The Elder Wand and ‘Fantastic Beasts’: Who is the Death Stick’s Master?

J. K. Rowling tweeted in response to a question about the Elder Wand from a reader that, with respect to mastery of the Death Stick, “Physical possession is irrelevant.”

J.K. RowlingVerified account @jk_rowling Feb 19

I sent this and another tweet about Lethal White out to my list of Potter Pundit friends (just ask if you wanted to be added to said list) and received responses varying from “Not News” to “So What?” My answer to both those reactions is “Fantastic Beasts.”

 We know the end of the five part series of films, i.e., that Dumbledore will best Grindelwald in a duel for the ages despite the black hat being in possession of the unbeatable Elder Wand. Rowling, consequently, has to set up from the start this epic confrontation and mysterious victory with a host of clues about who is really the master of the Wand of Destiny.

 Hence the importance of “Physical possession is irrelevant” which we already knew from the climax of Deathly Hallows, because Harry’s victory over the Dark Lord was consequent to his “mastering” Draco Malfoy who had never touched the Elder Wand. The disarming of Grindelwald posing as Graves at the end of Fantastic Beasts, then, whether he was holding the Elder Wand in the subway or not, means that whoever disarmed him is now its master.

 So, who disarmed Gellert Grindelwald at the end of the first movie?

It depends, of course, on which version of the subway ending you embrace: that of the published Original Screenplay or the film as cut and released by Warner Brothers.

In the screenplay, as explained by Kelly Loomis in this postwe read:

“Scene 116 — Interior Subway — Night” (Page 256). “With a sense that [Newt’s] been holding this one back, he slashes [his wand] through the air: Out flies a crackling rope of supernatural light which wraps itself around Graves like a whip.”

Kelly explains:

This is the Original Screenplay/Movie synapse that John noticed that led him to ask me to see how many more differences there might be between what we thought was just a transcript and the film we saw in theaters. John thinks the “rope of supernatural light” mentioned in the Original Screenplay is important because (a) it suggests a story latch with the “sudden explosion of pure white light” (Scene 1, page 1) by which Grindelwald escapes his captors in the story opening (Grindelwald escape-capture), (b) the “holding one back” points to his having knowledge he would need this spell, i.e., his being on a mission from DDore who taught him this spell, and (c) the subduing of Grindelwald means Newt is the Master of the Elder Wand.

John may be wrong on this last point (the wand is Accio’d by ‘Tina in The Original Screenplay which is his real disarming; we know GrindelGraves can do magic wandlessly) but it’s no small scene, right? And the film does it differently than what is in the published text.

This film shows Newt doing three things where the “Original Screenplay” has him throwing Swooping and casting the rope of light. He throws out the Swooping Evil who again protects himself and Tina, then Newt uses his wand – it seems! it’s not quite visible in the DVD clip — and a non-verbal spell (?) to throw something brown and with an almost algae-like stalk whose hand-like parts stick to the back of Graves and bring him down (Tina accio’s the wand), and, finally, he uses a fire-tip wand ‘Revelio’ spell spoken aloud to reveal Graves’ inner Grindelwald. See the YouTube video of the battle at 2:58, 3:00, and 3:10 for his heroics.

If John is right and the disarming of the Master of the Elder Wand even if he is not using the Elder Wand means control of it (think Harry and Draco at the Malfoy Mansion in Deathly Hallows), then this three-step take-down of GrindelGraves is a mess. One possibility is that the Swooping Evil, a magical creature, has become the Death Stick savant because it is successfully deployed to distract the Bad Guy. A stretch, I admit, but, if true, does Newt have to squeeze out more of its venom for Forget-Me-Not juice to gain mastery from the Swooping Evil? I’d rather not go there.

Our three options, then, for ‘New Master of the Elder Wand’ are (1) Goopy Gus, the magical algae disabler, (2) Newt Scamander, wand wielder and Gellert subduer and revealer, and (3) Tina Goldstein, the witch who accio’s the Death Stick out of his possession. Given the alchemical pointer of Tina’s last name, right now I’d guess she is the master.

Or not. One of my correspondents, Joyce Odell, a.k.a. ‘The Red Hen,’ has written a marvelously contrarian view of control of the Elder Wand calledThe Power He ‘Knows Not’.” She argues in her inimitable fashion that mastery of the Death Stick is not about defeating its current possessor or master-not-in-possession but only in defeating Death, whose ownership and mastery of the Wand he has never ceded to any wizard. Except Harry Potter, of course, who dies and rises from the effects of the Death Curse twice.

Forget Draco. Forget DDore’s machinations to make Snape the master. It’s all about Harry’s sacrificial love and victory over death in the Forbidden Forest and at King’s Cross, a choice that defeats the Dark Lord in the Great Hall. Read the whole thing. It’s long, yes, but it is also brilliant and borderline unhinged exegesis by the Red Hen (on the right in the picture) that will challenge your thinking about the Elder Wand, believe me.

So what? Well, in Fantastic Beasts, the film series, it may play out that Rowling will keep to her professed ideas about Elder Wand mastery and make Dumbledore’s victory over Grindelwald (and consequent plans in the Hogwarts Saga contra Voldemort) depend on who last defeated the Elder Wand lord. DDore figures this out — his delay in confronting Grindelwald explained by his hesitance to face the Death Stick wielder — “takes control” of it by ruse or reason from Newt, Tina, or Glue-py Gus, and wins the Last Battle.

If the Red Hen is right, it will depend on who has mastered Death as Harry did at the end of Deathly Hallows, regardless of the supposed victory over or defeat of the Elder Wand champion of the moment.

Let me know what you think in the boxes below!


  1. As much as I’d love for it to be Tina, I’m thinking Newt is the Master. Grindelwald says to him, “Will we die, just a little?” That makes no sense unless you consider that Newt is now the one in control of the wand and Grindelwald knows it.

  2. Wayne Stauffer says:

    Well, we don’t know much about Newt or Tina or Jacob or Queeny, so maybe one of them unwittingly becomes the master and the Grindelwald bests him or her for possession just before Dumbledore defeats him…(?)

  3. Just my theory here on the situation at the end of Fantastic Beasts 1….

    Newt Scamander…..not Tina Goldstein…..defeats and binds Grindelwald (Graves) in the subway…..the wand that Tina “Accio”s is the wand of Percival Graves not Gellert Grindelwald.
    Hence, if anyone gets the true credit of the (temporary) defeat of Grindelwald…’s Newt Scamander. “Accio”ing a wand does not mean total defeat of the owner, as we are in process of seeing with Mr. Grindelwald.

    But think about this for a minute… what degree is Grindelwald disabled? Or is he disabled really ?? Or was Grindelwald’s capture part of his plan for escape….which he was not capable of in the subway with a legion of MACUSA Aurors standing wands at the ready, pointed at him !! If this is indeed the case, Grindelwald was not defeated in the subway scene ….which means he allowed his capture for a purpose and the Elder Wand is still under his control.

    This is a Master Wizard…..a wizard who has performed spells and enchantments from “within” !! Grindelwald has shown already he is capable of great Magic without the use of a wand and we haven’t seen the entirety of what he can do yet. But he is looking for more magical “tools” to add to his arsenal like the Obscurial in Credence.

    Which should excite many fans out there not only from what we will see from Grindelwald. but from Newt Scamander and Dumbledore as well.

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    David James,

    An appealing and lucid possibility – “he allowed his capture for a purpose and the Elder Wand is still under his control.” Apparent defeat by pseudo-surrender: a contrast with “defeating Death” as Harry does. But, given the above ‘pipata’ (or whatever the Wizarding Latin for a ‘Tweet’ is – Mr. Weasley would know, I presume), “giving its allegiance to the one it judges the victor. Physical possession is irrelevant”, would Grindelwald be deceived about his ‘mastery’, deceived that his play of appearance had secured reality?

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