erratic that ends in failure somebody like Hermione is always there to clean up the mess others make and SHE gets the blame. Bad mother teaching skills. Sorry Hermione but no matter how much you feel sorry for Harry and Ron they need to learn to look after themselves instead of helicoptering over them.

There's a reason schools in Asia don't have janitors and the kids clean things up. This is where Hogwarts could use self efficiency training on students to take care of themselves and their environment in and out of the classroom.

In fact calling for house elves should only be for extreme emergencies instead of being miniature Janitors but that's another topic.

Hogwarts is a very dangerous school and you are a fool for not taking extra precautions ahead of time both muggle means and magical. There literally isn't any rule that prohibits carrying a concealed firearm in the grounds or in the castle.

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