In Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale) of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is revealed that the Sword of Gryffindor "must" be taken under conditions of "need and valor", and that kind of explains why it was placed in the frozen lake, rather than just having it placed outside their tent.

"Now, Severus, the sword! Do not forget that it must be taken under conditions of need and valor."

We also know, from the same chapter, that Dumbledore himself used the sword to destroy the ring Horcrux.

"Marvolo Gaunt's ring lay on the desk before Dumbledore. It was cracked; the sword of Gryffindor lay beside it."

This begs the question of whether Dumbledore himself had to receive the sword under said conditions in order to be able to use it on the ring; or is he excluded from that requirement by being the Headmaster, by knowing advanced magic or something like that?

Two points to clarify:

  1. I take the "must" part to implicitly mean "in order to use it" or be its "true master". Snape could obviously "carry" it, for instance , but maybe wasn't able to use it properly? (Then again, he was the Headmaster at that time, so maybe he could use it as well if we assume the above).

  2. Harry himself had already received the sword once under said conditions, so does this imply that one needs to "renew" his "worthiness" of the sword? This in turn implies that (if we don't assume Headmaster privilege) Dumbledore would need to have "renewed his worthiness" sometime between the end of book two and the beginning of book six, even if he had shown valor at an earlier episode of his life. (I realize that it was Ron and then Neville who ended up using it, both indeed exhibiting valor, but that really wasn't the intended plan).

  • 2
    JKR has stated that Snape put it in the lake out of spite, not because he actually needed to.
    – Valorum
    Jul 25, 2015 at 19:32
  • Would you happen to have a link to the JKR statement? Jul 25, 2015 at 21:55
  • To reconcile with the quote from the book, perhaps she meant it didn't have to be a frozen lake in particular, but any other, less extreme, condition of need and valor. Jul 25, 2015 at 21:57
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    "though the location of the sword was really due to a spiteful impulse of Snape's to place it there" - Pottermore
    – Valorum
    Jul 25, 2015 at 22:03
  • It sounds like Dumbledore is saying this to Snape as a bit of a safeguard. He seems to be protecting the Sword from being found or used by someone other than Harry. In a way, he's saying: "Remember Snape, others can't take it unless they're in conditions of need and valour". Harry, being the person in most need and showing the most amount of valour, was almost guaranteed to be the one to get the Sword, so long as Snape hid it well enough!
    – Möoz
    Dec 11, 2016 at 23:06

3 Answers 3


Dumbledore is talking c**p. There are no preconditions for passing the sword between wizards.

It's arguable that need and valour are needed for one to receive the sword. However, the sword could only be presented in these circumstances by the Sorting Hat. In all the other occasions that the sword changed hands, need and valour didn't enter the equation at all.

Let's look at the only two instances in canon where the sword 'presented itself' to people. Firstly, Harry takes it from the Sorting Hat in the Chamber of Secrets.

"Help me!...help me!..." Harry thought, his eyes screwed tight under the hat. "Please help me!"
Something very hard and heavy thudded onto the top of Harry's head, almost knocking him out. Stars winking in front of his eyes, he grabbed the top of the Hat to pull it off and felt something long and hard beneath it.
A gleaming silver sword had appeared inside the Hat, its handle glittering with rubies the size of eggs.
(Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17, The Heir of Slytherin).

Secondly, Neville takes it from the Sorting Hat at the Battle of Hogwarts.

In one swift, fluid motion Neville broke free of the Body-Bind Curse upon him; the flaming hat fell off him and he drew from its depths something silver, with a glittering, rubied handle-
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36, The Flaw in the Plan).

Were Harry and Neville both in conditions of need here? If the risk of being eaten by a wounded Basilisk or burned alive count as situations of need then yep. Did they express valour? Certainly. Neville had just given Voldemort the defiant "I'll never join you" speech whereas Harry had said that Dumbledore was a greater wizard than Voldemort. Rejecting the supervillain demands some courage. Harry also calls for help from the Sorting Hat; Neville may have done the same.

Now compare this to the other known instances of the sword changing hands in canon:

  • Harry giving the sword to Dumbledore.
  • Dumbledore (surreptitiously) passing the sword onto Snape.
  • Snape giving the sword to Harry.
  • Griphook taking the sword from Harry.

None of these instances display "need and valour". Indeed, with Griphook I'd more accurately describe his actions as displaying 'treachery and cowardice'. The reason why the recipients above don't need to display courage to get the sword is because they are being given it by another wizard, not presented with it by the Sorting Hat. Without the presence of the Sorting Hat, the sword could change hands just as any other magical item could.

In the specific case of Dumbledore which was asked for in the question, no, he didn't take the sword under conditions of need and valour. Harry seems to have just left the sword in his study in The Chamber of Secrets and Dumbledore took it upon himself to place it in his study.

"And did you kill a Basilisk with that sword in Dumbledore's office?" demanded Terry Boot.
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 16, In the Hog's Head).

As for Snape giving the sword to Harry, Snape obviously hid the sword in such a way that Harry would have to do something (kinda) heroic to retrieve it. This was quite unnecessary. He did it on the instruction of Dumbledore, as the quote in the question states. But Dumbledore was, intentionally or not, misleading Snape about the need for valour. It's quite logical to say that if Dumbledore didn't take the sword from Harry in courageous circumstances then Harry hardly needed to show any additional courage when taking it back. Indeed, Harry basically thought as much at the time.

Where 'chivalry' entered into this, he thought ruefully, he was not entirely sure, unless it counted as chivalrous that he was not calling for Hermione to do it in his stead.
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 19, The Silver Doe).

So Harry's dive is unnecessary. Although he and Ron do show bravery in retrieving the sword, others (including Dumbledore) took possession of the sword without showing any bravery whatsoever.

Conclusion: no, Dumbledore didn't display need or valour. And he didn't need to.

  • Maybe it's one of the perks being a H headmaster that they don't need the 'need and valor' conditions, and the sword just reappears in their office inside the hat and they can use it?
    – user68762
    Dec 11, 2016 at 18:53
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    I don't think so. As I say, in the only two instances of people being presented with the sword need and valour were very much the order of the day. Dumbledore isn't an exception. It's just that no worthy Gryffindor was presented with the sword between Harry and Neville. So the sword simply sat in Dumbledore's office during that period. Dec 11, 2016 at 18:58
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    I don't think that any Dark Lord's opinion regarding Albus Dumbledore can be objective at all :) Oct 27, 2018 at 11:39
  • The sword was taken out of its case by Dumbledore for the ring. Also, Dumbledore is headmaster of the school the sword belongs to, so maybe he can use it without any restrictions. Meaning the answer to the main question will be NO.
    – Shanty
    Oct 27, 2018 at 11:54
  • @Shanty Maybe. But we have no evidence to suggest that the sword behaved differently for the headmaster than it would for anybody else. I'm unconvinced. The sword is primarily a Gryffindor relic, not a Hogwarts one, so I don't see why it would answer in any way to the headmaster. Oct 28, 2018 at 14:19

The way I see it, it needs only to be found under conditions of need and valor. Otherwise, Dumbledore would have no reason to take it from Harry at the end of Chamber of Secrets. Also, he would have no reason to give it to Harry in his will. Hermione's opinion as stated in Deathly Hallows:

"It belongs to Harry!" said Hermione hotly. "It chose him, he was the one who found it, it came to him out of the Sorting Hat--"

Dumbledore and Hermione agree that Harry does not need to find the sword again under conditions of need and valor. Usually when that happens, they're right. Also notice that once the sword has been found under conditions of need and valor, it does not vanish and wait for more need and valor. It stays there. What probably happened was Dumbledore took the sword, not under conditions of need and valor, but off of his wall.


Looks like the 'need and valour' thing have something to do with using not having. Harry said to Ron:

"Because you got the sword out of the pool. I think it's supposed to be you". He was not being kind or generous... Dumbledore had at least taught Harry something about certain kinds of magic...

So though Harry could take the sword from Ron he kinda knew that it would work better for Ron this time. I'm sure Harry still would be able to use the sword, but maybe with less success? Maybe Dumbledore himself felt that the sword doesn't behave when he was breaking the ring?

It makes sense actually. If we assume it is the sword who chooses the true Griffindor to present itself (not the Sorting Hat), then we have a magical object with a spark of awareness. It may magically help to those who is worthy and resist to those who just took the sword without earning it with their valor. That's why a twelve-year old child was able to kill a huge Basilisk and Ron was able to break the locket even though he was pretty corrupted by it - the sword kinda guided them in their missions. And Dumbledore still could use it even without showing any need and valor as such.

So technically Harry could use the sword even if Snape would just put it at their tent's entrance, but Dumbledore wanted to ensure that sword would provide additional protection and power.

  • Rufus Scrimegour says in The Will of Albus Dumbledore (Book7)- "According to reliable historical sources, the sword may present itself to any worthy Gryffindor." It is unclear How the sword will do it without the hat. Note that handing the sword about once it is there is ok(or taking it in Griphook's case). Also, it is made clear that the sword belongs to Hogwarts, and Dumbledore is its headmaster so he can probably use it without any restrictions.
    – Shanty
    Oct 27, 2018 at 11:48
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    Good point about sword behaviour. It is similar to wands, any wand can be used by any wizard, but best results occur when the wand chooses the wizard. Similarly, anyone can use the sword, but best results when the sword has "presented itself" or chosen that person. So maybe just a common property of any magical tool and not necessarily sentient.
    – Shanty
    Oct 27, 2018 at 11:52
  • @Shanty The sword apparently can present itself only with the help of the hat, but I think it still the sword, not the hat who decides on the worthy Griffin for. The case with Dumbledore being the headmaster is possible, but is not a necessity to use the sword as I see it. Good point about the wands - yes, that's exactly the way I imagined the sword 'chooses' the wizard.
    – Shana Tar
    Oct 27, 2018 at 12:30
  • Yes. I agree on both counts. Anyone can use the sword if they have it. And that it is the Sword which chooses not the hat. What I meant is, without the hat present to act as a medium, we do not know how(or if) the sword will present itself when it is not already within reach, that is.
    – Shanty
    Oct 28, 2018 at 16:04

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