*Beware! There Are Major Spoilers Throughout This Article!*
The wizarding world has finally returned to our screens! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out, and fans are giddily enjoying seeing magical animals and sensational spells once again.
Apart from being a critically acclaimed standalone piece of entertainment, the movie is also crammed with lots of Harry Potter Easter eggs for the eagle-eyed viewer. Connected to the past, as well as setting up future installments, there is a lot to take in when watching Fantastic Beasts. But there’s one detail in the movie that many viewers may not have immediately considered...
A Grave Matter?
In what is undoubtedly one of the biggest cinematic shocks of the year, the end of Fantastic Beasts sees the stern and formidable MACUSA auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) revealed as the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (#JohnnyDepp) in disguise.
Indeed, as Graves dogged Newt Scamander (#EddieRedmayne) at every turn, some audiences started to notice the telltale signs. Graves has a similar haircut to #Grindelwald, but also, his manipulations of Credence Barebone (#EzraMiller) and his displays of powerful magic definitely hinted at a hidden, shadowy agenda. But one particular and peculiar detail didn’t give him away– his wand.
Grindelwald used a particular instrument - the Elder Wand - to help him conduct his European reign of terror, until Dumbledore took it from him in their famous battle in 1945. So, if Fantastic Beasts is set in 1926, and Grindelwald is already a threat to the Wizarding World...shouldn’t we have seen him using the Elder Wand in the movie?
“The Wand Chooses The Wizard”
For those who are less-acquainted with Potter lore or need a bit of a refresh, the Elder Wand is one of the three most powerful magical objects in the Wizarding World, known as The Deathly Hallows. For a full history of the Hallows, check out the awesome clip above which explains their origins.
The Elder Wand is centuries old, and heightens the magical abilities of its master. If the wand was used alongside its fellow Hallows - the Cloak of Invisibility and the Resurrection Stone – it would make the owner the Master of Death.
As we found out in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows novel, both Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore had both been in possession of the Elder Wand for many years.
Fans are very familiar with what the Elder Wand looks like. Since it first appeared onscreen in The Goblet of Fire, it has been used infrequently by #Dumbledore, though its distinctive and particularly knobbly shape makes it instantly recognizable. Alas, we didn’t see that particular design in Fantastic Beasts, since Grindelwald, (in his guise of Percival Graves) sported a noticeably different, plainer wand, as we can see below.
Could Grindelwald have bewitched the #ElderWand to change its appearance? The "Death Stick" is a jealously guarded possession in the #HarryPotter universe, whose owners often bragged about their ownership of it and always feared attack. As a highly intelligent and gifted wizard, we could be surmise that Grindelwald had the sense to not boast about the wand, and even bewitched it to throw people off the scent.
However, it is worth noting that by Harry Potter’s time in the late 20th century, the legend of The Deathly Hallows was not as readily known throughout the Wizarding World as it once was. Indeed, if we cast our minds back to what Hermione, Xenophilius Lovegood and Garrick Ollivander say in the books, the history of the Elder Wand is disregarded as myth, and has been relegated to the footnotes of history books and children's fables in The Tales of Beadle the Bard. Therefore, it’s doubtful that any witch or wizard would recognize it on sight alone, so there wouldn’t be any need for Grindelwald to disguise it.
Additionally, there is no mention (yet!) in any of JK Rowling’s detailed writings that a wand’s appearance can be changed. It’s certainly possible, since Grindelwald is written as an exceptionally capable wizard. Plus the Elder Wand was able to conjure extraordinary magic in the series. Certainly, it was able to fix Harry’s broken phoenix feather wand when many learned characters had said it was irreparably damaged. So its theoretically plausible, yet a tad unlikely.
But are we getting a bit carried away with wand-disguises? Are there simpler and more logical reasons for this change?
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Conjuring Movie Magic?
There is a very simple explanation for why the film makers didn’t include the Elder Wand’s iconic design. Let’s face it: alarm bells were already ringing in the minds of fans when they saw that poster of Graves holding the #DeathlyHallows symbol. And these hunches were justified even more when they guessed that the mysterious blond gentleman in the trailers was Johnny Depp. Including the Elder Wand in Fantastic Beasts would therefore have been a dead giveaway as to who the mysterious Graves really was.
Of course, the omission of the Elder Wand may be by deliberate design. Who’s to say that, in the movie timeline, Grindelwald has yet to gain the Elder Wand?
In the Deathly Hallows novel, the renowned wand maker Mykew Gregorovitch acquired and studied the Wand of Destiny for years afterward to help improve his products - until Grindelwald steals the Elder Wand from him that is. JK Rowling doesn’t give any specifics as to how long Gregorovitch owns the wand, or when it was stolen from him, so this event may happen somewhere later in the Fantastic Beasts saga, which is now due to have five installments.
But this is also a bit of an unlikely theory. The Deathly Hallows novel and movie specify that Grindelwald was a young man when he stole the Elder Wand. Moreover, we've already seen a younger Grindelwald (portrayed by a fresh-faced Jamie Campbell Bower) steal the wand in the Harry Potter movies.
By the time of Fantastic Beasts in 1926, Grindelwald was roughly 43 years old, so either the wizarding definition of a ‘young’ is a little different than our own (they frequently live till over 100, after all), or Rowling and Co. are planning to perform a little ret-con of the Potter-verse. Maybe Grindelwald, for the convenience of the plot of the Fantastic Beasts saga, will now be a little bit older when he finally acquires the Elder Wand.
Then again, the solution could very well have presented itself to us in Fantastic Beasts itself...
The Question of Gellert Grindels-Wand
It’s clear that Grindelwald was very successful in assuming Percival Graves’s identity, since he was able to operate undetected by the MACUSA for at least several months prior to the main events of the movie.
But what happened to the real Graves and his wand? This is unclear for the moment, but it’s highly like that Grindelwald took Graves’s own wand when he either killed or incapacitated him. And for very good reason!
Through the course of the #HarryPotter series, we've already discovered how wands are used for identification purposes. During the Gringotts-Heist in The Deathly Hallows, Hermione, in the guise of Bellatrix Lestrange, attempts to gain access to the Lestrange vault by using her stolen wand. Complications soon ensue when they realize that the goblins are aware of the theft.
But in Fantastic Beasts, the American witches and wizards of the twentieth century have taken this one step further:
“Legislation introduced at the end of the nineteenth century meant that every member of the magical community in America was required to carry a ‘wand permit’, a measure that was intended to keep tabs on all magical activity and identify the perpetrators by their wands.”
This is evident in the Fantastic Beasts movie, in that small section where Tina Goldstein (#KatherineWaterston) takes Newt to get his wand registered following his arrest.
And it’s doubtful that Grindelwald would want to take his own wand anywhere near the MACUSA. After all, as Ollivander said to #HermioneGranger:
“[The Elder Wand has] certain identifying characteristics that those who are learned in wandlore recognise [...]”
If anyone was searching for the Elder Wand, a MACUSA log of its details would easily give it away, as well as its owners’ disguise. Therefore, it would make sense for Grindelwald to hide his Hallow. Using Graves’s wand would help maintain his illusion and keep his ownership of the relic secret, as well as out of the MACUSA's hands.
“Do you think you can hold me?” Grindelwald asks Madam Picquery contemptuously during his arrest. She may think so, but a savvy audience knows that he’s going to escape, establish Nurmengard (if he hasn’t already) and cause a lot of trouble for Newt and his friends, as well as a certain Albus Dumbledore, who will be forced to intervene.
Whatever the situation is with the dreaded Elder Wand, it’s going to be very exciting to see it play out during the deadly game between Dumbledore and Grindlewald. There truly is a lot of potential in the Fantastic Beasts series. Indeed, we’re set to see an important and oft-referred-to chapter of the Wizarding World unfold before our very eyes!
Where do you think the Elder Wand is?