I’m still trying to work out what, if anything, is left of a magician if you remove the actual practice of magic.
This is that ‘integration’ thing I have been looking at. Because, however many energy exercises you do on the tube or however many daily sigils you launch, you are still spending most of your physical incarnation not actively practicing magic. (Or at least not consciously.)
So are there any behavioural traits you could broadly assign to magical folk?
What about unique ways of seeing the world? Or just ways of being in the world?
Essentially, this boils down to the eternal question: “Is there any being once doing stops?”
At least as far as I have read, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of fictional precedent for a powerless wizard. He or she may lose their powers during the course of a narrative but they are usually reclaimed.
Except for Ged.
For a variety of valid gender politics issues, the author more or less “punished” her protagonist from the first book… Largely for being yet another male wizard in the heterosexist male world of fantasy literature. (At least he wasn’t white with blonde hair. The denizens of Earthsea are brown.)
She subsequently pulled back from this judgement a bit in the following books, but her protagonists continue to be largely female and always brown. (Le Guin’s science fiction is one of the cleverest explorations of gender and politics in the twentieth century.)
If you haven’t read the Earthsea series then it is probably worth your while. It’s what young adult fantasy fiction was like before the publishing industry decided that teenagers were in fact nothing more than ludicrously stupid christian virgin girls secretly longing for an ancient emo to come and tell them they are super special. FFS, can you say daddy complex much??
(Why would vampires hang out with high school girls? They’re old! People find it creepy if seventy year olds want to hang out with school kids. High school kids are horrible and boring. Go and hang out with movie stars or something. That’s it, I’m calling the cops, buddy.)
Not giving anything away, but over the series Ged loses his powers. And he never gets them back. So Le Guin gives us a wizard (The Archmage, no less) who is all parts Uncle Owen and no parts Obi Wan Kenobi.
This then, makes for a very moving study of power, the lack of power, wisdom versus force, action versus non-action. (Le Guin is a Taoist. It’s basically a Taoist fantasy series. With brown people. And mostly women. Set in a fictional world based on the Isles of Scilly. But also with lots of dragons. Good god, I really do like her, actually.)
Her exploration of power and wisdom reaches its peak in the final novel, The Other Wind. Unfortunately, it’s not a book you can just jump to or the impact of all the small actions will be lost on you. (For instance, Ged basically puts a band aid on the apocalypse by giving someone a small cat.)
In the end its about relinquishing power for wisdom and all that good stuff.
So yes, he may not be my all-time favourite fictional wizard (Gandalf), but Ged is certainly the wizard with the most to teach me right now.
What about you guys? Favourite fictional wizard for learning and/or general badassnessness? (Jedi and such are allowed.)
Farther west than west
beyond the land
my people are dancing
on the other wind.
- The Song of The Woman of Kemay