Thursday, August 20, 2009

Magic and Fantasy (Part 1)

Is it necessary to have a magical element in a fantasy story? Well that depends, really. You're probably wondering what I mean by that, so lets take a look at some fairly well known fantasy authors.

I think it's pretty safe to assume that when you see the name, J.R.R Tolkien you automatically think of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. But do you also think of magic and/or paganism? Well, I certainly hope not, and I'm willing to bet Tolkien would have hoped not too. He went through a lot of care to keep magic, for the most part, out of his novel. What do I mean by "for the most part?" If you've read "The Lord of the Rings," you may have noticed that the word "magic" made its appearance from time to time. But who did it typically come from? The hobbits, Gimli, and sometimes even men. What about the wielders of this supposed magic? Well, when asked about it, they were usually pretty emphatic that it wasn't magic at all. Now wait a second! You might be saying. Gandalf and Saruman were wizards! And they certainly used magic! Hmm...this actually requires some deeper reading...

"The Silmarillion" is a very detailed look at the world of Middle Earth and even beyond. It's full of Elves, Men, Dwarves, and Valar. What? Valar? Yes indeed. They were in "The Lord of the Rings" too. Anyone remember Tom Bombadil? He's better known as Tulkas in "The Silmarillion," and he's a Valar. The Valar, with the help and guidance of Eru, created Middle Earth. And there aren't just Valar, there are Maiar too. I could go into a very detailed explanation of what these beings actually represent, but let's keep this particular post as short as possible (it's already getting pretty long and I haven't even gotten to the other two authors). What you need to know is that Gandalf, Saruman, and Sauron are Maiar.

This all is just a long, roundabout way of saying that those who are accused of using magic are done so by those who don't know any better.

You may be thinking that this doesn't change the fact that some of those characters had special abilities. And you would be right. But you have to stop and see where those abilities are coming from. Are they coming from special potions, rituals, sayings, etc.? Or are they coming from some supreme being who doesn't give the ability to just a rare few, but to all within a certain race?

There is a difference and I'll go into why in Parts 2 and 3.

Stay tuned!

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