In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Draco Malfoy casts Expelliarmus against Dumbledore, causing his wand (the Elder wand) to fly over the ramparts.

As it was the Elder wand, the wand should have won him the battle. It should not have gone from his hand for a simple Expelliarus spell.

If the wand is so weak, how could it win other duels?

3 Answers 3


The book explains that Dumbledore chose to immoblize Harry rather than defend himself:

Dumbledore has wordlessly immobilized Harry, and the second he had taken to perform his spell had cost him the chance of defending himself.

In any battle, sometimes the simplest move can prove the most valuable. In this case, Dumbledore chose to protect Harry, and that gave Draco enough of an opening to use a simple spell that Dumbledore would otherwise have countered.

Although the most powerful wand in existence, the Wand can be defeated. In The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Dumbledore explains that he beat the Elder Wand in his battle with Grindelwald. Mr. Ollivander also stated that the Wand would only work for a new master if he/she directly disarms, stuns or kills the previous master - this clearly implies that the master of the Wand can indeed be disarmed.

Rowling has also said that the Wand responds to power; given that it's somewhat sentient, the Wand may have chosen Draco over Dumbledore, because Dumbledore demonstrated that he chose protection over power, whereas Draco was obviously power-hungry.

  • 3
    Also at this point Dumbledore doesn't want to win the duel with Draco. He knows what the final outcome will be - in fact he arranged with Snape to make sure that it ends that way. Arguably he would prefer Draco to do what he came to do, so that Snape doesn't have to do it. Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 14:30
  • 14
    @DJClayworth, I'd take you up on that argument. The last thing Dumbledore would want to do is induce a student to commit murder. At least Snape's actions can be justified as knowingly furthering Dumbledore's plan. If Malfoy were to have succeeded a completely different, possibly evil and more confident, Draco would have come down from the Astronomy Tower and changed the outcome of the story completely.
    – TGnat
    Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 15:28
  • 1
    @TGnat You may well be right. In any case, I don't think he wants to win the duel with Draco. Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 16:20
  • @DJClayworth Agreed.
    – TGnat
    Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 16:51
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    @DJClayworth, from DH, Chapter 33: "If you don't mind dying," said Snape roughly, "why not let Draco do it?" "That boy's soul is not yet so damaged," said Dumbledore. "I would not have it ripped apart on my account." Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 21:28

Simply put, the story of the three brothers is just that - a story. It claims that the elder wand is unbeatable, but that's not true and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary (the wand bearer is often defeated by other wizards in a duel and the wand passes on).

The wand is powerful, yes. However, the strength of the wand is useless if the bearer cannot (or does not) use it properly. To quote: "An expert with a stone can beat a novice with a kunai."

As Tony points out, Dumbledore chose Harry's protection over his own safety. Furthermore, even Voldemort did not seem to think it would help him defeat Dumbledore, he did not pursue it for the decade or so when he was in open opposition to Dumbledore and could not defeat him. Only when Harry's and Voldemort's wand played up di he want a powerful wand, to overcome the flaw in his own wand.

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    Voldemort does not know about Elder wand till the talk with Mr. Ollivander
    – The King
    Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 7:54
  • @King: The Tales of Beedle the Bard are common stories in the wizarding world, Big V would have been at least passingly familiar.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 13:06
  • @Jeff: it seems like most wizards consider the Deathly Hallows to be stories/myths, so e.g. they will obliviously use the Cloak for school pranks without thinking twice about it.
    – Martha
    Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 22:06
  • @Martha:The Elder Wand has it's own legends, independent of the Hallows.
    – apoorv020
    Commented Jun 13, 2011 at 22:17

Dumbeldore was already incredibly weak from a potion set in the cave where he thought it was a Horcrux even temporarily needing Harry to help him stand up until he mustered the strength to stand. Also the wandless magic which he performed to keep Harry safe and hidden. All these such actions debilitated Dumbledore therefore allowing such an easy spell like Expelliarmus to affect him by pushing the wand out of his hand. Because Expelliarmus feels like someone pushing you, whether it be a violent running push or a simple push on the hand, obviously though with supernatural elements as to not be able to push back the spell.

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