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Poll: What does the "elder" in "Elder Wand" mean?
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What does the "elder" in "Elder Wand" mean?

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Old 28-07-2007, 04:58   #1
Sir Cadogan
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Elder Wand - multiple significance?

This is a question I'm addressing specifically to all the native speakers of English here. There is a German forum I'm also a member of, and one of the hotly discussed topics is the name of the first of the hallows, the "Elder Wand".

Many people - Germans with an advanced knowledge of English - claim that "Elder" not only denotes the kind of wood that the wand is made of, but that there are allusions to the meanings of 'senior, more experienced, wise', as in "elder statesman" or "council of the elders".

I've had the opportunity to ask a few native speakers of English I happen to know personally, and they all said: "It's just about the wood."

What is your impression as people with infinitely more speaking and reading experience? How do the experts of "TFH" feel about it? - Thanks for voicing your impressions!


Edit: Thanks a lot to
- Dr Winterbourne for pointing out the links to English folklore,
- George for mentioning the "Spear of Destiny",
- Tonks for telling us about her understanding of the term.

I'm adding this here because the board software doesn't allow me to put in another post after Tonks's (double) post - it says I'm not allowed to access that page if I click on "quote" or "reply". Strange; hasn't happened so far.
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Old 28-07-2007, 08:38   #2
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

I think it is simply refering to the type of wood from which it was made - but that is by no means without significance.

Elder wood has, in English folklore, long had a strange reputation. Judas, for example, was believed to have hung himself from an elder tree (Love's Labour Lost). Shakespeare refers to it also as 'the stinking elder, grief' (Cymbeline), as a reference to its unpleasant odour.

As a wand wood, it would make sense, were it not for its unsavory connotations, because it is often hollow - or at least, easily hollowed out. It has been thus refered to as 'heartless'.
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Old 28-07-2007, 14:30   #3
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

Several thoughts.
1. Although I speak English better than any other language, it is not my native tongue. However, I always looked at the word "elder" as having some connotation of seniority, as opposed to a mere description of the material nature of the wand. Undoubtedly, Rowling picked the name "Elder" to describe both the construction of the wand, as well as its power.
2. I saw several parallels between the Elder Wand and the tale of the Spear of Destiny. The Spear of Destiny was supposedly used to pierce the skin of Jesus, and is theorized to be such a powerful artifact, that whomever controls the Spear of Destiny is unbeatable. All sorts of semi-mythical stories exist about those who were successful in battle when in possession of the spear, only to be defeated upon losing it. The Elder Wand is also named The Wand of Destiny, and also grants alleged "invincibility" to its owner. Again, we remain in the realm of intense speculation, but I'm sure Rowling added the "Destiny" part on purpose.
3. Being named "THE Elder Wand" implies that there is only one wand made of elder wood. How likely is that?

That's all for now...
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Old 28-07-2007, 16:35   #4
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

Like George, I also saw the 'Elder Wand' as having a seniority connotation. 'Elder' is often used to describe those older and wiser than others - such as tribal elders. This is initially what i thought of at the appearance of such a word.
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Originally Posted by George View Post
3. Being named "THE Elder Wand" implies that there is only one wand made of elder wood. How likely is that?
At one point, Ron mentions superstitions that he grew up hearing [I believe it's in The Tale of the Two Brothers chapter; i'll have to check once i can get one of my parents away from the two copies in this house ].. one of which concerned elder wands. I think he then mentioned that elder wands are supposed to be unlucky, which leads me to believe that there would be more made from the wood, but they may be rare.

I think The Elder Wand is just a title given to the wand, as it was also called The Deathstick or The Wand of Destiny throughout the ages. Much like The Sorcerer's Stone.. i'm sure there are many special stones owned by witches and wizards, but only one of them is THE Sorcerer's Stone.
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Old 29-07-2007, 08:34   #5
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

hmmmm.... interesting theories.......
I simply thought that the elder wand referred to its original ownership by Eldest brother of the three.

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Old 30-07-2007, 06:14   #6
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

I'm holding to the wood that it was made of . . . JKR has made a point of mentioning the significance of wand wood through many characters, Harry's Holly, Voldemort's was different wood (can't remember right now) but the same core. Lucious was a different wood, as well as Draco's was mentioned. The different woods are said to carry different qualities. So the Elder Wand was initialy called that because of the wood, then the meaning could indeed have expanded to include the eldest brother, as well as eventualy over centuries, the age of the wand.

Look at our own names . . . My Christian name was given me by my mother, after a friend of hers . . . but my name also has a definate German background and meaning, but that has no bearing on why the name was given me, even if later in life I grew to reflect the meaning of the name. I was named for my mother's friend. The Elder wand, was an elderwood wand,
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Old 01-08-2007, 18:57   #7
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tonks View Post
At one point, Ron mentions superstitions that he grew up hearing [I believe it's in The Tale of the Two Brothers chapter; i'll have to check once i can get one of my parents away from the two copies in this house ].. one of which concerned elder wands. I think he then mentioned that elder wands are supposed to be unlucky, which leads me to believe that there would be more made from the wood, but they may be rare.
Quoting myself, how lame. Here's the passage:
Quote:
"Come to think of it," Ron added, "maybe that story's why elder wands are supposed to be unlucky."
"What are you talking about?"
"One of those superstitions, isn't it? 'May-born witches will marry Muggles.' 'Jinx by twilight, undone at midnight.' 'Wand of elder, never prosper.' You must've heard them. My mum's full of them."
"Harry and I were raised by Muggles," Hermione reminded him. "We were taught different superstitions."
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Old 03-08-2007, 06:43   #8
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

[In an aside, I hate how for all American readers (Korean too, actually) it is called the 'Sorcerer's stone'. It just strips it of all the deep connotations that exist around the Philosophers Stone. ]

Hmm, is there any myths that surround an Elder Wand?
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Old 04-09-2007, 14:54   #9
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

I think its just about the wood. Also, its almost impossible to tell unless you ask JKR.

My opinion...
Why would it refer to 'elder' such as in 'wise, older'? The wand wasn't suppose to be wiser, or make the owner wiser, it was suppose to be unbeatable in a duel. It would cast every spell the owner wished of it perfectly. (as a side note: imagine the patronus that thing could create!)

The only thing I kind of agree with is elder wand = elder brother.
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Old 09-09-2007, 08:37   #10
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Re: Elder Wand - multiple significance?

It has a kind of Lord of the Rings ring to it. You know, the "One Ring" that ruled them all. Maybe the Elder Wand was the first one, the most powerful and mysterious one, and possibly the reason all others could be made? Like a parent wand, so to speak.
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