This question contains spoilers.

When reading the question How was Harry supposed to defeat Voldemort in Dumbledore's original plan?, I thought that the OP had erred when saying (emphasis mine):

[Dumbledore] believed that if he planned his death with Snape, the Elder Wand wouldn't recognize Snape as its new master... the Elder Wand would thus have no master and its true power would be lost forever.

I remembered that Dumbledore wanted the wand to pass its allegiance to Snape, and that was part of his plan. I looked it up and found two relevant quotes.

The first is between Dumbledore (in Harry's mind), and Harry, and seems to support Dumbledore wanting Snape to have the allegiance of the wand:

“If you planned your death with Snape, you meant him to end up with the Elder Wand, didn’t you?

“I admit that was my intention,” said Dumbledore, “but it did not work as I had intended, did it?”

The next is between Harry and Voldemort, and seems to support Dumbledore intending for the wand to pass to no one:

“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! If all had gone as planned, the wand’s power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him!

There seemingly is a contradiction here: Dumbledore said that he intended for the wand to pass to Snape, but then Harry contradicts that by saying that he intended for the “wand's power to die with him”.

Personally, I tend to submit to the view that Dumbledore wanted the wand's allegiance to pass to Snape, which is why he planned his death to be at Snape's hands. Additionally when Harry is talking with Voldemort, he is almost gloating, and it's possible that he isn't being 100 percent honest, though I can't see a reason for him to not tell the truth.

What did Dumbledore actually intend to happen to the Elder Wand?

Note: I saw the question What was Dumbledore's plan for the Elder Wand? Why didn't he bequeath it to someone (Harry, Snape...) for safekeeping? which makes this seemingly a duplicate, but neither the question nor any of the answers (including the accepted answer) talk about this seeming contradiction, so I view this as a related, but separate question.

  • 4
    Slytherincess' answer to that linked question answers the contradiction (and your question) clearly: "Dumbledore intended for the Elder Wand to go to Snape for safe-keeping.". E.g., he would have physical possession of the wand but not mastery/true-ownership of it. Oct 28, 2012 at 21:59
  • @DVK The answer makes no mention of Snape possessing the wand without ownership/mastery. Unless you are saying that "safe-keeping" implies that he will keep the wand safe, but not have mastery/ownership of it...which is a huge supposition to make from one word. Regardless, the answer doesn't address the main purpose of this question at all, which is why it isn't a duplicate.
    – NominSim
    Oct 28, 2012 at 22:28
  • 1
    That's exactly what safe-keeping means. From dictionary.com: "the act of keeping safe or the state of being kept safe; protection; care; custody". Custody implies exactly that: you protect the thing yet you don't own it. That answer addresses your main question precisely: D. intended the Wand to pass to Snape for safe-keeping (meaning, holding it without being its true master) Oct 28, 2012 at 22:30
  • @DVK Safe-keeping also implies that the object is intended to be returned to the owner at some point as well. It still remains that the question doesn't address the contradiction at all. One could argue too that the second paragraph in the answer implies that Snape was meant to become the master by Dumbledore. IMO using the word "safe-keeping" doesn't sufficiently address this question.
    – NominSim
    Oct 28, 2012 at 22:40

9 Answers 9


There is a subtlety here, and some may not agree with me. But I think it is all explained in one of the quotes you already provided.

“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! If all had gone as planned, the wand’s power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him!”

Dumbledore made a plan with Snape, for Snape to kill him. You interpret that as Dumbledore trying to make Snape the Elder Wand's master, I interpret the arrangement instead as a method for Dumbledore to die without being defeated. "Defeat" in the eyes of the wand seems to require the wand's master being bested against their will. Given Dumbledore's objectives, death at Snape's hands would have been the opposite of "defeat". That is the part "did not work as intended" - due to the unexpected interference of Malfoy.

All Dumbledore said with respect to Snape was that he wanted the Elder Wand to "end up with him". I would interpret that as some others have in the comments as a custodial relationship. A good thought provoking question though - you are by no means the only one confused by the quotes.

  • +1 See I had the same interpretation of the second quote...it seems to be the only thing that makes sense, but only without the first quote. The first quote seemingly contradicts it...since if it was custodial then you would have expected Dumbledore to leave it to him in his will, as we have evidence that Dumbledore took a lot of care in bestowing his possessions to the trio. I couldn't find a reason that any plan Dumbledore made to leave it in Snape's possession would fail, as the quote says...the plan seems to have failed because of Draco gaining its allegiance.
    – NominSim
    Oct 29, 2012 at 7:18
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    Well, a possible second explanation I had considered was that Dumbledore was under a bit of duress, with the whole Marvolo ring incident. He admitted to not having infallible judgement on many occasions. The ending also has a bit of a "Scooby Doo we've figured out the mystery" aspect to it. You may interpret it as Harry figuring out something Dumbledore had not. In this scenario Dumbledore intended to pass mastery by dying (since he had no choice, he was dying anyway), but Harry realizes later that doing so would have in fact destroyed the wand.
    – EBongo
    Oct 30, 2012 at 2:58
  • I think this makes absolute sense. I truly don't believe Dumbledore wanted anyone he loved to have the wand's allegience as it tends to attract violence. Dec 3, 2013 at 0:25

My answer is mostly based on the speculation that Dumbledore intended to make the Elder Wand into a trap for Voldemort

The complete thread is here Why Didn't Severus Disapparate In the Shrieking Shack?

from deathly Hollows chapter: King’s Cross

“But you expected him to go after the wand?”

“I have been sure that he would try, ever since your wand beat Voldemort’s in the graveyard of Little Hangleton. At first, he was afraid that you had conquered him by superior skill. Once he had kidnapped Ollivander, however, he discovered the existence of the twin cores.

…naturally set out to find the one wand that, they said, would beat any other.

…He believes that the Elder Wand removes his last weakness and makes him truly invincible. Poor Severus . . .”

Now that Dumbledore is sure that Voldemort was after his wand. Dumbledore forms his plan. Dumbledore intends to turn the Elder wand (Unbeatable wand) into a trap for Voldemort

The first step is to have Snape kill him, in such a way that wand ownership does not transfer to Snape (Dumbledore intends to die unvanquished)

Second Step is Dumbledore forms his plan with these scenarios in mind

Scenario 1

Voldemort steals the wand from Dumbledore’s grave (thinking and "believing" that stealing the wand will be enough to make him the wand’s master).

  • end results:

  • Snape would "not" have to die (preferable outcome - in Dumbledore’s mind).

  • Voldemort won’t order anybody else to kill Harry. Voldemort "believes" that he owns the Unbeatable Wand and Voldemort himself will want to kill Harry (which is the essential part of Dumbledore’s plan).

Deathly Hollows chapter the prince’s tale

“So the boy . . . the boy must die?” asked Snape quite calmly.

“And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential.”

Scenario 2

Voldemort steals the wand "but" eventually deduces that he needs to kill Snape (Dumbledore’s killer) to gain the Unbeatable Wand’s loyalty.

  • end results:

  • Snape has to die (regrettable to Dumbledore’s mind of course, but necessary)

  • Voldemort won’t order anybody else to kill Harry. Voldemort "believes" that he owns the Unbeatable Wand and Voldemort himself will want to kill Harry (which is the essential part of Dumbledore’s plan)

To resolve the discrepancy of wand ownership:

Deathly Hallows chapter the Flaw in the plan

“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! If all had gone as planned, the wand’s power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him!”


Deathly Hallows chapter King’s Cross

He believes that the Elder Wand removes his last weakness and makes him truly invincible. Poor Severus . . .”

“If you planned your death with Snape, you meant him to end up with the Elder Wand, didn’t you?”

“I admit that was my intention,” said Dumbledore, “but it did not work as I intended, did it?”

“No,” said Harry. “That bit didn’t work out.”

First quote takes precedence since it is more specific.

The conversation between Harry and Dumbledore should actually be read as

“If you planned your death with Snape, you meant him (Voldemort) to end up with the Elder Wand, didn’t you?”

My speculation is that it was only in King’s Cross chapter that Harry realized that Voldemort was supposed to end up with the wand. Harry also needed to confirm this with Dumbledore since only Dumbledore has the complete specifics of his own plan.

Harry realized that Dumbledore planned to turn the wand into a trap. A trap designed to exploit Voldemort’s desire to get an Unbeatable wand to kill Harry.

End result will be Voldemort wanting to defeat and kill Harry with an Unbeatable wand that Voldemort believes is loyal to him, but in reality, Voldemort is holding Wand that is still loyal to Dumbledore (as per Dumbledore’s original plan)

  • If the last bit of your theory were true, then why would Dumbledore and Harry both say that “it did not work as I intended” and “that bit didn’t work out”? If Voldemort was supposed to end up with the Wand as a trap, then that bit had worked out exactly as intended, even though it had taken some unexpected turns along the way. In fact, it worked better than expected: not only was Voldemort not Master of the Wand, but Harry was, which was better protection than having the Wand just be any ol’ wand for Voldemort. May 15, 2015 at 13:31
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet It didn't work out as intended because he did not expect Malfoy to disarm him. Even if he had seen that as a faint possibility, he could not possibly predict that Harry would later disarm Malfoy and so gain the wand's allegiance.
    – Mynamite
    Jul 9, 2015 at 22:48

Interesting discussion and debate. However, everyone here has missed an obvious answer to the contradiction. Perhaps Dumbledore was hedging his bets. He admitted to Harry on numerous occasions that there was a lot about magic even he did not understand. I would think his ultimate desire was to have the wand "deactivated" in a senses since he willingly gave his life, but he also was not SURE that this would happen, and who better than Snape to have it in CASE it did transfer it's loyalty to him. I think in Dumbledore's mind there were many possible positive outcomes to the tale, one being Snape killing Voldemort himself. It is clear he never intended for Harry to have it as he praised Harry for his dedication to searching for the Horcruxes and not the Hallows, making a point to say "you are a better man than me". Dumbledore just thought through all of the possible scenarios and made the best decision he could. Even more interesting is the fact that at the end of the day the tale ended in a way Dumbledore had probably not thought of, or at least thought of as a likely outcome, proving true what he said to Harry and others on many occasions, that no matter how it happens, the good or best thing tends to win out in the end.


J K Rowling said the Elder Wand is different from other wands as far as ownership is concerned, and will respond only to power. Thus, the Elder Wand changes its allegiance a lot more easily than other wands, since it has absolutely no affinity towards its master once that master is defeated (even if circumstantially and/or non-magically). I repeat, this is unique to the Elder Wand.

Now, in my opinion, Dumbledore really did intend on Snape becoming the master of the Elder Wand. But what really WOULD HAVE happened if Malfoy hadn't interrupted was that the Elder Wand's power would've died with Dumbledore, the last (and undefeated) owner. This is because Dumbledore's death by Snape was planned between them, and did not constitute defeating Dumbledore.

If this had happened, then Harry Potter would indeed have lost (although he would not have died because of Lily's protection inside Voldemort's body). In this case, the plan would indeed have backfired on Harry Potter.

But everything did not go according to plan in two ways. First, Dumbledore's plan was foiled as Voldemort would come to know of Snape and kill him, and become the real owner of the Elder Wand. Notice that he didn't use Avada Kedavra since the wand wouldn't allow him to kill it's true owner (This, I think, was Dumbledore's original plan.). He used Nagini instead.

This 'failed' plan has itself backfired because of Draco Malfoy. And you know the rest of the story...


I think this is perhaps the biggest ambiguity in Rowling's work.

  1. Dumbledore intended that he be the last master of the Elder Wand. There is certainly evidence of this ... Harry's statement to Voldemort summarizes the point succinctly. BUT, if this is the case then why did Dumbledore send them on a Hallows quest by bequeathing the book to Hermione? If the Elder Wand had no further power (as Dumbledore supposedly intended) then Harry could have never been the "master of death" when he faced Voldemort despite possessing the stone and cloak.

I do not think Dumbledore would have sent them on the Hallows quest if the Hallows would not have worked properly for Harry. Which means ...

  1. Dumbledore intended for Snape to become the true owner of the Elder Wand and then "lose" a battle to Harry. This is never quite explained in the book, but we know that Dumbledore had a portrait in the headmaster's office and spoke with Snape even after his death. We know Snape continued to trust and follow Dumbledore even after his death, as evidenced by the fact that Snape orchestrated Harry's possession of Gryffindor's sword on Dumbledore's orders. Snape followed Dumbledore's orders despite not knowing the "full plan" and would have agreed to a "staged" fight with Harry. Dumbledore (indeed everyone) knew that Harry's signature spell was the disarming spell. Dumbledore would surmise that Harry would not have it in him to kill Snape ... Snape would have been instructed to "lose" and abandon the wand to Harry, thus allowing Harry to possess all three Hallows.

This is the only scenario that makes sense that would explain why Dumbledore would have bothered to set things in motion for Harry to possess the Hallows and remember that he set this in motion through his will, which was obviously drafted before he died.


Not seen anything to suggest that it was in fact intentional of Dumbledore to allow Draco Malfoy to disarm him and thereby gain control of the wand?

If it was expected that Voldemort would attempt to take the wand for his own, and Dumbledore foresaw his mistaken view that killing Snape was the way to do so (because Snape killed Dumbledore) - then surely it was the perfect plan for Malfoy to become the unlikely owner of the wand, setting a trap for Voldemort.

Dumbledore knew Voldemort had ordered Malfoy to kill him, but made sure it was Snape in the end. He even says "Very good Draco" in a somewhat satisfied tone when he is disarmed. To me, it just seemed too easy for Malfoy to disarm him for it to have been an accident.


If Snape had killed Dumbledore without his consent, then Snape would've been the master of the Elder Wand, given that if Malfoy hadn't disarmed Dumbledore before Snape killed him. It was planned by Dumbledore so that Voldemort would assume that the new master of the Wand was Snape, but he would never know that the actual ownership remained with Dumbledore himself.

But unfortunately, their plan didn't work because Malfoy disarmed him earlier. This made Malfoy the master of the Elder Wand. None of them knew that Malfoy was the master, so Voldemort, under the impression that Snape was the master, killed him to take ownership of the Wand from Snape.

On the other hand, Harry disarmed Malfoy in the Malfoy manor and became the true master of the Elder Wand without anyone's knowledge. Even Harry realised that he was the master, only after he was able to kill Voldemort with the Elder Wand. It's just that Dumbledore's plan didn't work accordingly, yet everything ended in a positive way.

  • I don't believe that this addresses the contradiction described in the question. How can Dumbledore simultaneously intend for the wand to have no master and for Snape to be the master?
    – J. Mini
    Jul 23, 2022 at 10:22

I believe that Dumbledore wanted the ownership of the wand to pass on to Snape. And then, I believe he was wicked enough to have wanted Harry to kill Snape. Else, why did he want Snape to tell Harry he had to die, rather than someone close to him he trusted, like Hermione, McGonagall, or someone who would have been fitter to hand the news?

Killing Snape before his confrontation with Voldemort would have made Harry Master of Death, and he would have been able to sustain the AK curse without dying, henceforth destroying the horcrux inside of him.

I believe that was the original plan, but Draco interfered!


Dumbledore planned for Snape to kill him as he was already dying. You could look at this as a mercy killing or Euthanasia. Dumbledore would therefore have died undefeated as the death was already planned and was at Dumbledore's instigation and with his permission. Snape did not murder Dumbledore, he did as he was asked and as Dumbledore had requested. Yes he used the killing curse but he could easily have used a pillow to smother him and that would still count.
The fact that the death was pre-planned and commissioned by Dumbledore himself means that he planned to die undefeated and Snape would not have been master of the Elder wand because he did not defeat Dumbledore. The wand may have been planned to pass to Severus but he would not have been master of it as he would not have defeated Dumbledore. This would have been true, I believe, even if Draco had not spoiled the plan by disarming Dumbledore before Snape got there.

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