Friday, February 22, 2008

Wizards in Fantasy

A man waves his hand and a bolt of lightning crashes into a monster. Brandishing a staff, a woman speaks a spell that crumbles a stone wall into dust. Man or woman, wizards are a primary element of Fantasy. They play important roles in many novels. Merlin is perhaps one of the most familiar wizards in Fantasy, appearing in many Fantasy novels (see previous article Merlin in Fantasy). There are many other wizards that can match or rival Merlin in power and popularity. They appear in a wide range of Fantasy books.

One wizard who is well known in Fantasy after Merlin is Gandalf. He appears in Lord of the Rings and the The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Gandalf is liked by the Hobbits, but can be an imposing figure. Considered a powerful wizard, he doesn’t use much magic openly except in his battle with the Balrog. Mr. Tolkien created a realistic character with wisdom and personal flaws. His portrayal of Gandalf became an inspiration to be emulated by many other Fantasy authors over the years.

Another wizard with an interesting life story is Ged of the Earthsea books. He starts out as a powerful, arrogant youth who learns responsibility for his powers. The creation of Ursula K LeGuin, Ged’s life is told through four books. From youth to Archmage to a journey beyond death, Ged’s story demonstrates the magic life brings with its changes. Ged is an unforgettable wizard. His story is told in A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu.

Not all wizards are men. Fantasy author Maggie Furey’s Aurian is a woman to be reckoned with carefully. Aurian is the daughter of two powerful magicians. She undergoes training in a society where ordinary people are considered little more than servants. Her story is told in four books: Aurian, Harp of Winds, Sword of Flame, and Dhiammara. Aurian’s life is one of struggle, love, sadness and loss. She is an interesting character of a powerful woman with a vulnerable side.

Some wizards are very young in age and the author traces their story through their training in school or as an apprentice. Harry Potter is the latest young wizard who has become popular in books and movies. J.K. Rowling’s contributions to wizards of Fantasy are:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Young Harry is an orphan who grows up in an abusive family but discovers his parents were really wizards. He goes to the magic school to learn to be a wizard and has many adventures. This is an excellent series for all ages that traces a young man growing up in an enchanting world.

Another interesting woman wizard is Lythande of the Blue Star. The wizards of her order must keep themselves ready for the final battle between good and chaos. While waiting, they must keep one secret about themselves. If another wizard discovers their secret, they lose their powers and can be killed. Lythande must keep her secret as she helps people on her travels. Her stories can be found in the book Lythande.

Harry Potter is not the only young wizard in training. Fantasy author Diane Duane writes a series of books about young people in training to be wizards. Young Nita and Kit from our world find a doorway into a world where they learn magic and have adventures. They face real world issues of adolescents in each book. The series consists of six books:

So You Want To Be a Wizard
Deep Wizardry
High Wizardry
A Wizard Abroad
A Wizard's Dilemma
A Wizard Alone

Wizards are an essential part of Fantasy books. Whether man or woman, young or old, good or evil, they bring interesting touches to the stories they appear in. Merlin, Ged and now Harry Potter are all part of our collective memories. Wizards wield magic in various ways, but admired most for their wisdom and advice. They will always play important roles in the Fantasy genre.

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