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Wands in the Harry Potter universe are instruments or tools which allow the bearer to channel and improve their magical abilities. Some wands even having an innate power.

Is there any reference as to:

  1. Where (optional)

  2. When (estimation accepted)

  3. Who

made this discovery?

  • @Voldemort It looks as though it could very well be. But surely there is some mention of the first wands used? – Möoz Apr 22 '14 at 23:19
  • 1
    If we can take into account Dumbledore's account of "The Tale of Three Brothers", then the elder wand is the earliest wand to be referred. In the tale - it is mentioned that the 3 brothers were well versed in the magical arts. If taking Dumbledore's version into account - we can assume that the brothers were able to channel their magical abilities into certain objects. So the original creator of the wand would be Antioch Peverell. – mustard Apr 23 '14 at 0:46
  • @mustard: Can you cite the part where Dumbledore says that the Elder Wand is the earliest wand to be referred? The most I could find was that the earliest mention of a wand made of elder with unusual powers is one owned by a Middle Ages wizard called Emeric. – Voldemort Apr 23 '14 at 1:34
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    @DoctorWho22 The Tale of Three Brother's says he asked for a wand more powerful than any other. But Dumbledore's version says that the Peverell brothers themselves created the very powerful object. Since there was no mention of there being other wands in Dumbledore's version - I inferred that the original wand was created by Antioch Peverell. – mustard Apr 26 '14 at 19:36
  • 1
    @Mustard given that Ollivander's family shop says that they have been around since 382 BC and Antioch was only born in the early 1200's then that would mean that wands have been around before his time. So this also lends to the theory that Peverell either asked for a more powerful wand / created a wand capable of defeating other wands. – DoctorWho22 Apr 28 '14 at 13:11
31
+100

I don't think there are any definite answers. I've drawn together what canon information I can find, and added my own speculation.

When?

Probably in the BC era, but it's not clear exactly when. The original wand probably bears little resemblance to the modern device, but the key aspects would be the same.

Ollivander’s

In Philosopher's Stone, when Harry visits Ollivander's shop, he learns that the family have been making wands since the 4th century BC:

The last shop was narrow and shabby. Peeling gold letters over the door read Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC. A single wand lay on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window.

It's likely that wands were in use before this date, and Pottermore backs this up:

The family of Ollivander has long been associated with the mysterious profession of wandcraft. It is said that the name means 'he who owns the olive wand', which suggests that the original Ollivander arrived in Britain from a Mediterranean country (olive trees not being native to the UK). Mr Ollivander himself believes that his earliest forebears in this country arrived with the Romans, and set up stall (subsequently shop) to sell to ancient British wizards whose wands were crude of construction and unreliable in performance.

However, the Roman conquest of Britain only began in AD 43, some four centuries after the Ollivander family opened shop. It's not clear how these timelines match up. Still, it puts an bound on the latest that wands could have been discovered and used.

There are suggestions in Pottermore than Ollivander invented the wand “as we know it today”

Prior to Mr Ollivander's proprietorship of the family business, wizards used a wide variety of wand cores. A customer would often present the wandmaker with a magical substance to which they were attached, or had inherited, or by which their family swore (hinted at by the core of Fleur Delacour's wand). Mr Ollivander, however, was a purist who insisted that the best wands would never be produced merely by encasing the whiskers of a favourite Kneazle (or the stalk of a Dittany plant that once saved a wizard's father from poisoning, or the mane of a kelpie a witch had once met on holiday in Scotland) in the customer's favourite wood.

The best wands, he believed, had cores of immensely powerful magical substances, which were expertly enclosed in specially selected and complementary wandwoods, the result to be matched to an owner with whom the wand itself felt the most affinity. While there was initially substantial resistance to this revolutionary way of crafting wands, it swiftly became clear that Ollivander wands were infinitely superior to anything that had come before. His methods of locating wand woods and core substances marrying them together and matching them to ideal owners are all jealously guarded secrets that were coveted by rival wandmakers.

However, this passage also makes it very clear that he wasn’t the first person to put a magical core in a piece of wood and use it to channel magic, so he didn’t invent the concept of the wand from scratch.

In an old page from her website, JKR explains how several characters have wand woods which match their birth wood from the Celtic calendar:

Some time after I had given Harry his holly-and-phoenix wand I came across a description of how the Celts had assigned trees to different parts of the year and discovered that, entirely by coincidence, I had assigned Harry the ‘correct’ wood for his day of birth. I therefore decided to give Ron and Hermione Celtic wand woods, too.

This may have been unintentional, but Malfoy is the same. The Celts were a dominant culture in the UK prior to the Roman conquests, so perhaps this lends credence to the idea that Ollivander arrived with the Romans, and he picked up this idea from the Celts. Or maybe it really just is coincidence.

Ancient Greece

But we can go back further. In a Comic Relief interview in 2001, JK Rowling said that "to do really good spells, you need a wand". Pottermore has at least one (alleged) instance of advanced magic that would pre-date the Ollivander shop:

Andros the Invincible. This Ancient Greek is alleged to be the only known wizard to have produced a Patronus the size of a giant.

The civilisation of Ancient Greece was over by the sixth century BC, at least a century before Ollivander opens. Assuming this report is accurate, and that you can't conjure a Patronus wandlessly, then this would be an earlier example of wand usage. (HP Wikia asserts that he mastered wandless spellcasting, but I can't find their source.)

Herpo the Foul is another ancient Greek wizard, responsible for creating the Basilisk, the Horcrux, and lots of other dark magic. We don't have dates for his activity, but this is another suggestion that wand-based or wand-like magic was around at the time of the Greeks.

Since we have Greeks performing relatively advanced wand-based magic, I'd guess the first wands were invented before even them (or at least before Herpo and Andros). There would have been some time between the invention of wands and this advanced magic.

The first explicit mention of wands

Ollivander aside, these examples only allude to the use of a wand, but none of them explicitly mention them. The earliest canon mention of a wand with a date that I can find comes from Quidditch through the Ages:

The famous painting Giinther der Gewalttlitige ist der Gewinner (Gunther the Violent Is the Winner), dated 1105, shows the ancient German game of Stichstock. […] The bladder-guardian was allowed to use his or her wand to repel these attacks.

There are illustrations (e.g. Rowena Ravenclaw on chocolate frog cards in video games) that depict people with wands at earlier dates, but I don't know if you would count those as canon. There are also mentions of spells, duelling and charms which presumably require wands, but it's never said explicitly.


Where?

Somewhere in Europe, maybe Greece?

The Pottermore page for Uagadou, the African school of magic, tells us that wands were a European invention.

Most canon instances of wizards and witches from the BC era hail from Ancient Greece. Since Greek philosophy and science was relatively advanced, and formed the basis of a lot of Western culture, perhaps the Greeks were the first to use wands. This could have been absorbed into the Roman Empire, then carried by Ollivander to Britain.

Ancient Egypt strikes me as another plausible candidate: they had curses (as evidenced by the need for Curse-Breakers like Bill Weasley; see Prisoner of Azkaban). But this is a throwaway line, so we can't place their wand usage, or lack thereof.

I don't know enough classical history to make plausible suggestions for other candidates (if there are any).


Who?

No idea.

Based on Ollivander's accounts above, it wasn't his ancestor who started the business. I also doubt it would be any of the named wizards above, as I think inventing wands (or being credited as such) trumps any other magical achievement.

As with most primitive inventions (fire, the wheel), the identity of the creator is probably lost to history. It's also plausible that multiple people invented it independently, and there is no one person responsible.

  • I didn't realize that the Ollivander sign was in the books lol... would have put it in my answer. – DoctorWho22 Apr 23 '14 at 19:25
  • 3
    In a general matter, shouldn't the where answer also be "multiple people throughout the world" ? There are many examples in history in which the same thing was invented in the same period in various places. I think it's reasonable to assume that the same happened for primitive wands. – Falyna Apr 24 '14 at 14:31
  • @Simon: There are vague allusions to it in Pottermore. I’ll edit the answer to update. – alexwlchan Apr 28 '14 at 14:29
  • Why those spoilers? I hate them! – user3459110 May 31 '14 at 13:45
  • @AwalGarg: so people who are working through Pottermore themselves don’t spoil themselves for sections they haven’t read yet. – alexwlchan Jun 1 '14 at 11:23
4

Where

Europe

The wand is a European invention, and while African witches and wizards have adopted it as a useful tool in the last century, many spells are cast simply by pointing the finger or through hand gestures.
(Pottermore - Uagadou)

When

Sometime before before 382 BC

The last shop was narrow and shabby. Peeling gold letters over the door read Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. A single wand lay on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window.
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 5)

Who

No canon answer

3

Well if you count the films to be canon then it can be said that wands have been around for a very long time the earliest actual date we have is the Sign of Ollivander's Magic Shop.

enter image description here

Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 B.C.

Other than that the earliest mention is the Tales of Three Brothers by Beedle that mentioned the Elder Wand. The problem with this is that Antioch Peverell asked for a dueling wand that was unbeatable, this would infer that wands existed prior to him creating / acquiring the Elder Wand.

Quote from Tales of the Three Brothers :

So the oldest brother, who was a combative man, asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence: a wand that must always win duels for its owner, a wand worthy of a wizard who had conquered Death! So Death crossed to an elder tree on the banks of the river, fashioned a wand from a branch that hung there, and gave it to the oldest brother.

Also Antioch Peverell was born and died around the 1200's so this means that wands existed during his lifetime.

http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Antioch_Peverell

Born
Prior to 12 July, 1214

Died
Prior to 18 May, 1291 Wizarding inn, England

  • Sir Cadogan was, according to Pottermore, a Knight of the Round Table and while the dubiously-accurate Wikia states he lived in the Middle Ages, if the Knights of the Round table did exist it would be sometime before that. Sir Cadogan, according to Pottermore, had a wand, giving us a wand in the times of the Knights of the Round Table. Pottermore states he went to Hogwarts, which was, according to the Pottermore, built around 990 so assuming Merlin was a part of the Round Table group in this universe we have a wand existing in the 10th Century. – Mac Cooper Apr 23 '14 at 16:36
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    You do realize that 10th Century is about 13 Centureis after the supposed start of Ollivander's family business... If Ollivander has been around since 382 bc that would mean that wands existed prior to Sir Cadogan by like 1300 years. – DoctorWho22 Apr 23 '14 at 18:51
  • According to the films. Book canon trumps and a throwaway signpost in the first of eight films is not considered by all as fact: Rowling didn't say that and the asker stated he preferred books and quotes by Rowling. – Mac Cooper Apr 23 '14 at 19:22
  • Just missed the edit time. I'm a moron, COMPLETELY misread the quote Alexwlchan gave. Ignore me :) – Mac Cooper Apr 23 '14 at 19:29

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