Featured in the June 2020 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine.

The wand didn’t choose the wizard: Neville Longbottom and his dad’s wand

1287 words.
By Demi Schwartz.

The Wizarding World is full of fascinating objects, but wands are the most magical of them all. A wizard’s wand is much more important than simply being a wooden stick for casting magic spells. In the Harry Potter series, wands are mysterious and can be thought of as having minds of their own. The first interesting piece of information about wands is shared by the incredible wandmaker, Mr. Ollivander. After Harry gets his wand during his first trip to Diagon Alley in Sorcerer’s Stone, Ollivander says his famous line, “The wand chooses the wizard.”

In Deathly Hallows, this statement holds a great significance. By looking at the results of characters using wands other than their own, the importance of being chosen by a wand becomes crystal clear. After Harry’s phoenix feather wand breaks in Godric’s Hollow, he uses Hermione’s wand, until he eventually uses the blackthorn wand that Ron gets from the Snatcher. The blackthorn wand gives him major trouble because his magic doesn’t flow nearly as well as it did with his own wand. However, after Harry wins Draco Malfoy’s wand at Malfoy Manor, Draco’s hawthorn wand works much better. Additionally, the Elder Wand is a powerful wand that is not only one of the Deathly Hallows, but is also a wand that changes hands through a shift in loyalty that occurs when the wand is won. Even Lord Voldemort, the most powerful dark wizard, struggles to perform magic at the best of his ability with the Elder Wand because he doesn’t own the loyalty of the wand. Ollivander explains the importance of owning a wand’s loyalty when he says, “Oh yes, if you are any wizard at all you will be able to channel your magic through almost any instrument. The best results, however, must always come where there is the strongest affinity between wizard and wand. These connections are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand.”

With all of this in mind, it’s interesting to take a deep dive into Neville Longbottom’s wand situation. His parents, Frank and Alice Longbottom, were tortured into insanity by Bellatrix Lastrange, who used the Cruciatus Curse on them. Neville was brought up by his grandmother, Augusta, and when Neville showed magical ability when he was eight and started at Hogwarts three years later, Neville’s grandmother gave him his father’s wand to use. Even though this was a kind gesture on his grandmother’s part, the wand Neville uses when he starts at Hogwarts didn’t choose him. This big reveal comes in Order of the Phoenix during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. After Neville’s dad’s wand breaks, Neville tells Harry, “My gran’s going do kill be, dat was by dad’s old wand.” Porr Neville has a broken nose and can’t speak clearly, but the huge significance here is that Neville used his dad’s wand for five years. With Ollivander’s insights in mind, Neville wasn’t exactly set up for success when he started at Hogwarts.

If Neville would’ve been chosen by his own wand from the beginning, would he have been better at magic? Absolutely. Neville’s first five years at school are rough ones. Aside from being often anxious and forgetful, Neville struggles with performing spells. One of the most significant parts that captures Neville’s struggles comes during the Dueling Club in Chamber of Secrets. Professor Lockhart suggests for Neville and Justin Finch-Fletchley to demonstrate “Expelliarmus.” Professor Snape has something to say about this idea. It’s no secret that Snape targets Neville almost as much as Harry. After all, Snape is Neville’s boggart. So, Snape has to go and humiliate Neville in front of his peers by saying, “A bad idea, Professor Lockhart. Longbottom causes devastation with the simplest spells. We’ll be sending what’s left of Finch-Fletchley up to the hospital wing in a matchbox.” If Neville had a wand of his own, his earlier Hogwarts years would’ve been much better. This is also interesting to think about because it’s not Neville’s fault he has a difficult time with casting spells. It’s clear from Harry’s experiences in Deathly Hallows and the whole situation with the Elder Wand not working well for Voldemort that Neville’s situation is due to using a wand that isn’t loyal to him.

Additionally, Neville lacks confidence throughout the series. Due to being constantly picked on by Snape and Draco and having a hard time at performing magic, Neville experiences feelings of unworthiness. Even Professor McGonagall realizes that Neville struggles with his confidence. In Order of the Phoenix, she tells her Transfiguration class that she sees no reason why everyone in the class shouldn’t achieve an O.W.L. in Transfiguration, as long as they put in the work. When Neville makes a sad little disbelieving noise, Professor McGonagall says, “Yes, you too Longbottom. There’s nothing wrong with your work except lack of confidence.” It’s no surprise Neville doesn’t feel confident in himself. Constantly feeling behind his peers in magic is enough to lower anyone’s self-esteem. Still, through patient instruction and guidance by Harry in Dumbledore’s Army, Neville does begin to improve and gain confidence. Imagine how he would’ve grown if he had a wand of his own.

Neville finally gets his own wand after his dad’s breaks in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. On the Hogwarts Express in Half-Blood Prince, Neville, Harry, and Luna are talking about their wild adventure at the Ministry of Magic and how it’s all through the Daily Prophet. Neville says, “I thought Gran would be angry about all the publicity, but she was really pleased. Says I’m starting to live up to my dad at long last. She bought me a new wand.” He shows Harry his brand-new wand, which is cherrywood with a unicorn hair core. Neville also says that his wand is probably one of the last wands Ollivander sold before he vanished from his shop in Diagon Alley. It’s evident that Neville is proud of his new wand, as he very well should be. From this point forward, Neville grows into a true Gryffindor and leader. He fights again in the Battle of the Astronomy Tower, and while Harry, Ron, and Hermione are off hunting for Horcruxes, Neville becomes one of the strongest leaders back at Hogwarts. He fights as much as he can from inside the castle walls, and most of all, his courage and confidence peaks when he stands up to Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts and kills Nagini with the Sword of Gryffindor.

Neville has one of the greatest character arcs of the series, and his wand adds another layer of mystery to him. In the first five books while he uses his dad’s wand, Neville is seen as the student who lags behind and struggles with magic. The Battle of the Department of Mysteries is truly the turning point for him. It’s the first time Neville starts to show significant bravery and confidence, and it’s not a coincidence that this life-changing battle is also when his dad’s wand breaks. The wand breaking is symbolic in that it shows Neville’s transition from a follower into a leader and from being unsure of himself to being confident. There’s no way of knowing for sure how Neville’s journey would’ve been different if he’d had his own wand from the start. That is up to the imagination of dedicated readers of the Harry Potter series. Still, through aligning Neville’s growth with the story behind his wand, it’s clear how substantial it is for a wizard to be chosen by a wand. Ollivander is extremely intelligent and fantastic at wandmaking, and his beliefs and knowledge about wands shine through in Neville’s story.

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