One of my biggest pet peeves of the films Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 is that it didn’t really give the book justice. Sure, it stayed nearly faithful to the events of the final book in J.K. Rowling’s beloved series and left us with some form of closure (unlike a certain other fantasy series that just ended recently), but a lot of important parts were left out.
But besides S.P.E.W., Dudley’s redemption, and Lupin trying to avoid fatherhood, I felt a major missing piece was focus on the Deathly Hallows and its symbol. The Deathly Hallows symbol was used to link Xenophilius Lovegood as a key to understanding what the Deathly Hallows were and how it related to the Golden Trio’s quest, but other than that, its meaning was glossed over.
In this article, we’ll give you a comprehensive run-down on everything you need to know about the Deathly Hallows – from its symbol, to its story, to its meaning, down to the owners of the Deathly Hallows and the fan theories surrounding it. If you’ve read the books, watched the movies, and scoured Pottermore and the rest of J.K. Rowling’s interviews, you may already know most of these facts. But if you’ve watched the movies only and want to see how deep the lore in the Wizarding World universe can go, then keep on reading!
What Are the Deathly Hallows?
The Deathly Hallows are three magical objects created by Death and given to three brothers. The story is treated as a legend told in children’s books such as The Tales of the Beedle the Bard. The existence of the Deathly Hallows were also treated as make-believe, and many people do not believe the Deathly Hallows are real.
Deathly Hallows Story
According to the story, three brothers were walking along a path when they came across a river. Using their magic, they created a bridge so they could safely cross, but Death felt cheated as he claimed many lives from travelers attempting to cross the river. Death pretended to congratulate them for their magic and promised to grant each brother one request.
The eldest asked for the most powerful wand in existence and was fashioned a wand from a nearby Elder tree. The second brother asked for a way to bring his loved ones back from the dead and was given a stone he could use to resurrect his loved ones. The youngest asked for a cloak that could prevent Death from following him and was given Death’s own Cloak of Invisibility.
The three brothers went their separate ways. The eldest brother killed his enemy and, drunk with power, bragged about the Elder Wand. While he was sleeping, another wizard killed him and stole the wand, letting Death claim him once more. The second brother used the Resurrection Stone to revive the ghost of his beloved, but he went insane when he realized she was only a ghost and not truly alive, so he hanged himself and Death claimed him.
The third brother, however, managed to elude Death for many years. When he had grown into an old age, the third brother passed his cloak onto his son and willingly let Death claim him as his equal.
Behind the Story
In the books, it was believed that whoever controlled all three would be the Master of Death. Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald thought this meant whoever had all three could not die, but no one has ever held all three objects at the same time.
The three brothers in the story were known as the Peverell Brothers. The second and third brother, Cadmus and Ignotus Peverell, would later become the ancestors of Tom Riddle and Harry Potter.
The story may have just been a way for Beedle the Bard to explain the Deathly Hallows, but Dumbledore believes it may have just been an interpretation of what really happened. It’s possible that the Peverell brothers were just extraordinarily gifted wizards who created the Deathly Hallows on their own without the need for Death’s magic.
Why Were the Deathly Hallows So Important?
The Deathly Hallows are, perhaps, some of the most important magical artifacts in the Harry Potter universe for two reasons: one, they come from Death himself, and two, having just ONE of these artifacts was enough to make you a powerful wizard, but having ALL THREE made you practically immortal or, in the words of the Beedle the Bard story, “master of Death”.
But if they were so important, why were they only introduced in the 7th book? Well, this piece of ret-con was cleverly explained away by claiming that the Deathly Hallows were so powerful, so dangerous, and so ancient that most records of it have either been lost to time, destroyed for safety, or relegated into easily-dismissed legend. Basically, to keep people from chasing after the Deathly Hallows, it was turned into a piece of folklore.
So why are the Deathly Hallows so important to the Harry Potter universe? Again, these three artifacts are the most powerful items in the entire Wizarding World: the Elder Wand was the most powerful want to have ever been created, with the wielder being able to do magic that was beyond the ordinary (although ownership of it required certain qualifications, which we’ll discuss later), the Resurrection Stone allowed the wielder to temporarily resurrect people they’ve lost, and the Invisibility Cloak protected the wearer from being seen, even by Death himself. Having all three meant that you became the most powerful Wizard or Witch in the entire world, and that you could be shielded from Death, hence the whole “master of Death” thing.
The Deathly Hallows also served a narrative importance: J.K. Rowling knew that her fans would never forgive her for killing off Harry (although she earned the ire of fans anyway for her, shall we say, problematic political stances), so she created the Deathly Hallows as a way to let the good guy win without having them actually dying. In essence, it allowed the writer to kill off her main character—thus fulfilling his heroic journey through self-sacrifice—but without, you know, the whole ‘permanent death’ thing. It also works as a marketing opportunity to create even more action figure collectibles, but that’s just the pessimist in me talking.
Here’s how: Voldemort’s killing curse unintentionally created a horcrux within Harry. Now, we all know that, in the Harry Potter Universe, the only way to kill someone who has created horcruxes is to destroy them horcruxes themselves. This meant that Harry needs to die in order for the piece of Voldemort’s soul within him to die as well, thus ending the Dark Lord’s reign of terror.
But with the Deathly Hallows, Harry can accomplish without actually dying: as a master of Death, Harry’s passing was always going to be temporary. This is also probably one of the reasons why the existence of the Deathly Hallows was kept secret from Harry and the gang (and, by extension, the readers): it was their trump card against Voldemort. Had Voldemort known about the Deathly Hallows and how important it was, then he could have tasked his numerous underlings to acquire these items for him, thus being able to execute Harry, without any pesky resurrection business. In the end, it was a good way for Harry’s character growth to come to fruition and still leave fans satisfied (barring, of course, the scuttled Harry-Hermione ship)
Deathly Hallows Symbol
The Deathly Hallows symbol is a circle, line, and triangle combined. These represent the three Deathly Hallows: the circle is the Resurrection Stone, the line is the Elder Wand, and the triangle is the Cloak of Invisibility.
In a way, since the Deathly Hallows symbol is the three Deathly Hallows combined, this could be the symbol used to represent the Master of Death. The symbol is only seen a few times in the film, but it is mentioned and inscribed several times in the books, namely:
- On the tomb of Ignotus Peverell, the third brother, buried in Godric’s Hollow in the churchyard of the Parish Church of St. Clementine.
- Xenophilius Lovegood’s necklace during Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour’s wedding.
- Viktor Krum mistakenly believes the symbol is Grindelwald’s symbol (Grindelwald was obsessed with collecting the Deathly Hallows) and claims that his classmates at Durmstrang draw the symbol on the walls in his school.
- Dumbledore draws the symbol on the page of his copy of Tales of Beedle the Bard.
- Inscribed on the Resurrection Stone.
The Elder Wand
The Elder Wand is the first Deathly Hallow created, made with the wood of an Elder tree. It is the most powerful wand in existence, capable of doing magic an ordinary wand is too weak to do. Not any ordinary wizard can use the Elder Wand to its full potential. The wizard must be someone who has seen someone die or at least accept Death because the Elder Wand is made with a Thestral tail-hair core. Thestrals may only be seen by people who have seen death, which makes it tricky for an ordinary wizard who has never seen death to control it. The wand is also 15 inches in length and has a unique appearance.
After the oldest brother, Antioch Peverell, was killed by another wizard, the Elder Wand went through different owners. It’s highly likely that it changed hands through violent means, as the only way a wand can truly work with a new master is if the new master has defeated the old one. Needless to say, the Elder Wand left a bloody trail and earned the names “Deathstick” and “Wand of Destiny.” However, it became a misconception that having to “defeat” an old master means to murder them; this is not necessary.
Some of the Elder Wand’s known former masters include:
- Emeric the Evil – an aggressive wizard who owned the Elder Wand for a brief time. As the first recorded holder of the Elder Wand after Antioch Peverell, it’s possible that he was the one who murdered Peverell, but there is no proof of it. Using the wand, he terrorized southern England during the early part of the Middle Ages until he was killed in a duel by Egbert the Egregious.
- Egbert the Egregious – It’s unknown what he did with the wand, but a hundred years later, the wand was found with another wizard.
- Godelot – Using the knowledge of the wand’s powers, he wrote the book Magick Moste Evile, which focuses on dark magic and was used by Tom Riddle and later on the Golden Trio to find out what horcruxes were. He died after being locked in a cellar by his own son.
- Hereward – Killed his father to steal the wand.
- Barnabas Deverill – Acquired the wand through unknown means. Used it to create a fearsome reputation until he was killed by Loxias.
- Loxias – Coined the name “Deathstick” and used the wand to harm anyone who displeased him. It’s unknown who murdered him, as many claim the honor of doing so, but it may have been Arcus, Livius, or Loxias’ own mother.
- Arcus, Livius, or Loxias’ Mother – Any one of the three could have gained the power of the Elder Wand. After them, the location of the wand during ancient times became difficult to track down.
- Mykew Gregorovitch – A wandmaker based in Europe obtained the wand and wanted to experiment and duplicate its powers. He did not hide the fact that he had the Elder Wand, so Gellert Grindelwald snuck into his shop, stole the wand, and stunned Gregorovitch before he could do anything. Gregorovitch never realized it was Grindelwald.
- Gellert Grindelwald – He and Albus Dumbledore believed that it was necessary to collect the Deathly Hallows and then use it to make Muggles subservient to wizards and witches so that wizards can rule the world for the greater good. Years after they had a falling out, Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in a duel and became the next master.
- Albus Dumbledore – Dumbledore used the wand for good, earning him the reputation of one of the most powerful wizards of all time. When he realized he was dying, he planned his death with Severus Snape ahead of time. Because the death was planned, Snape technically did not “defeat” Dumbledore and the power of the Elder Wand would have died with him. But Dumbledore was disarmed by Draco Malfoy, making him the new master.
- Draco Malfoy – Had no idea he was the true master of the Elder Wand. Voldemort believed it was Snape who was the true master and had him killed to try to gain the power for himself. However, Harry disarmed Draco at Malfoy Manor, making him the true master.
- Harry Potter – Harry realized he was the true master of the Elder Wand when he survived the Killing Curse and then later felt nothing when Voldemort tried to use the Cruciatus Curse on Harry’s body. Voldemort was killed when he tried to use the Killing Curse on Harry once more; this backfired and killed him.
Harry used the power of the Elder Wand to repair his old wand. In the books, he returned the wand to Dumbledore’s tomb. In the film series, he snapped the wand in two and threw it off the bridge. Either way, Harry believed that if he died of old age undefeated, the power of the wand would be broken, just what Dumbledore tried to do in the first place.
However, if we take Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as canon, it’s possible that Delphini (daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange) became the new master for a brief time when she disarmed him. She was defeated by Hermione Granger when she bound her. If this is canon, that means Hermione is now the true master of the Elder Wand.
The Resurrection Stone
The Resurrection Stone was said to be made by Death after he picked up a stone from the river. Unlike the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone was passed down generations from the Gaunt Family, a family descended from both the Peverells and the Slytherins.
The holder of the stone could bring back the spirits of anyone they wanted if they turned the stone thrice in their hand. They aren’t physically there, though, similar to the way the soul in Voldemort’s diary appeared before Harry. The spirits disliked being called from the afterlife, as they are pulled from the peace brought with it. Some souls may be fine with being called, but in the long run, they may become frustrated as they cannot physically touch anyone and they lack the peace the afterlife brings.
Before or after Cadmus Peverell’s death, the Resurrection Stone was fitted into a ring that became a family heirloom. It made its way down the Peverell family until it passed down to the Gaunts. However, knowledge that the stone was the actual Resurrection Stone and what the stone and its symbol meant became lost in time.
The ring eventually fell into Marvolo Gaunt’s possession. By that time, the Gaunt family had gone mad through the effects of inbreeding and were a mere shadow of the affluent family they were. Marvolo would use the ring to flaunt their family’s blood purity to anyone who visited and claimed he’s been offered huge sums for the ring, though he’s refused.
After Marvolo’s arrest and death, the ring went to his son Morfin. When Tom Riddle visited to learn about his heritage, he sensed it was a family heirloom. He proceeded to kill his Muggle relatives, frame Morfin, and steal the ring. He later turned the ring (including the stone) into a horcrux and hid it in the Gaunt’s home. It’s highly likely that he did not know he was carrying one of the Deathly Hallows. Even if he did, he had no loved ones to bring back and would not care about its powers.
Years later, Dumbledore would eventually find the ring. In his desire to see his deceased sister Ariana, he forgot that Voldemort had cursed the ring as a horcrux and wore the ring. The effects could have killed him, had it not been for Snape being nearby. The effects crippled Dumbledore’s hand and gave him around a year left to live. Using the Sword of Gryffindor, Dumbledore destroyed the horcrux, hid the stone in Harry’s Golden Snitch, and arranged his will so that Harry would inherit the stone.
Upon receiving the snitch, Harry would not use the stone until his final moments before meeting Voldemort. He used the stone to summon the souls of his parents, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin. They encouraged him to keep going and promised that they’d be with him until the end. After seeing them, Harry dropped the stone in the Forbidden Forest, leaving it lost forever.
The Cloak of Invisibility
The Cloak of Invisibility renders the wearer or wearers invisible. While there are invisibility cloaks sold within the wizarding world, these cloaks are merely charmed and will eventually fade with time. The Cloak of Invisibility, however, does not fade and has allowed the Peverell family (and later on the Potter family) to pass down the cloak from generation to generation.
It was said that the youngest brother was a humble man who merely asked Death for something that could let him move around without being followed by Death himself, so he received Death’s own Cloak of Invisibility. However, it’s just as possible that Ignotus Peverell was a powerful wizard who created his own invincible cloak.
Like the Resurrection Stone, the Cloak of Invisibility was passed down generations. Ignotus’ granddaughter, Iolanthe, married Hardwin Potter. Since there were no more male Peverell family members, the cloak passed down to the Potter family. By the 20th century, it reached the hands of Henry Potter, Harry’s great-grandfather, who then passed it to Fleamont Potter, who then passed it to his son, James Potter.
When Dumbledore learned that James carried the Cloak of Invisibility, he borrowed the cloak to study it. After James was killed by Voldemort, the cloak was left with Dumbledore. He returned it to Harry anonymously as a Christmas gift on his first year at Hogwarts. Harry would go on to use it many times in his adventures. Harry would later learn that his cloak was one of the Deathly Hallows. As the last descendant of Ignotus Peverell and the rightful owner of the cloak, he resolved to bequeath it to his own children as generations of Potters had.
Who Owned the Deathly Hallows?
While no one has held all three Deathly Hallows at the same time, both Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore managed to hold all three at some points in their lives. Harry had gotten hold of the Cloak of Invisibility after Dumbledore gave it to him for Christmas, saying it belonged to Harry’s father. He opened his first golden snitch to retrieve the Resurrection Stone. And he later got hold of the Elder Wand as his true master. However, he dropped the Resurrection Stone before he could get hold of the Elder Wand; had he kept it, he would have been the literal Master of Death as the Deathly Hallows symbol implied.
Dumbledore held the Elder Wand after his duel with Grindelwald. He held onto the Cloak of Invisibility after borrowing it from James Potter, but then returned it on Harry’s first year at Hogwarts. He found the Resurrection Stone on Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts when he obtained the Gaunt ring. Had he held onto the cloak until Harry’s sixth year, he could have carried all three of the Deathly Hallows.
Where Are the Deathly Hallows Now?
Depending on whether you follow the books or the films, the Elder Wand is now either back in Dumbledore’s tomb or broken at the bottom of a pit in Hogwarts. Harry remains the master of the Elder Wand (or if you count Cursed Child, Hermione) until someone else defeats him before his death.
The Resurrection Stone is lost in plain sight, hidden somewhere amongst the other stones and rocks on the ground of the Forbidden Forest. It’s highly likely that this was Harry’s intention to make sure no one could use it and it would remain lost in the forest forever.
The Cloak of Invisibility remains with Harry, who decided to pass it on to his own children when the time came. In The Cursed Child, it was revealed that Harry gave it to his eldest son, James Sirius, as a present during his sixth year. However, his younger brother, Albus Severus, stole the cloak.
Fan Theory: The Characters Are the Deathly Hallows
There’s a fan theory which suggests the Deathly Hallows not only represent the powerful objects, but also some of the characters in the series. And it shows that the fate of the original three brothers reflected on three other characters.
The Elder Wand was used by the first brother to gain power, which ultimately became the reason for his death. Like the first brother, Voldemort died for power and his quest to become the most powerful wizard in existence.
The Resurrection Stone brought back the second brother’s love, but he became mad that he could never truly be with her, and that cost him his life. Severus Snape was obsessed with Lily Potter, and spent the rest of his life protecting her son even if he hated that he looked just like his own enemy, James Potter. He died for his love, and his final moments showed that he never stopped thinking about her.
The Cloak of Invisibility allowed the third brother to live out the rest of his life, and when it came time to die, he calmly accepted his death and greeted him like an old friend. Harry willingly faced his death knowing that he would save others. And when he faced Voldemort, he did not try to put up a fight and was prepared for death.
So, what does all this mean? Well, it suggests that if Voldemort, Snape, and Harry are the three brothers, then Dumbledore must be the representation of Death. The fact that he was the one Harry saw in limbo and the one who offered Harry a choice to either die or return alive is something the personification of Death is said to do.