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This comment and the one following it raised the question of whether the Elder Wand could be broken simply by bending it until it snaps. Clearly this was possible in the movie, but I don't believe this occured in the books.

As Mikhailcazi argues:

Breaking the Elder Wand was only a part of the movie, and something I found utterly ridiculous and laughable. It's a wand - the Elder wand at that - not a random piece of wood. It can't be so easily snapped in two. Also counting the fact that he was the current master of the wand, even if it wasn't so powerful, I don't know if he could break it.

So... is there non-movie canon that indicates whether magic items can or cannot be broken by simple means (setting aside horcruxes, which obviously have specific requirements for destruction)?

Is there a difference in what is required to break or damage a magical item depending upon how powerful the magic item is (e.g. regular magic invisibility cloaks vs. the Deathly Hollows version)? Specific examples from either the books or interviews with J.K. Rowling are preferred.

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    You should define "powerful magic items" more precisely. Most invisibility cloaks wear out aside from the Hallow one. Harrys "twin core" wand was AFAIR broken from sheer physical damage in a fight with Nagini on Christmas. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Nov 13 '13 at 15:14
  • @DVK I've edited, but not to define "powerful magic items" as I'm not sure I can. Instead, I'm encouraging comparisons of differences in durability based upon relative power. I hope this is sufficiently narrow focus; if not, I'd appreciate any more suggestions on improvements. – Beofett Nov 13 '13 at 15:27
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    it should be noted that the elder wand is not just your average magical item – n611x007 Nov 14 '13 at 9:59
  • Whoa. I didn't even get a notif on being tagged. Haha :D @DVK Harry's wand broke because Hermione's "Confringo" curse rebounded and hit the wand instead of Nagini. :) Ron's wand, however, broke because of sheer force during the Whomping Willow incident. :) – The Dragon Rider who Lived Nov 19 '13 at 11:39
  • Another thing - if it is possible to break wands so easily, why didn't Dumbledore do it; he knew Voldy was after the Hallows. He had the wand in his possession for years – The Dragon Rider who Lived Nov 19 '13 at 12:44
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I’ll address the Elder Wand first.

This was possible in the movie, but I don't believe this occured in the books.

You’re right: in the books, Harry returns the Elder Wand to Dumbledore’s tomb. (He reasons that if he dies a natural death, then the wand’s power will die with him. He never discusses whether breaking the wand is possible or practical.)

There are two other instances of wands being broken:

  • In Chamber of Secrets, Ron’s wand is broken by the Whomping Willow.

  • In Order of the Phoenix, Neville’s wand is broken by Dolohov in the battle at the Ministry, when the Death Eater breaks his nose and his wand.

And here are some other instances of magical items being damaged by excessive force:

  • In Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry’s broomstick encounters the Whomping Willow.

  • In Order of the Phoenix, when hundreds of prophecies are smashed on the floor of the Ministry.

  • In Deathly Hallows, somebody remarks that Harry’s invisibility cloak is remarkably damage resistant – most would fade or tear, but his hasn’t. This implies that a normal invisibility cloak suffers wear-and-tear, and might be damaged by excessive force.

  • At a stretch, you could argue that people are magical items (at the very least, powerful ones like Dumbledore or Voldemort), but both of them would break if enough force was applied.

So the answer to the original question is probably not.

However, I think some of these examples give a hint at a refinement. (Here ends fact and begins speculation.)

We're told that the Elder wand is stolen from its first owner in his sleep. Its power isn't being used when it's stolen, so the fact that it was a highly magical object (and an invincible wand) didn't matter, because its magic wasn’t in play. If you tried to fight the owner in a duel, you’d probably lose, but not if you try to pickpocket what is essentially a wooden stick.

The prophecies explain this better. I think it would be quite difficult to “destroy” the prophecy (whatever that means – perhaps erasing all knowledge of it?), and the glass sphere is just a repository for it. You can destroy the container, but not the enclosing object.

People have similar properties: if we count the soul as being somewhat immaterial (if not actually magical), then we notice that destroying the body (the container) doesn’t destroy the soul itself. Of course, this falls apart if you mention horcruxes.

So I'd suggest something like the following: a magical item has excessive strength when its magic is used, but its container is as fragile as a non-magical object. But that's just a guess.

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    You forgot Harry's wand broken by Nagini in DH – DVK-on-Ahch-To Nov 13 '13 at 16:45
  • @DVK: Was it confirmed to be Nagini? My memory is fuzzy, but I thought Hermione said it was broken in the attack, probably by her ricocheting spell, but neither of them was sure. (Of course, that could well count as “magical means”, or it could be something falling on it.) – alexwlchan Nov 13 '13 at 16:48
  • nice listing. but was the elder wand a special magical item? like the invisibility cloak. – n611x007 Nov 14 '13 at 9:59
  • @naxa the elderwand was was one of the three deathly hallows siding along the invisibility cloak and the resurrection stone so i would assume yes. – sight ward Nov 16 '13 at 4:30
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    @alexwlchan Yep, Hermione's blasting curse seems to be the cause for the wand to break. Aaaaand, I've commented something above, on the question itself :) – The Dragon Rider who Lived Nov 19 '13 at 12:32
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is there non-movie canon that indicates whether powerful magic items can or cannot be broken by simple means (setting aside horcruxes, which obviously have specific requirements for destruction)?

Ron's wand was broken during a (flying) car crash at the start of Chamber of Secrets.

Harry's broom was destroyed by the Whomping Willow in Prisoner of Azkaban after the Dementors invaded the pitch causing him to fall off.

Both of those indicate that "powerful" magical items are capable of being destroyed using nothing more than sheer force.

Hagrid's wand was broken when he was expelled from Hogwarts, though there's never any canon information given on exactly what happened; I suspect the wand was simply snapped, severing both the outer layer of wood and the magical core inside it, rather than being destroyed using magical means. Hagrid was able to keep the pieces in an umbrella and use that as a focus when casting spells.

  • Good examples. +1. However, please note that I've edited the question slightly to inquire whether the relative power of magic items has any impact upon their durability (e.g. Ron and Hagrid's wands were both broken by force, but would the Elder Wand be similarly easy to break?). – Beofett Nov 13 '13 at 15:36
  • @Beofett I saw the edit after posting my answer. I can't think of anything immediately obvious that would allow us to conclude definitively one way or the other regarding the Elder wand, though I'd lean towards saying it could just be snapped. I'll give it some thought and edit my answer in a bit. – Anthony Grist Nov 13 '13 at 15:48
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    hmm, pretty sure the 'flying car' and the 'Whomping Willow' are magical items. They would impart magical energy in the events described, so not sure the examples are only 'sheer force' – James Jenkins Nov 13 '13 at 15:56
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    @JamesJenkins I knew as I was writing it that people were going to disagree because it's a flying car and the Whomping Willow isn't a regular tree, but I personally don't think that's relevant in either situation or that there's any reason to believe there's any magical energy being imparted at all when they make contact with other items. – Anthony Grist Nov 13 '13 at 16:01
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There is a passage at the end of Order of the Phoenix, when Harry is in Dumbledore's office after the battle at the Ministry, that would seem to clearly indicate that magical items can be broken by mundane means:

“THEN — I — DON’T — WANT — TO — BE — HUMAN!” Harry roared, and he seized one of the delicate silver instruments from the spindle-legged table beside him and flung it across the room. It shattered into a hundred tiny pieces against the wall.

“I DON’T CARE!” Harry yelled at them, snatching up a lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace.

He seized the table on which the silver instrument had stood and threw that too. It broke apart on the floor and the legs rolled in different directions.

He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office.

But words were no longer enough, smashing things was no more help.

“By all means continue destroying my possessions,” said Dumbledore serenely. “I daresay I have too many.”

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