A Little Help From My Friends: The Wizard Guide, Part 2

Who’s drinking extra caffeine this week?

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Stupid “spring forward” nonsense…

On the bright side, last week–before I became semi-comatose–was fairly productive. I managed to finish my higher-level edits on The Heart of the Goddess, which was a pretty big accomplishment. Now I just need to line edit and proofread and get it formatted for e-book. Those things probably won’t take long, so I think we’re entirely on track for a March 29 release! I also managed to catch up on client work, and we got our taxes filed.

Just don’t ask me about the state of our house.

It’s times like these when I could really use a few wizarding powers of my own. It would be handy to be able to wave a wand or staff and get things tidied up in mere moments (never mind the potential consequences).

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Alas, as someone entirely human, I am relegated to just dreaming and making up wizards who can do all the things I can’t.

Which leads us into part two of my ruminations on the Wizard Guide character in fantasy (and more specifically in my own work).

What Makes the Wizard Different?

There are a lot of words for characters who wield magic, and often, what we call them depends on what kind of magic they use. However, there’s also a lot of crossover and a lot of unique vocabulary. All of the male practitioners of magic in J. K. Rowling’s work are “wizards,” and in the Star Wars universe, the people who use the Force are called Jedi or Sith.

So the question arises–what do I mean by “wizard”? I think there are three basic things that exemplify the kind of wizard or wizard guide we see in a Merlin-type figure.

First, there’s the kind of magic that “wizards” typically practice. In many fantasy stories, Wizards (or Sorcerers/Sorceresses) aren’t the only practitioners of magic. In David Eddings’ work, Belgarath and Polgara regularly scold the “magicians” who practice a kind of manipulation of natural and supernatural forces–what we might consider witchcraft. Typically, the wizard practices or possesses some kind of inexplicable power–something beyond what a “normal” magical person could do in that world.

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Second, the wizard or wizard guide has a level of knowledge other magical people don’t have. In the Star Wars universe, most people who are connected to the Force aren’t necessarily “wizards” in the way that, say, Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi were. Those older characters had honed and developed their skills and coupled their power with experience and wisdom to enable them to impact the characters around them. They may also have special knowledge acquired through deeper study or revelation, as Dumbledore did. While male practitioners of magic were called “wizards” in J. K. Rowling’s universe, not all of them had the level of skill or knowledge that Dumbledore had.

Which brings me to my last point… I think wizards and wizard guides need to be somewhat set apart. We don’t have the stereotype of the wizard in a high tower for no reason. These practitioners of magic and possessors of secret knowledge need to be a little bit inaccessible–a little bit odd or unapproachable or different. Merlin lived in a cave. Obi-Wan lived by himself in the desert and enjoyed his reputation as a crazy old hermit.

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So what, exactly, is the purpose of this anti-social, odd, gifted character?

The Purpose of the Wizard

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how to put this, and I think the best way to explain the function of the wizard in much of the classic and high fantasy that I’ve read is to be a stand-in for the divine or supernatural.

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In so many fantasy books, the wizard or wizard guide is not the main character. A Wizard of Earthsea and David Eddings’ prequels about Belgarath and Polgara aside, the typical wizard guide is there to assist the protagonist–sometimes through magic, sometimes with advice, and sometimes by dropping hints about hidden knowledge. The protagonist may wield magic as well, but the protagonist may be unskilled or practice a different kind of magic.

For me, the purpose of Phinneas in The Taurin Chronicles is to be something of a stand-in for God. Because he’s very old and has been studying matters of magic, prophecy, and human nature for so very long, he has a vast array of knowledge and wisdom about when to apply and share it.

And Phinneas isn’t the only one. Rhiannon, my menopausal truth-teller, practices the same magic Phinneas practices, though she has not made the same sacrifices Phinneas has made (more about all of that another day).

But the other thing about a character who is a little bit set apart is that the protagonist can never be entirely sure of the wizard’s motives and allegiances. Phinneas has been quite clear about his allegiance to his emperor. And Rhiannon, though she is loyal to Connor, Mairead, and even Maeve, would not hesitate to choose serving God over serving one of the humans she’s been attached to.

So because these characters seem to operate on a slightly higher or different plane, may exhibit previously unknown powers or knowledge in a believable way, and often provide counsel and guidance to characters, I think they are sort of stand-ins for God or the supernatural.

The “Wizard Guide” of Taura

At the moment, Phinneas is the only real “wizard guide” of The Taurin Chronicles. Rhiannon isn’t really on the same level as Phinneas. There are other eunuchs in Phinneas’ orbit, but most of them are not practitioners of magic; those who are are secreted away where they can pursue their own purposes. And there are other practitioners of magic scattered all over the book, but no one else really has the depth of knowledge, the power, and the objectivity of Phinneas.

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So as the resident Wizard Guide, Phinneas acts on the plot and the world in the following ways:

  • He’s there to do things no one else can do. Phinneas has referred to his network of eyes and ears, and he uses his unique ability to flash in and out of his locations to visit all of them. He’s demonstrated that he can fight magic with magic as well. We’ve so far only tapped the surface of Phinneas’ power; he’s keeping it under wraps until the hour of most critical need.
  • He fills in the gaps in knowledge. Phinneas is widely read and highly educated, and he’s also written histories and legal treatises over his many years. (In case you didn’t catch it, Phinneas is the author of the book that Igraine acquires in the castle after her arrow wound.) Phinneas also possesses knowledge of medicine, geography, prophecy, and other disciplines that will come in handy along the way.
  • He’s a steady, capable hand. By keeping himself in the middle of everything Connor is doing and managing Connor’s estate, Phinneas is making sure that Connor’s interests don’t suffer while he’s out leading an army. Plus, being in the middle of everything is how Phinneas keeps his own interests front and center.
  • He can operate in ways other characters can’t. Things that would not work for other characters–disappearing for weeks at a time, giving instruction where he’s not really in charge, or suddenly demonstrating unknown powers–can work for the Wizard Guide. We know these guys are different, so it’s not unbelievable when they act unexpectedly.

Phinneas has not yet fully demonstrated what he’s capable of, but that’s largely because he’s not the star of the show–Connor is. But I don’t think Phinneas will be reluctant to step up when the time is right, either.

Time will tell…

Not sure what I’ll have for you all next week, but now that the big Ian Mac Roy edits and my taxes are out of the way, my Muse will likely find more room to romp around and stir things up in my head. We’ll see what she comes up with…

See you next week!

 

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