Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Ollivanders

The last shop was narrow and shabby.  Peeling gold letters over the door read Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. A single wand lay on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window. (The Sorcerer's Stone, 82)
I was in third grade the first time I encountered the Harry Potter series.  I remember thinking even then that it was surprising there was only one place you could buy a wand, a crucial magical item for every witch and wizard!

Of course, we later learn there are other wand makers as well, such as when Victor Krum brags about his wand: "I vos one of the last to purchase a Gregorovich vand.  They are the best - although I know, of course, that you Britons set much store by Ollivander" (The Deathly Hallows, 150).

Ollivanders is the only one in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade that is mentioned in the books and is where most of Hogwarts students get their wands.

What a monopoly!

Considering the fact that presumably each young witch or wizard only buys one wand in their lifetime though, Hank Green brings up another great point about the pricing of wands:
Well you don't seem to have much industry
I don't understand how any business gets done
when a wand only costs seven galleons.
That doesn't seem like much to me.
Mr. Ollivander not only makes and sells wands, but he also has a keen memory of them, as he tells Harry, "I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand" (The Sorcerer's Stone, 85).

Making a wand is an awful lot of work, including dangerous foraging for magical cores for the wands:
"Ah, now, this is one of mine, isn't it?" said Mr. Ollivander, with much more enthusiasm, as Cedric handed over his wand.  "Yes, I remember it well.  Containing a single hair from the tail of a particularly fine male unicorn...must have been seventeen hands; nearly gored me with his horn after I plucked his tail." (The Goblet of Fire, 309)

I found a conversion counter that says 7 galleons is equivalent to $70.49.  For gathering and buying resources, making wands, and keeping a store open, that is not very much money at all.

Tomorrow, a mysterious magical item will be featured on the blog: P is for Pensieve.


  1. Things don't go TOO great for Ollivander later on, of course - but you're right, he does have a pretty good monopoly and a good time of it while in business. :)

    1. Very true, life gets rough for Ollivander, though I found suggestions online pointing to the assumption he re-opens shop after The Deathly Hallows.

  2. Nice trip to HP land! I always wondered how a wand got to be magical in the first place. I don't wonder there are so few wand makers! Does a wand become devoted to its owner? What happens when owner dies? so many questions, so little time. Nice meeting you! Mary at Variety, the Spice of Life

    1. Hi Mary! Let me attempt to unofficially answer your questions.

      A wand is magical because it has a core from magical being - a phoenix feather, dragon heart string, unicorn tail, veela hair, etc.

      I agree it would be a difficult (and not very lucrative) process to build a wand, which could account for why there are so few wand makers. Not to mention the amount of skill it would take!

      A wand is devoted to it's owner, but as we see repeatedly in The Deathly Hallows, all it takes is a simple disarming spell for the wand to change loyalties. When Harry disarms Malfoy and takes his wand, he later asks Ollivander who's wand it is and Ollivander tells him it's loyalties have changed and it is now Harry's. The same thing happens with the Elder wand: Dumbledore owns the wand, Malfory disarms him (thus taking ownership), and when Harry disarms Malfoy, he becomes the true owner.

      If the owner dies before being disarmed, I would assume the wand would work for anyone, but not have any true loyalty, unless it found the right witch or wizard, in which case I would think it could choose again. "The wand chooses the wizard" ...

      Mostly speculation, but hope that helps :)

  3. I got a wand from Ollivanders!!! Ok, so it was *technically* at Universal Studios, but they made a pretty huge deal about it, and it felt like the real thing!

  4. Very cool! I'm a big HP fan, and I LOVE that you included a conversion rate - $70!? New follower here. I'm stopping by from the "A to Z" challenge, and I look forward to visiting again.


    1. Yeah it doesn't seem like much considering many people pay more than that every few years for a cell phone, when a wand is supposed to last a lifetime.

  5. I would love to have been in the situation of buying a wand for school instead of a calculator.
    Nice to meet and connect through the atozchallenge.

    1. It would be very nice indeed! Fun, too, I would think :)