In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix chapter 27, Professor Dumbledore boasts to Minister Fudge that he could escape from the wizarding prison Azkaban.

‘[…] I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course – but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing.’

Is he telling the truth? If so, how could he escape? He wouldn't have a wand and, as the prison is guarded by Dementors, he would probably not have allies either.

  • 20
    there are many expert wizards who can cast strong magic without wands... plus he had a pet phoenix... after the breakout there will be nothing but some barbecued dementors, and a nice big hole in the wall of Azkaban... Feb 19, 2015 at 8:06
  • 5
    fawkes for the win.
    – Himarm
    Feb 19, 2015 at 14:08
  • 3
    @Whelt: There is something physical keeping the prisoners: the prison is on an island. Sirius Black had to swim through the sea as a dog.
    – b_jonas
    Feb 19, 2015 at 16:23
  • 13
    Dumbledore is basically Chuck Norris in the magical world.
    – tilley31
    Feb 19, 2015 at 16:53
  • 7
    @tilley31 Dumbledore tears are the alchemical equivalent to the elixir of life, too bad he never cries.
    – CBredlow
    Feb 20, 2015 at 19:32

2 Answers 2


There is no direct canon data about how Dumbledore intended to do it but there are some explanations how one can do it.

As a start - one can shield him/herself from the influence of the Dementors without a Patronus. There are several examples in the book about that:

  • Sirius Black preserved his sanity just because he knew he was innocent. He learned that Wormtail is in Hogwarts and his lust for revenge + the willingness to protect Harry gave him something that that the Dementors could not take. That way he managed to have enough power to transfigure himself into his animal form and flee.

Here the quote from The Prisoner of Azkaban:

"I don’t know how I did it,” he said slowly. “I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn’t a happy thought, so the Dementors couldn’t suck it out of me . . . but it kept me sane and knowing who I am . . . helped me keep my powers . . . so when it all became . . . too much . . . I could transform in my cell . . . become a dog"

  • Bellatrix Lestrange was largely unaffected by the Dementors during her stay in Azkaban. This was most probably due to her fanatic devotion to Voldemort which is again not a happy feeling and the Dementors cannot "take" it. As she is sentenced to life in Azkaban she explicitly states that she'll wait for Voldemort to return i.e. she's not afraid for her sanity... that's if we call her "sane" :)

Here are her words to the court (from The Goblet of Fire):

the woman with the heavy-lidded eyes looked up at Crouch and called, “The Dark Lord will rise again, Crouch! Throw us into Azkaban; we will wait! He will rise again and will come for us,

These two imply that a strong feeling that is not "happy" per se (like fanaticism, hatred or revenge) can shield one's mind from the Dementors so that he/she can perform some simple spells. I.e. most probably a disciplined mind can protect him/herself by inducing or imitating such feelings.

We should not forget that Dumbledore is the "most powerful wizard of his time" and also a very intelligent man. He can most probably "direct" his mind so that Dementors are kept at bay and do some simple wandless spells that will allow him to flee.

As a secondary option - he also has the Order of the Phoenix to assist him although I would consider this as a last resort since it will largely discredit them.

  • 4
    Fawkes is probably also a factor. Unless the Ministry has some way of stopping Fawkes from teleporting Dumbledore in and out.
    – Shamshiel
    Mar 4, 2015 at 15:33
  • 1
    Or House Elves, in fact, couldn't Lucius break Bellatrix free with Dobby?
    – Oak
    Mar 4, 2015 at 16:26
  • @Oak - that would have been seen as an overtly aggressive and anti-Ministry act, and would have reflected quite negatively upon Lucius. He might have done so once Voldemort was back, but a) he had already lost Dobby and b) it didn't take long after Voldemort's return for the prisoners to escape anyway.
    – Adam V
    Mar 4, 2015 at 18:35
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    @Oak - most probably Azkaban is well protected against breaches by House Elves. Some of the prisoners there have house elves and it would be very easy for them to call them for help when trying to break out. In general the magic of the house elves is not "stronger" compared to the one of the human wizards. It is just "different" (like doing some things that are impossible for wizards). Most of the time wizards underestimate them and forget to put appropriate protections just like Voldemort forgot that in the cave with the locket.
    – vap78
    Mar 5, 2015 at 6:24
  • 1
    Richard's answer to the question scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/82178/… which opines that concealment of ones emotions could serve as a way to keep Dementors at bay, also supports this answer. Mar 11, 2015 at 1:25

I think that there are a great many things that Dumbledore had at his disposal that your average Azkaban inmate wouldn't have enjoyed. (Others have made some of these points already but I think they also missed some of Dumbledore's options out so look at this as my version of a complete list).

  • An ability to do wandless magic.

In order to escape Azkaban, the first obstacle you have to overcome is your lack of a wand. Most wizards perform some rudimentary, random wandless magic as children but then become overwhelmingly dependent on their wands. Exceptionally powerful wizards, however, are able to channel their magical abilities so that they can perform specific spells without a wand, even as children. This was true of Voldemort.

"His powers, as you heard, were surprisingly well-developed for such a young wizard and - most interestingly and ominously of all - he had already discovered that he had some measure of control over them, and begun to use them consciously. And, as you saw, they were not the random experiments typical of young wizards: he was already using magic against other people, to frighten, to punish, to control."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13, The Secret Riddle).

Dumbledore is at least Voldemort's equal in terms of power and ability. If an untrained Riddle could do the things he could without a wand then just think what an adult Dumbledore at the pique of his powers could do. Charming metal bars, destroying walls, conjuring a boat - I have no doubt that he could do these things without a wand. Most inmates aren't that talented and so Azkaban probably wouldn't have spells to counter the use of wandless magic from the inside.

  • A conviction of his own innocence.

The second obstacle you have to overcome is the constant sapping of hope and joy by the Dementors. The only known prisoner to have escaped from Azkaban by himself was Sirius Black, who was able to resist the power of the Dementors. As vap78 says, Black survived because he knew that he was innocent of the crimes of which he'd been convicted.

"I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn't a happy thought, so the Dementors couldn't suck it out of me...but it kept me sane and knowing who I am...helped me keep my powers."
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19, The Servant of Lord Voldemort).

If we look again at the charges that Dumbledore was arrested on, we can see that he was totally innocent.

"Weasley!" cried Fudge, now positively quivering with delight, "Weasley, have you written it all down, everything he's said, his confession, have you got it?...The bit about how he's been trying to build up an army against the Ministry, how he's been working to destabilise me?"
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 27, The Centaur and the Sneak).

The two charges are building up an army against the Ministry and working to destabilise Fudge. Dumbledore has done neither of those things so would have benefited from the same righteous bubble of protection against the Dementors that Sirius had. Thus he would have kept his identity, his powers and his sense of hope - all of which he would have lost if he'd been guilty and all of which he'd need to pull off an escape.

  • A crazily-loyal phoenix that can burst into flames.

As RicoRicochet points out, Fawkes would have come in pretty handy in an escape. Indeed, using Fawkes was how Dumbledore escaped from his office. Fawkes can Apparate inside Hogwarts, which shows that he isn't to be waylaid by the magical constraints that apply to humans. If Azkaban had charms and defences to prevent Apparition by wizards they probably wouldn't keep Fawkes out. Once Fawkes finds Dumbledore, he can simply Disapparate with him to a safe location. Needless to say, phoenixes are exceedingly rare and most prisoners don't have the option of calling upon one to escape on.

  • A working knowledge of the magic of house-elves.

As Oak says, Dumbledore understands the ways of house-elves in a way that most wizards don't. Maybe Azkaban has protections against incursions by elves. Maybe they don't. If they don't then it wouldn't be that hard for Dumbledore to call upon an elf that was loyal to him (e.g. Dobby) and Disapparate with him to a safe location. Most wizards (not just Voldemort) overlook the magic of house-elves and so wouldn't consider that they have a magic that they themselves do not.

  • Insider connections in the Ministry of Magic and the criminal underworld.

OK, some of the inmates probably have connections in the criminal underworld. But not only can Dumbledore call in favours from a whole network of undesirables like Mundungus Fletcher but he also has access to friends in high places in the Ministry of Magic. Someone high up in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement (say an Auror like Nymphadora Tonks or Kingsley Shacklebolt) could probably ask to visit Dumbledore in Azkaban. They could then give Dumbledore a wand and try to break out together. This is the high-risk option that also involves revealing the confidante's affiliation to the Order.

  • Grawp.

If all else fails, having a huge, semi-civilised giant on your side's not going to hurt, right?

  • 2
    He can cast wandless transfiguration. We should rather question the sanity of anybody who thinks Azkaban can hold him.
    – Joshua
    Dec 10, 2019 at 2:06
  • I love your answer! I do want to venture one counter-argument, while the Dark Lord is arrogant enough to overlook the magic of non-wizards, I doubt the ministry would've made the same mistake while making Azkaban.
    – Siddhartha
    May 3, 2020 at 2:46

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