We know that both Gellert Grindelwald and Lord Voldemort were both exceptionally powerful wizards, but who was the more skilled at magic?

I would prefer a canon-based answer (e.g. referencing JKR and/or the various Potter books, JKR-involved works or, at the very least JKR-licensed works)

  • 4
    Asking for a canon-based answer to an 'opinion'-based question doesn't make it less 'opinion'-based
    – Möoz
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 1:50
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    Agreed. Gorilla Vs Shark questions are explicitly outside the scope of this site.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 7:33
  • Rita's article clearly says that Voldemort is #1, and Grindelwald is #2. The name of Grindelwald is justly famous: In a list of Most Dangerous Dark Wizards of All Time, he would miss out on the top spot only because You-Know-Who arrived, a generation later, to steal his crown.
    – ibid
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 2:25
  • @ibid She's talking about dangerous, not powerful. Grindewald was stopped before he committed the level of atrocities Voldy did. That's not to say Grindy couldn't have done so, if not for Dumbledore's early intervention (and affection).
    – user31178
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 3:06

4 Answers 4


I place Grindelwald over Voldemort for two reasons:

1) Voldemort wasn't able to penetrate Gellert's mind in Nurmengard when he was at his weakest.

2)Voldemort never knew about Hallows whereas Gellert sought to find those in his youth.

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    Excellent point with the legilimency, @Tom. Commented May 6, 2014 at 18:46

There's no direct canon proof either way, BUT:

Dumbledore beat Grindewald in 1945, with the latter being the current owner of Deathstick.

Yet, Voldemort fought Dumbledore (more aged; and thus more knowledgeable) to a standstill in MoM during events of OotP, with Dumbledore being the current owner of Deathstick.

  • So if D>G and V=D then V=G?
    – Valorum
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 17:33
  • @Richard I thought he was implying V>D because D had the Elder wand and still didn't defeat V. It's important to remember that D was not trying to defeat V. D was committed to the prophecy and was leaving V for H, so to speak...
    – TGnat
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 18:03
  • So D>G+E and V=D+E then V=G+E?
    – Valorum
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 18:07
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    @Richard I think DVK's original sentiment was more (factoring out the Elder wand) D > G, V > D, therefore V > G. Which to me only points out how silly the question is in the first place!
    – TGnat
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 18:30
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    @DVK Confinement he could have done, I suppose, if the duel was prolonged, but Voldemort, who was smart enough to know that, chose to flee, again something which Grindelwald would not have done. I suppose that, in any duel, the incident of one fleeing undeniably shows his recognition of the fact that his opponent was more skilled. Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 11:40

When discussing Horcruxes - Hermione tells the boys what she learnt from Secrets of the Darkest Art:

“Isn’t there any way of putting yourself back together?” Ron asked. “Yes,” said Hermione with a hollow smile, “but it would be excruciatingly painful.” “Why? How do you do it?” asked Harry. “Remorse,” said Hermione. “You’ve got to really feel what you’ve done. There’s a footnote. Apparently the pain of it can destroy you. I can’t see Voldemort attempting it somehow, can you?”

-- The Deathly Hallow, Chapter 6 - The Ghoul in Pajamas

Though we know that Grindelwald explored deeper into the Dark Arts - there has been no evidence that he actually created a Horcrux. However - there seems to be evidence that he did express remorse.

“Grindelwald tried to stop Voldemort going after the wand. He lied, you know, pretended he had never had it.” Dumbledore nodded, looking down at his lap, tears still glittering on the crooked nose. “They say he showed remorse in later years, alone in his cell at Nurmengard. I hope that is true."

-- The Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 - King's Cross.

Through the books - Dumbledore's message has been that Love is a very strong power - and from Hermione's discovery - remorse seems to be equally powerful. And Grindelwald was capable of one of those feelings atleast. Voldemort never showed either. So I guess that makes Grindelwald more skilled. Like Dumbledore - he had some restraint even though he may have been capable. Of course - Voldemort seems to be the more powerful one.


To expand on @Tom Lynd:

  • Voldemort sought only what would be power, to him. This is raw power and ability to inflict carnage or death.
  • Grindelwald sought to learn, and by his knowledge gain the wisdom attached, which would make him stronger (also with cool toys). So, he researches and seeks the deathly hallows, including the Elder wand, whereas Voldemort seeks the "death stick".

This inherently means that Voldemort is flawed, with his lack of understanding of the rules of inheritance in wand lore and the nature of the Elder wand. This very flaw is, with no room for debate (due to the ultimate fight between Harry and Voldemort in which Harry lays out the difference of inheritance of the wand to Snape vs Draco, leading to Harry), causing for the true master of the Elder wand to be Harry. That the wand doesn't truly respond to Voldemort is the crux of why his death is possible.

  • @Erik McCormick Well, Voldemort never knew about Snape's part and the blunder of Draco, how come could it be counted as his mistake? Commented May 5, 2014 at 14:31
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    His mistake lies in his assumption as to death being the ultimate control/power and how it relates to the succession of ownership of the Elder Wand. He didn't know about Snape's part at all (Order of the Phoenix), but did think Snape was who became the master of the "death stick", as he was the one to "pulled the trigger" on Dumbledore (the reason he gives for killing Snape in both the book and movie). It plays into part of why Dumbledore was so specific about asking for Snape to do the deed. It's different for Snape to help a suffering friend end his pain than straight murder. Commented May 6, 2014 at 18:44

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