Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Magic, Monsters & Mythical Creatures: WIZARDS

We have talked of witches, dragons, Leviathan and the Basilisk, but this series would be incomplete if we did not delve into the mystery of…


In the beginning of the days when magic took the forefront of the human psyche, there were two types of common spell casters. There were priests, who gained their powers from their deity or gods, and there were sorcerers, who worked their magic without any divine assistance, using sheer talent alone. Wizards, who required neither divine assistance nor talent, but seemed to be born with their powers, came later on.

The origins of a wizard’s talents are not clear, but every culture has its own explanations which add to the ever growing legend. The most popular explanation is that the person in question has either a deity or a demon in their family bloodline. Some cultures think the talent comes from having draconic blood, while others believe that sorcerers are the descendants of great heroes who took their magic from other races, typically dwarfs, either by force or with trickery. There are even some cultures who believe that wizards are given their power as a sign of favor from one of the elemental lords.

The origins of wizardry itself are a bit more solid and can be traced back to ancient cities where the Gilded League now holds sway. It is there that the first wizards began to study the magical arts and learn to cast, rather than simply wield the power they had. Nobody is quite certain who the first wizard was or how he learned his craft, but some legends tells us he learned by sneaking into a god's workshop and spying on him as he practiced his powerful spells. The legend tells us the wizard sought to learn the secret to working magic the way the gods did without being dependent on a talent as the sorcerers were. Dwarfs and elves however, claim a different origin for their wizards. The dwarfs claim wizardry developed as a natural extension of their skills as craftsmen, while elves claim their wizards were taught by gods.

The first recorded wizards appeared thousands of years ago in prosperous cities. Theirs was an art involving conjuring and summonings that had been adapted from the rites of evil clerics. They called on demons, devils, and other hideous beings and then made dark pacts with them in their search for knowledge and power. Death and madness were the ultimate risks for wizards and all those who kept company with them. More often than not, the biggest danger that wizards faced came from their fellow wizards who were always seeking to further their craft. Defeating another wizard and stealing his knowledge was the easiest way to learn and far less dangerous than dealing with the foul creatures that bubbled up from the belly of Hell itself.

As a result, magic became a secretive profession with all knowledge jealously guarded and only taught to the rare apprentice. Though a few were rich men who paid exorbitant sums for a chance at great power, all too often such apprentices were only clever youths taught just enough to be of use in the lab who supplemented that education with whatever scraps of knowledge they could filch on their own. The latter were often never intended to be anything other than menial helpers and only managed to learn enough to become a wizard in their own right. Because of this, most wizards were only half trained and possessed incomplete knowledge with the predictable dangers associated with it.

Even with such terrible risks and such jealously guarded knowledge, wizardry spread. Every culture has people who will do anything for power and they sought out wizards for training. Thus, over the centuries and millennium, the wizard's art spread throughout the world.

Merlin is a legendary figure best known as the wizard featured in the legends of Arthur. The character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written in 1136. The writer claims to have gleaned all his information from historical documents and scrolls that track the life of this mysterious and well known wizard. The stories of Merlin have survived decades of time and each new generation places its’ own unique spin on the ages old tale. The newest Arthurian tale with a Merlin twist is HBO’s original series, Camelot. In it we see a more conniving, plotting Merlin who is actually afraid to use his powers because he cannot control them. When he does use them, they suck the very life from his body.

Another wizard that is famous from the literary world is Gandalf. He first appeared in 1937 in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Gandalf was first introduced as Gandalf The Grey and reintroduced later as Gandalf The White when he was brought back from the abyss of death. Other Tolkien books featured this well-known wizard and followed the hobbit’s journey into the very fires of Mordor. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King all carried Gandalf as a central character. The books were later adapted to film and directed by Peter Jackson in 2001. Receiving 13 Academy nominations, The Fellowship of the Ring took home four Academy Awards and is, to this day, the 19th highest grossing film of all time. The Two Towers and The Return of the King would also be adapted to film and become classics from our time and see their fair share of Academy nominations and wins. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the highest grossing film trilogy of all time and brought in a whopping $2.91 billion dollars worldwide.

I would step on a few toes if I failed to mention some more famous wizards from our time… The wizards of The Harry Potter series. In the series written by J.K. Rowling, we meet Harry Potter, an ordinary boy with extraordinary powers. As the series progresses, we watch Harry hone his skills as a wizard. In the meantime, we are introduced to a whole cast of wizards including Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape. Though the series is considered a young adult series, there are some extremely dark elements to the book and some of the wizards within its pages. As the series progresses, it becomes more and more harrowing as wizards began to kill other wizards in an attempt to be more powerful.

Through books and film we have discovered magic, monsters and mythical creatures. Though many of these things are fiction they still hold a very real place in our hearts and minds. They allow us to see possibilities we could not see before and they allow us to dream. We can dive into a fictional world filled with wizards, witches, dragons, Leviathan and the Basilisk and we can, for a short while, believe. Though these magical, mythical beings may not exist in our world, there is a wonderful place where we can go to find them all. It is a world filled with pages from great writers and the stories they have told, with films that we have fallen in love with, and full of dreams that can only exist in the most magical of places…

It is our imagination, and with it there are no boundaries and magic IS real.

CK Webb 

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post! I so enjoyed reading this. I love fantasy books and they are filled with wizards. Merlin and Harry Potter are two of my favorites. I have always found the background and legends aobut wizards to be fascinating. Thanks for sharing!