Howl's magic

McMullin, Elise emcmullin at
Tue May 30 17:13:42 EDT 2000

Max said:

"I *think* (can't find my copy of Howl because my daughter has run off with
it) (again)...."

Heh heh heh - that's the kind of temptation that really shouldn't be

"...that Howl really could do magic.  Mrs Pentstemmon calls him one 
of the most powerful magicians she ever taught, doesn't she? (twice the 
imagination and abilities of Suliman?)  And he does summon Despair, Anguish
and Horror and do the green slime.  And the castle in four dimensions.  And
he turns into a cat.  On the other hand, stuff like the 'drying power' could
be silica?  And I like that he cooks bacon in the usual way.  (Well,
relatively usual way.  I guess people don't generally cook over a fallen

And didn't he do his doctoral thesis on magic?

"Hmm.  Does it perhaps tie in somehow to the way that magic and reality blur
or co-exist in DWJ's stories, so that magic becomes equated with
possiblities and creativity instead of being something that can only happen
in stories or imagination?  If magic exists in their world and science in
ours, but magic is possible in our world, then science should be possible in
theirs so that it's balanced.  Then there'd be no need to do magic every
time in a magic world if something as simple and practical as pepper will
work just as well.  I don't know; it seems to make it more credible somehow
I think.  And takes away that sense of magic only belonging to 'special'
people that you can get from some stories."

I like the idea of magic being a way to perceive and do useful things based
on the same laws of the universe that are the foundation for scientists to
do useful things.  In fact I am not so sure that science is so different
from magic - it's just certain preconceptions which attach.  My thought is
that both would be based on a understanding of how things work.  Surely a
little demonstration of chemistry would look like magic to someone who
didn't know.  All sorts of things.  Oh and I just ran across an article
about the "death ray" of Archimedes (eureka in the bathtub fellow).  When
the Romans came to invade his island, they apparently may have used large
mirrors held by a long row of people and coordinated on focussing the sun on
the wooden ships - which did burst in to flame very satisfyingly, for the
defenders.  Neither here nor there, I'll move on...

"It makes this world seem more full of possibilities too, 
if something we take for granted can be seen as magical, like computers.
Which *are* magical anyhow!  How else can I be tapping plastic buttons over
here, and have you over there know what I'm thinking!"

Hmm, if you can tell your computer to fetch me a cup of coffee, now *that*
would be magic!

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