“The wand chooses the wizard… it’s not always clear why.”
I always imagined that all wands looked roughly the same, maybe slightly different colors, but certainly not all those different, carefully constructed, unique, designs. I think of them as more utilitarian. Though I see the appeal of a unique design for every witch and wizard, it seems impractical, especially since they only cost seven galleons and a unicorn hair can cost up to 10 galleons. It doesn’t seem to be good business for Ollivander.
I always assumed the Ministry of Magic subsidised the entire wand-making industry. Like, they seem pretty essential to how everything runs in the wizarding world - and think of all the money you save on healthcare if you just make sure Ollivander stays in business!
Don’t you think there must be a guild of wandmakers? Such a small interconnected group of highly valuable artisans must, over the years, have aggregated a trust from shared profits, taxes, patronage, and investments which they use to support wandmakers and their apprentices.
How could a wandmaker ever make it on his own? The cost of each wand might cover its materials, but definitely can’t net much of a salary for folks like Ollivander. He spends all year crafting new wands for the late summer rush of Hogwarts first-years, though of course he can never be sure if his stock, built up over a lifetime, will be able to accomodate every new wizard; surely none of his wands choose a particular wizard every so often, and he must refer the poor firstie to a colleague’s shop for another go. This particular distribution of sales also creates an incredibly front-loaded profit margin each fiscal year—a flood of capital is great for restocking inventory, but irregular cash flows terribly dangerous for sustaining his operating costs for the other eleven months of the year. Moreover, like farmers dependent on stable currency and the market value of their crops, the availability of supplies like dragon heartstrings and unicorn tail hairs are entirely dependent upon tiny vulnerable populations not available domestically. Ollivander is as helpless before and dependent upon the health of elm trees and the political situation in Romania as farmers are to rain.
This is why a support network is necessary. A guild puts wandmakers in a position to work toward mutual success: sharing resources instead of hoarding them; communicating about potential threats to their supply chain; setting a fixed price for wands, adjusted of course for inflation and production costs, regardless of relative affluence of the region; and incentivizing new members to set up shop in underserved areas instead of saturating the market in major wizarding cities.
Moreover, this guild will possess a trust, a set of funds built up over centuries and maintained by dedicated custodians within the guild leadership. These funds support wandmakers like Ollivander by subsidizing their operating costs; provide pensions to retirees; pay stipends to apprentices; and offer loans to wandmakers during difficult years.
I think that before the democratic ethos of the guild system took over, wands used to be prohibitively expensive. They were analogous to swords, difficult to make and worth as much as modern cars or houses. A wandmaker might produce ten really good wands a year, and for those who could afford one, a wand was not a coming-of-age rite but a family heirloom. Old wizarding families likely had small collections of wands, and bestowed one to their firstborn or heir when the time was right. Those without family wands would have to save up for years in order to afford it—but of course, without a wand, one is restricted to lower-paying intellectual, service, or nonmagical vocations. Thus wands were held by and passed among established wizarding families, physical proof of the socio-genetic wizarding hierarchy which still plagues the modern wizarding world. Wands were not conduits for an individual’s talents but inherently valuable status symbols, powerful even if the wielder is not particularly good at magic.
Such a concentration of power—magical, cultural, political, and social—rewards the privileged few and disenfranchises the many. None but the heirs of wizarding families (and maybe their siblings if the family is rich with wands) can access magic; magical individuals born to non-wizarding families, non-heirs within wizarding families, families whose wands have been stolen or lost, and new wizarding families formed by marriages between non-heirs are all disempowered by this glass ceiling.
Wands held exclusively by the privileged few results in stability for the Wizarding world, as is always the case in societies with castes. This system protected the small and oft-persecuted wizarding population for centuries—yet discouraged innovation and retarded social change.
Then there was Ollivander.
The youngest in a long line of wandmakers, Ollivander grew up watching his father and grandfather and great-grandfather create exquisite wands for highborn customers ranging from the dismissive to the presumptuous. He witnessed their undeserved and unasked-for dependence on these privileged few—but he also listened. He heard what they whispered as their shop doors swung closed: “The wand chooses the wizard.”
What a radical statement. Wandmakers know that wands cannot be bought, traded, stolen, hoarded, or coerced away from their owners. Wands choose wizards. Wands intuit their rightful bearers, regardless of status, wealth, blood, and lineage. Wands reject the socio-genetic wizarding hierarchy; wands embrace muggleborns; wands don’t give a fig about who your daddy was. They forge with a singular wizard a bond that can only be broken by defeat in consensual single combat or death.
Ollivander learned from his ancestors that wands and the artisans who create them serve a higher cause than the market. So century and a half ago, talented and fearless and with his father’s blessing, he began to reshape the wizarding world to yield to that truth. He served the same few families all other wandmakers did, but at the same time, in pub cellars and dragon hatcheries and the kitchens of hawthorn foresters, he began to spread his gospel. Across Europe and the world, wandmakers and the tradesmen who supply their workshops began to see their trades a little differently. They began to think it a little unfair that their neighbor, who’d been transfiguring frogs into teacups since she was three, would never be able to apprentice for a potionmaker since her parents could not afford a wand; that heirs had to marry as their parents dictated or else be disinherited, wandless and alone; that Muggles with magic would never enter into this robust world of wonder, healing, and flight.
And when enough people believed, when Ollivander amassed enough attention from people who mattered—people with money to invest and kids in need of wands—well, then he founded the Wandmakers Guild, and the wizarding world was forever changed.