A LeakyCon Lesson in Wandlore

Oct 30, 2019

Posted by: Dawn Johnson

Fandom, Fans, Fantastic Beasts, Fantastic Beasts Movie, J.K. Rowling, LeakyCon, News

While at LeakyCon Boston not too long ago, we had the privilege of attending numerous spotlight panels on the MainStage and, happily, our foray into the wizarding world didn’t end there. We discovered many other panels of interest, including “Wandlore: An Ancient and Mysterious Magic” with Greg Laslo.

Laslo is the founder of The Hungarian Wand Shop, which specializes in wooden magic wands and specialty items. According to their website, Laslo “hand crafts each item into a unique, one of a kind treasure,” and he’s been doing it for well over a decade now. More than that, taking a page from master craftsman Ollivander, he’s not only an avid student of wand-making but of wandlore as well.

While not everything we heard was new, it was fascinating to revisit the lore established in J.K. Rowling’s stories, as well as some of the mythology behind it. And make no mistake, we were definitely surprised by some of the observations, too! Little did we know as Laslo settled behind the panel table what a magical lesson we’d happened upon…

Here are some of the most interesting takeaways from Laslo’s lecture and the speculation it inspired:

1) The wand improves with the wizard.


We’ve come to accept that “the wand chooses the wizard.” But Laslo pointed out that Rowling’s own lore indicates that wizards can  use other wands.

This being the case, he argued that the selection is less about “destiny.” Each wand has variables and properties–cores, woods, etc.–that make it unique, and when a young witch or wizard acquires their wand upon entering school as the age of 11, they typically get that wand from a wandmaker who has the understanding to discern which one might be a good fit. They make suggestions or educated guesses, but this is not the only way to procure a wand.

Laslo explained that just as one wand may channel power better than another, so might a wand be enhanced or improved by one wizard or another. For example, a wand in the hand of an average wizard may yet do greater things in the hand of Voldemort or Dumbledore, even though it did not “choose” either. It seems the efficacy of the wand may then run both ways.

2) Wands may be inherited.


Laslo reminded the audience that wands may be inherited but, as the suitability of the match and the skill of the wizard still comes into play, it won’t necessarily work as well for the heir as it did for the original master.

He pointed to Ron Weasley as a clear example of poor results from an inherited wand. He came to Hogwarts with his brother’s wand, and it was not suited or matched to him since they had extremely different personalities and gifts. Once that wand was replaced, however, Ron had a wand that matched to him, and there was a marked improvement in how his magic worked.

Another example of poor matching is found in Neville, who was forced to take his father’s wand to honor his father’s memory. Laslo said this actually set Neville up for two types of failures: It was mismatched AND defeated, therefore remaining loyal to Bellatrix Lestrange. However, there is an observable change in Neville’s abilities after it Frank Longbottom’s wand was replaced following Department of Mysteries Battle.

This suggests that while bequeathing a wand to a family member or taking up a wand in another’s honor may serve a sentimental purpose, it will not necessarily produce the same magical connection or prowess.

3) Wands may be commandeered.


Wands may be matched, inherited, and also commandeered, but does this always produce the same results as it would if defeated? Not necessarily.

After Harry and Voldemort’s wands linked in the cemetery following the Triwizard Tournament, Voldemort searched for an answer to overcoming the effects of that connection. When Lucius Malfoy failed to procure the prophecy from the Department of Mysteries, Voldemort took Lucius’ wand. The purpose was twofold–to add to Lucius’ disgrace and to commandeer another wand.

However, Laslo noted that Lucius’ wand was an elm wand favored by pureblood wizards. He speculated that this probably hindered Voldemort’s ability to exercise its full potential because he wasn’t pureblood. In this case, then, the nature of the wand trumped the skill of the user.

4) Why such harsh treatment of Hagrid?


Speaking of blood status, Laslo raised an interesting point. Why was Hagrid’s treatment upon expulsion from Hogwarts so harsh? His wand was broken, whereas even the wands of convicted criminals entering Azkaban are not destroyed. Presumably, there are stored somewhere on site or at the Ministry of Magic. Wherever they are, escapee Bellatrix Lestrange is able to reunite with hers.

Is it possible, then, that this is a matter of discrimination–if not spelled out in law then evidenced in practice? Is Hagrid treated differently because he is a half-blood? And not just a half-blood wizard, but a half-breed? After all, Madame Maxime is extremely protective of her giant heritage, and Remus Lupin resigns from his post after word spreads that he is a werewolf.

If it’s any consolation, Laslo believes Dumbledore probably used the Elder Wand to help “fix” Hagrid’s wand. The book is not clear about exactly what is hidden inside Hagrid’s umbrella, and it seems doubtful it could do any magic at all if it truly housed only the broken remnants of the wand.

5) The significance of the Elder Wand’s thestral core.


Laslo mentioned that there must be some significance to the Elder Wand’s unique thestral core. According to the folk tale “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” the wand is made by Death himself. However it was originally created, it does seem interesting that its core comes from a magical creature with a direct magical link to death. Only those who have witnessed it can see the beasts in their physical form.

This suggests that the core must somehow lend enhanced properties to the wand, either in its powerful ability to win and execute death upon others or, on the other hand, its ability to win and protect its master from it. For if possessing the wand and its hallowed companions make one “Master of Death” because the wizard can prolong life, it’s fitting that the thestral hair, introducing a witch or wizard to the reality of death through an intimate personal encounter, should play a part in approaching that final fateful meeting at the time of their choosing.

6) The Elder wand is unusually sentient.


Think about what the Elder wand can do, Laslo beckoned. It pursues power, senses power. It will actually abandon a wizard and change its loyalties to find a more powerful master. Laslo wondered if this is what happened with Grindelwald and Dumbledore. Is Dumbledore just the more powerful? If not, what other explanation can their be for Grindelwald’s defeat? Did some other magical property or loyalty affect the outcome of their duel?

Is it because Grindewald stole the Elder Wand from Gregorovitch without outright defeating him? Will there be some weakening residual effect of the Blood Pact we don’t yet understand? The Elder Wand is unusually sentient, it seems.

After all, Dumbledore believed that the Elder Wand would sense the nuance of his motivations and, willfully allowing Snape to kill him, remain loyal even in death and “apparent” defeat. Could the same question of motivation have come into play in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?

While Grindelwald appears to be disarmed by Tina and Newt, it seems not to have an effect on his ability to wield the wand in Crimes of Grindelwald, performing complex transfiguration during his escape and conjuring a powerful magical fire in cemetery. This suggests that Grindelwald allowed himself to be disarmed and taken into custody by MACUSA…for reasons we can only assume will come to light eventually.

Perhaps he wanted access to inside information? Perhaps he wanted to play himself off as a martyr, using his incarceration as a propaganda tool on his European campaign?

Either way, it’s evident that the Elder Wand is likely far more sensitive, far more cunning and far more mysterious than any other wand in existence.

7) The Elder Wand: Dumbledore’s choice versus Harry’s.


One audience member asked Laslo to comment on why Dumbledore used the Elder Wand rather than keeping his own, as Harry later did.

(With an appropriate sigh) Laslo ventured that Harry had enough problems and didn’t need that kind of stress. For Harry, restoring and using his original wand was like coming home. It had a grounding effect on him, and he thrived on that sense of familiarity and predictability. The Elder Wand, as history shows, brings anything but.

Dumbledore, on the other hand, had different experiences and motivations. As the books reveal, he always desired power and accomplishment. Perhaps keeping the wand was as much about maintaining his place in the wizarding world as it was about protecting it.

Then, after Voldemort rose to power, he likely felt he was dutybound to use it, if necessary, and keep watch over it, lest it fall into nefarious hands. His plan to take it to his grave suggests as much.

However, only Dumbledore (and J.K. Rowling) could truly say.

8) The wand also chooses how it’s going to look.


Moving the discussion from wandlore to wand-making, Laslo stated emphatically that the wand doesn’t just “choose the wizard,” it also chooses how it will look.

He explained that a wandmaker can’t force it into a particular design, much as they might like to. Numerous variables inherent to each piece of wood–knots, density, malleability–determine it’s shape. This makes each wand truly unique.

9) Snape had two wands!


Near the end of the panel, Laslo introduced a very interesting theory about Severus Snape, suggesting that the wizard must have had two wands. He referred to one as the “help Harry” wand and the other as Snape’s “do everything else” wand.

Though Snape was very skilled in the magical art of Occlumency, no amount of mental guarding would prevent Voldemort, with the deft use of Priori Incantatem, from determining how Snape had employed his time at Hogwarts, and Voldemort was undoubtedly very suspicious of his followers’ true loyalties. After all, he seemed to be constantly testing their mettle and devotion. Therefore, as a double agent, it would have been essential that Snape be able to hide his work for the Order and on Harry’s behalf.

If this theory proved true, it does lead one to wonder what Snape’s “other” wand might be and how he was able to use it so skillfully. Certainly, as theorized above, his natural prowess could contribute to a second wand’s effectiveness, but consider that he probably would have used it to conjure the doe Patronus. Could he, by any chance, have possession of Lily’s wand? If so, that would say much about the sensitivity of wands and the early connection and compatibility between the two.

10) Can a wand’s experience compound?


This question remained essentially unanswered, but it is interesting to consider, nonetheless. If we accept that a wand may improve with or be improved by its user, and that some wands are more sentient than others, it suggests that wands may, to some extent, “learn” as they age. Or rather, their innate qualities and properties may compound with experience.

Considering what we’ve already discussed about inherited or commandeered wands, this would not necessarily benefit every wizard who picked up a time-wizened, battled-tested wand. BUT. In the hands of the right wizard at the right time, it’s very possible the bounds of magic would be virtually limitless.

The thought certainly makes Harry’s choice all the more remarkable.

This panel discussion was only one magical part of a magical weekend, and many fans are already counting down to LeakyCon 2020 in Orlando! For a hint of what you can expect if you’ve never attended, read our recaps of Day One, Day Two and Day Three here.  Early bird-priced tickets for Orlando on sale here. Also check out Greg Laslo’s Hungarian Wand Shop here!

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.