The Deathly Hallows
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The Deathly Hallows - namesakes for the final book in the Harry Potter series - are the source of one of the most storied legends in the wizarding world. We first hear of them from Xenophilius Lovegood, who has Hermione read 'The Tale of the Three Brothers' from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the book bequested her by Dumbledore (DH21). There are three Hallows: the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility.
In his quest for Voldemort's Horcruxes, Harry soon discovers that the Hallows are real - and Mr. Lovegood's assertion that Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus Peverell were the three brothers of the story proves to be true as well. He also learns the incredible story of the Hallows' recent history, and of the quest undertaken by Dumbledore and Grindelwald to unite them once more.
The Elder Wand
Thestral tail hair (JKR, TLC2)
The Elder Wand, originally owned by Antioch Peverell, has the most storied history of the Hallows. It has cropped up through the centuries under different names, including the Deathstick and the Wand of Destiny (DH21). At one point it was owned by Gregorovitch, the wand-maker who made Viktor Krum's wand, and stolen from him by a young, blond Grindelwald (DH18), though at the time Gregorovitch did not know who he was (DH14). This most likely happened sometime in the early twentiety century (see the timeline for more).
As Grindelwald gained power, word got back to Dumbledore in Britain that he had obtained a "wand of immense power" - the Elder Wand (DH35). He used it for destructive purposes, though, and in 1945 Dumbledore challenged him to a duel and defeated him, landing Grindelwald in prison for the rest of his life and winning Dumbledore both widespread notoriety and the Elder Wand (PS6, DH35). Dumbledore used the wand until his death in 1997.
Upon his death, Dumbledore intended for Severus Snape to become the master of the Elder Wand, but failed to take into account that, as his death was pre-planned, Snape had not truly defeated him. Instead the wand's rightful master became the wizard who had disarmed Dumbledore just prior to his death: Draco Malfoy. When Harry stole Malfoy's wand during a confrontation in the Malfoy Manor (DH23), he became the master of the wand, though neither he nor Malfoy had ever touched or used it (DH36).
The wand itself was buried with Dumbledore and stolen from his grave by Voldemort (DH24). Voldemort, however, never became the true master of the wand. Believing that the master was Snape, he killed him (DH32) before his final confrontation with Harry, when he died and the wand passed into Harry's possession once and for all (DH36).
Harry only used the Elder Wand for one spell - Reparo - when he used it to fix his own broken wand. Beyond this he intends to die naturally without using it, instead returning it to Dumbledore's tomb in the hopes that there will never again be a true master of the Elder Wand, and that therefore its powers will be depleted (DH36).
For more on wands and their ability to transfer power from one wizard or witch to another, click here.
The Hallow that Dumbledore most craved when he was young (DH35), the Resurrection Stone has had comparatively few recent owners. It was passed down from Cadmus Peverell through the generations, and made into a ring (HBP10). This ring was still in the family in the early twentieth century, owned by Marvolo Gaunt, who believed the symbol on it to be the Peverell coat of arms (HBP10). It was later stolen by Tom Riddle, turned into a Horcrux (HBP17), and eventually hidden in the ruins of the Gaunt House (HBP23).
Albus Dumbledore sought out this Horcrux to destroy it, but before he could do so his desire to see his parents and sister got the better of him, and he put the ring on, enacting a terrible curse. He quickly destroyed the ring, but the damage was done - the curse had rendered his hand useless, and nearly killed him as well (DH33, DH35). He passed the stone along to Harry in his will, hidden inside a Golden Snitch (DH34).
Harry was walking to meet Voldemort and give up his life, he pulled the Resurrection Stone from the Snitch, turned it over in his hands three times, and met shadows of his parents, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin. He later dropped the stone in the woods accidentally (DH34), and decided not to return and search for it, in the hopes that it too would be lost forever (DH36).
Rowling stated that she assumes that the Stone was stepped on by the Centaurs as they charged into the battle. It is now forever lost, buried in the forest (BLC).
Unique among Invisibility Cloaks, this cloak is blessed both with everlasting invisibility and a unique protection for its owner, where other cloaks can become torn and fade over time. Originally owned by Ignotus Peverell, it too was passed down through the generations, eventually landing in the hands of James Potter and then Harry.
The fact that Harry inherited the cloak, coupled with the presence of Ignotus's grave in Godric's Hollow (DH16), strongly implies that Harry is descended from the Peverells. We already know that Voldemort himself is descended from them as well.
Harry still owns this Hallow today.
Inseparable from the story of Harry's attempt to reunite the Hallows is the story of two other wizards who tried over a hundred years earlier - Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald. Grindelwald found Dumbledore in Godric's Hollow, where he had come searching for Ignotus's grave, and they plotted together to master death through reuniting the Hallows and overtake the Muggle world, all "for the greater good" (DH35).
In the midst of the plan, however, Aberforth Dumbledore confronted his brother Albus about his plans, and in the ensuing fight their sister Ariana was killed and Grindelwald fled. After many years of building power and killing people, Grindelwald was finally defeated by Albus Dumbledore, and spent the rest of his life in Nurmengard prison. When Voldemort came searching for the Elder Wand, Grindelwald denied that he had ever had it (DH35).
Albus Dumbledore became probably the first wizard in over a thousand years to see all three of the Hallows, in winning the Elder Wand from Grindelwald, borrowing James Potter's Cloak of Invisibility before returning it to Harry, and then later finding the Resurrection Stone embedded in the Peverell ring, which Voldemort had hidden in the ruins of the Gaunt House.
The three artifacts were in the same room simultaneously at points (Dumbledore wears the ring and carries his wand, while Harry has his invisibility cloak in his bag, in HBP10) and Harry ends the story as the rightful master of all three. However the Hallows were never truly reunited by a single master, as Harry dropped the stone in the woods prior to gaining physical possession of the Elder Wand. If Harry succeeds in his plan to die as master of the Elder Wand and the ring is indeed lost, the ability to unite the Hallows and thereby conquer death will be lost forever (DH34, DH35, DH36).
Primary editor: John Kearns. Original page date 22 July, 2007; Last page update 10 January 2014 SVA