May 22, 2024

The Sorcerer’s Tower

         This post is for Wyrd And Wonder’s prompt “The Sorcerer’s Tower: Magic Users,” and I thought I’d come at the prompt from the angle of world creation.  If you’re writing a story in which there will be magic users, what do you need to think about as you devise your universe?  The very first question is how much thought you’re really planning to lavish on your magical systems.  If you’re writing flash fiction about a stereotypical wicked witch, you won’t necessarily need much original world creation, as opposed to a six-novel series in which you’re coming up with an entirely new secondary world.  But just for the fun of it, let’s say you’re making up a whole new world, and this world has magic users in it.  Keeping the focus on the magic users themselves for purposes of this post, here are some of the things to think about…

      • How does one get magical power?

            Only some are born with it?  If so, who?

            Anyone can learn?  If so, how?  And who gets access to this education?

            It comes from wielding magical items?  If so, where do magical items come from?

      • What is the cost of doing magic?

            Costs can be economic, physical, emotional, moral, psychological, social…  What are the trade-offs or sacrifices that it takes to gain and use magical power?

      •  What types of magic are there?

            Potions, rituals, necromancy, magic wands, incantations, hand motions, spirits, familiars, tools, special language…

      • What factors contribute to a magic user’s powerfulness?

            Training, innate power, quality of wand or materials or familiars, time of day or year…

      • What are magic users called?

            Are there different meanings for different words?  So a “wizard” does one kind of magic while a “magician” works in a different way, and a “sorcerer” is something else again?

      • How are magic and magicians viewed by society?

            Do different types of magic users have different status?

            How do different types of magic users view each other?

      • What is magic users’ role in daily life?  Or are they called upon only on special occasions?  And if so, when?

            Do they intermingle with everyone else, or live apart?

      • Does society in general know about magic?

            How accurate is their understanding of magic?

      • Are there civic laws regarding the use of magic?

            Are magic users above or below the law?

      • What is the relationship between magic and the adjacent fields of technology and religion?

            How do users of technology or adherents of religion view magic users, and vice versa?

        Of course that’s barely a toe-dip in the ocean of world-creation, but hopefully it’s enough to get the creative blood pumping and the ideas flowing!

As for me, I’ve built magic users into a few of my books.
      The Otherworld Series is a high fantasy in which immortal cumarún are like magical guardians who are seldom seen and often misunderstood.  Their magic is not flashy, as their role is to guide people rather than doing things for them.  But one of them, at least, does indeed live in an excellent Sorcerer’s Tower, which you get to see in Song Against Shadow, book 1 of the series!
      The Kate and Sam Adventures is a three-book fantasy series for elementary-age kids, in which the magic users are fairies.  They have all kinds of powers of illusion, transformation, and more.  There are also genies, who are another kind of magic user, capable of granting wishes, among other things.
      The Extraordinary Book of Doors is a middle grade fantasy in which the magic is provided by magical books.  Theoretically anyone with one of the Books can wield the magic, although it does take a certain amount of observation and imagination to realize that the books are magic and find the keys that make them work.
        I’ve also written short stories with a whole variety of different magic users, including a vengeful nature sorceress, a recovering wicked witch with a very unusual familiar, farmers who raise magical creatures, a trickster shapeshifter, a siren, and a reimagining of Rumplestiltskin.  So  many intriguing possibilities!
        Finally, I couldn’t do a #WyrdAndWonder post without extra links.  Be sure to check out my previous posts that include lots of excellent art featuring

Wicked Witches

Gandalf and Dumbledore

Plus a whole post on how to make your own Philosopher’s Stone, and

the back story on my own relief block print The Philosophers at Home  which just might be the scene inside a Sorcerers' Tower!

        Who are your favorite magic users in fiction?  Favorite types or specific favorite characters?

The Tower, Phillip Hagreen, 1922 (Image from Pallant House Gallery);
The Witch, illustration by John D. Batten from Hansel and Gretel, 1916 (Image from Monster Brains);
Wood block illustration from The Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Dr Faustus, c. 1700 (Image from Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton);
The Druids, engraving by S.F. Ravenet after F. Haymen, 1752 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);
Sorceress, woodcut by Oh Yoon, 1985 (Image from MutualArt);
The Astronomer, wood block print by Jost Amman, 1568 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);

Bee-faced Mushroom Shaman, rubbing or drawing of cave art from Tassili n’Ajjer, Algeria, Neolithic period (Image from Food of the Gods by Terrence McKenna, from Open Culture);

Caillee the Fairy, illustration by AEGNydam from Kate and Sam and the Chipmunks of Doom, 2009 (Image from NydamPrints);

The Philosophers at Home, rubber block print by AEGNydam, 2018 (originals sold out, image from NydamPrints) ;

Tower of Donauworth, 1926 (from The Woodcut Art of J.J. Lankes by Welford Dunaway Taylor, 1999);

Wyrd & Wonder orange dragon by Elena Zakharchuk.]

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