This month we Quills are sharing our thoughts on what we find to be the value or purpose of magic in our works. To get things started, is Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies.
Since we were wee sprouts we’ve been enchanted (punny, right?) by stories about magical beans, geese, unicorns, dragons, kings, gingerbread houses, swords, ships, and all kinds of diverse things. Magic opens the doors to new ideas, exciting places, amazing people. It encourages our imaginations and broadens our horizons. Best of all, it allows us to step out of the mundane, lift our heads, and engage in wonder.
He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. ~Albert Einstein
Magic in fantasy is a feast…
Read more on Robin's site here.
And now for my thoughts.
Some of my earliest reading memories are of stories that included magic. I recall reading, over and over again, Little Witch, by Anna Elizabeth Bennett, and Mio, My Son, by Astrid Lindgren. Also, Bewitched was amongst my favorite television shows. When Samantha’s nose twinkled, you never knew what might happen next. Those tales engaged my imagination and sense of wonder. They moved me out from my world of cares and worries (such as they were as a child) and into another realm where anything was possible.
When a story engages my emotions, I’m involved. But when it also encourages my sense of wonder, I’m hooked. This is what magic does. It creates something I’ve never before seen, heard or felt. It makes me wonder, each step of the way, “what if . . .” Just as those stories of magic did in my youth, fantasy tales today introduce me to what could be—and that is the wonder of magic.
Occasionally I read concerns of those who think stories with magic are somehow bad or even evil. They propose that children, in particular, may be led astray through them—that they may be introduced to the concept of following witches and the like. I do not subscribe to that train of thought—at least not if the concepts of right and wrong are made clear. For me, the issue isn’t what the author calls the type of character—a witch, warlock, wizard, enchantress, or otherwise—but what he shows and expresses through that character. Good and evil, struggle and triumph, the mundane and the spectacular—these things are all made more clear when the reader engages in a new world because his whole mind is engaged.
There is another purpose for using magic in a story—a more practical one. When you get right down to it, in fantasy tales, magic often replaces technology. Consider that many such stories are set in pre-industrial worlds. There, magic provides the means to get people where they need to be, to get information to those who are in need of it, and so on. What is a magic carpet but an old-fashioned vehicle? What is a tool for scrying, but a telephone with a video feed—a means for allowing the viewer to see and hear things occurring in another time or place, thereby gaining pertinent information as and when needed? What is a magic healer or a new-age pharmaceutical, but a physician or wondrous healing in another form?
When Apple came out with the iPad several years back, I was one of the first to purchase one. When I’d seen the first online videos of it, my reaction was: “It’s magic!” I saw that it could deliver to me, in my hands, in the moment, information, answers to questions, entertainment, and more. I was mesmerized. I still am. In many ways what new technology in any form does, is the magic in our present world.
What do you think? Please share!