Systems of Magic

Caleb W scalebw at
Sun Aug 25 14:04:35 EDT 2002

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-dwj at [mailto:owner-dwj at]On Behalf Of
> Kathleen Jennings
> Sent: 25 August 2002 01:02
> To: dwj at
> Subject: Systems of Magic
> This is something I never used to think about. Some books were magical,
> others had magic in them, and that was that. Narnia was magic -
> but people,
> or most people - didn't go around casting spells. In fact, only bad people
> cast spells. Aslan's 'magic' was, of course, something altogether
> different.
> And The Hobbit and LotR were similar - the 'magic' was in the book and the
> land and the characters - actual spells were few and  far between and
> involved deeper, higher and darker forces. (The 'magic' of myths and sagas
> and fairytales, I suppose).

I've always preferred this type of magic. A friend of mine was outlining an
idea for a fantasy story he had, and everyone was using magic, and if they
were the seventh son of a seventh son then their ability was multiplied by
ten, and this magical mcguffin multiplied magic by three and so on. I really
didn't like how mechanical it was, just like some simple system cooked up
for a computer game. Science isn't as boring and predictable as that! Magic
ought to have some sense of wonder, otherwise it defeats the point somewhat.
It depends very much on how the author does a magical system, but really I
don't like the whole idea of there being a "system".

As a Christian I have certain reservations about people going around casting
spells left, right and centre, although I can perfectly safely read a book
in which people do without being tempted to do the same, as one person
seemed to argue with me! Since I believe that supernatural power either
comes from God or the devil, and God doesn't let his power be used for
"party tricks" while the devil would be very happy to do so if it would be
ultimately detrimental to the person using it, then in real life I think any
real magic is very dangerous indeed. However, I can tell the difference
between fiction and real life, and would teach any children I had the
difference too.

I love the musical magic in The Magicians of Caprona, especially the
marvellous set piece with the two families fighting each other in the
street. There was a Doctor Who book I read which had  the Doctor arrive on a
fantasyland planet only to have space explorers land there soon after - the
juxtapostition of genres was quite fun, as was the inevitable "scientific"
explanation of how magic was possible. A later Who book, The Scarlet
Empress, also had the Doctor visiting the definitely magical planet (of the
Narnia/Middle-earth/non-spells type) of Hyspero, and blew great big
raspberries at the portion of readers who demand a scientific explanation of
such things by just having it _happen_. It's one of my favourite Doctor Who
books, by the way.

I ought to be packing to go away, so I'll stop rambling now...

Caleb W.

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list