what's in Newt's wand?
This blog post contains spoilers for the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If you haven't seen the film already, please stop reading.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is truly an amazing movie. I would even rank it higher than the Harry Potter movies because, instead of following one person's journey, Fantastic Beasts took the time to actually explore the expansive wizarding world J.K. Rowling created through multiple perspectives. I know they've already announced four other movies in the series, but I honestly can't wait for them. I've only seen the movie twice so far, and there's a lot I want to explore (How did Percival Graves join MACUSA without a background check? How did Constance get involved with the Second Salem movement? Where did the Second Salemer's even come from? Why was all the magic white? What's the deal with Grindelwald's face? And what did he mean by "shall we die, just a little"?), but today I'm going to look at one little stick.
What's the wand made of?
Eddie Redmayne's performance as Newton Scamander was absolutely amazing. He was fun but genuine and he seemed very "lived in" as a character. And just as nuanced as his character was his wand. First, let's look at the material used to create Scamander's wand. Some sources conclude that Scamander's wand is made of lime. This fits in line with Newt's apprehension to using parts of living creatures, as well as an announcement from Harry Potter Celebration. However, we need look no further than Pottermore to find out what the wand is actually made of.
So, Scamander's wand is made of wood, but it also has other elements within it, including bone and lime and shell. As far as we know, all the wands that we've seen are only made of wood. But all the wands we've seen were made by Garrick Ollivander, who was in his teens during the events of Fantastic Beasts. However, his father Gervaise was known to explore other wand-making elements, and it's entirely possible that he created Scamander's wand.
Is there a wand core?
Two elements stood out to me when I looked at Scamander's wand. According to concept designer Molly Sole: "Newt’s wand has this handle that is a tubular piece of shell." In the same article, the Pottermore Correspondent notes Scamander's wand has "something special carved into the end that slips into Eddie’s right hand as he clutches it." This could be a type of cap that slips off the end of the handle, exposing the tube when held by Scamander. All of this implies that Scamander's wand is hollow and doesn't have a core.
This seems plausible, because wand cores are typically made from animal parts. Ollivander uses only dragon heartstrings, unicorn hair, and phoenix feathers. Throughout the film and especially Scamander's meeting with MACUSA, we can see how important magical creatures are to him, and it would be difficult to imagine Scamander allowing animals to be used in such a callous way, especially in his own wand. But there's two more pieces of evidence to support Scamander carrying an empty wand:
At San Diego Comic Con, Redmayne helped give out 6,000 replicas of his own wand. The lovely folks at MuggleCast were able to get their hands on one to examine it. They noted that the wands distributed, while seeming to be of high quality (they compared it to the wands from The Noble Collection) the wands were also hollow. And looking at Scamander's wand available for purchase from The Noble Collection, you can clearly see what looks like a cap on the handle.
So, Newton Scamander is waltzing around the world, searching for and collecting dangerous creatures with a core-less wand. In Fantastic Beasts, Scamander briefly holds his wand in his mouth, and you can clearly see that its cavity is empty.
What's in Newt's Wand?
We've concluded that Scamander does indeed walk around with a core-less wand. But remember, when he hold the wand, the cap falls off. It's entirely possible that Scamander is inserting the core into the wand as he's using it. But what could he be inserting? Scamander carries many supplies with him, both in his briefcase and in his coat (he pulled a helmet and chest protection out of his pocket at the Central Park Zoo), and many have theorised that he keeps a store of wand cores with him that can be inserted at a moment's notice. However, I think the situation is a little bit different.
Newton Scamander is, first and foremost, as conservationist. He's spent his life protecting animals from people. I don't think he would be plucking out feathers and heartstrings just to keep with him. However we do see his harvesting the venom from his swooping evil. All of the creatures he keeps have expansive habitats, and relative freedom to roam around (despite living in a briefcase). However, two of his creatures tend to stay on his person: Picket chooses to stay in Scamander's pocket, despite his efforts to return the bowtruckle home. But the swooping evil seems live up Scamander's sleeve.
Throughout the movie, we see Scamander swinging and throwing his swooping evil. He seems to keep it hidden and up his sleeve all the time, even while he tries to keep the rest of his creatures in the case. We don't even see the swooping evil within the case, nor a habitat to house it. He also has incredible control over the swooping evil, commanding it with little to no effort. Take, for instance, the scene with the death poison: Scamander throws his swooping evil and with a barely audible whistle, commands it to act as a springboard for Tina Goldstein. Then the swooping evil flies alongside him, fending off attackers before, with a word, it flies back into Scamander's hand, giving up the opportunity to feast on brains (which is why it's called swooping evil in the first place).
Scamander's swooping evil shows the kind of loyalty and obedience that's characteristic of a wizard's wand. This is why I believe Newton Scamander's wand core is swooping evil. For a wand as unique as Scamander's, it deserves a unique wand core. And nothing could be more unique for a wand core than a living creature. The swooping evil curls itself up into Scamander's sleeve, right next to the opening of his wand when he's using it. It's not hard to imagine that it could slip itself inside the wand when Scamander needs him to.
This solution doesn't offend Scamander's sensibilities, either. By keeping the swooping evil outside of his wand, he can care for it normally and allow it the freedom to fly around and feast on brains (I feel like I can't stress that enough). Also, keeping a murderous creature with him around Hogwarts for the purpose of his own wand use would certainly get him expelled, as well as the attention of Albus Dumbledore (Hagrid got expelled for a lesser creature-related issue).
Are you sure?
During his escape from MACUSA, Scamander can be seen using his wand while the swooping evil was swooping outside the wand. However, Graves often uses wandless magic during the film, and we know that wands can still work without a core, they're just less effective. In his final (and I guess first) meeting with Grindelwald, we can see Scamander using his wand again without the swooping evil. His revelio charm is yellow and crackling, unlike the crisp white spells that we've seen throughout the rest of the film. This could be evidence of a weaker spell (because the core is missing), but because revelio is such a rudimentary spell, an experienced wizard like Scamander can probably perform it with a subpar wand. If anything, that just proves more incompetence within the American government (if a researcher can find Grindelwald without a core in his wand, why couldn't MACUSA, during the whole he was hanging out with them?).
In conclusion, I thought I was pretty cool when I got phoenix feather in my wand. But how cool is a feather when you can have a whole animal stuck up in there? Plus you get a friend.