Magic in Fantasy Novels
For a moment, I would like to discuss the fantasy novels I have read that contain magic, and how it compares to the magic in Celenic Earth. These are the novels I grew up reading as a kid, and may have influenced how I feel about magic. Even though many more could be mentioned, these are the ones that could be compared to Celenic Earth the most.
The Thomas Covenant Series – Stephen R Donaldson
Meet the very first fantasy series I read in school as a teenage kid. The intricate detail in which the protagonist’s emotions and mental state are described in every aspect. The ability of my characters to sit and summarise in their minds what has happened to bring back perspective to the reader was probably learnt from this series, although not as much as Donaldson did.
In terms of magic, the ability of material items to harness and contain the magic of the user is definitely a key element in Celenic Earth. This is not only found in this series though, but many others and in religious references. The Book of Exodus is probably one of the prime examples of this. The High Priest’s breastplate contained 12 gemstones, 1 for each tribe of Israel. These jewels had the ability to provide God’s guidance and also to save Israel from their sins. We will get to Moses a bit more, but the story of his staff is legendary, parting the sea and obtaining water from a rock and all.
Strangely, items containing power are not new to our world, as can be seen in the realm of science. Do you know how a magnet works? Have you seen metal conduct electricity or heat through it? Have you turned on a light? These may not seem magical to you (they would to someone from the old ages who have never seen it), but I believe the same principles apply, except in magic it is just on a more esoteric, supernatural level. Channeling what’s inside or abstract to the physical, external world. In the same vein as science, magical energy can never be created nor depleted: it is simply transformed from one state of existence to another. It transforms the energy inside us or around us, into something more physical / visible. All that we lack is the mechanical means to do so. More on that later.
So, how does this translate to Celenic Earth? I’m so glad you mentally asked that. There are many weapons and artefacts that contain magical properties. Ruben-Willow, Shadowolf’s sword that he mysteriously found on the battle-field, has the ability to change into any of the elements Shado turns it into, and fights by the strength of his spirit more than his body. It also contains an amethyst and Lapis pin in its hilt, further strengthening the power it can transfer. The amethyst itself is used by the dark lord Le’Mar to control his pure orcs (purorcs in the Windfarer) and the Lapis pin grants the gargoyles the ability to withstand the sun’s power over them. As a final example, the Heart of Tigers contains the power to break the elvin forest’s magical defence, if its secrets can be solved.
In terms of the use of magic, it is more freely used than in the Thomas Covenant series, but that is more due to the nature of the books than anything else. In Thomas Covenant, white gold magic can destroy the arc of time, so the crux is more about learning not to use it and channel it properly than actual use. It is also the only type of magic freely available. On Celenic Earth, there is a college devoted to the teaching of elemental magic, although other types of powers are available. While most of the people thrive on learning how to use the magic to the world’s advantage, some have devoted to using it to rule the earth. Much like when gunpowder was discovered.
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R Tolkien
The image of a grey-beard man, having learnt it all and the proper discipline thereof, seems to be a catchy tune. Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Dumbledore in Harry Potter, Masara in Celenic Earth, Moses in the Christian Bible, Ian Mckellen in general (such a legendary person and actor) – they seem to be the best magical mentors around. There is even mention of paintings and recordings in ancient civilisations of a grey bearded man arriving in their midst and teaching them the ways of the world.
Will teach us to respect our elders….
In this series is also contained the magic in natural materials, such as Gandalf’s staff, which is much like Moses’s staff. The rings themselves are also very much like Covenant’s ring, except that one was created to rule them all. The staff is used to traverse great distances to extend their magic, such as the epic battle between Saruman and Gandalf while the Fellowship was traversing Caradhras Mountain.
But there are hints of other magic other than portrayed in instruments. Gandalf sends a message through a moth to the eagles. This ability to communicate to animals is seen in Christian beliefs too, the most famous being St Francis of Assisi. And no, I am not talking about teaching your dog to sit. This is the ability to freely communicate with animals, having found a bond with nature. This bond is also found in Celenic Earth, such as Shado’s bond with his pet wolf, Nelnar. As Sorceress has mastered the earth element, she can communicate with and summon any of the earth’s creatures due to her link with them.
Magic in Lord of the Rings is very much still restricted to a last resort situation, as even Gandalf warns against it use, although I must just add that magic seems prevalent throughout Middle Earth. Without it, Sauron could not exist nor communicate with his subjects or find the ring. The only link to using the elements with their magic seems to be with the elves. In Celenic Earth, this knowledge is passed down by the elves, but humans are more naturally inclined to calling on the elements. Anything that is not associated with the four natural elements is bound by the fifth element of the human soul, or the mental psyche – you choose. In Celenic Earth, the use of magic is the dominant form of combat and is almost always used as often as possible.
I think it goes without saying that the notion of a dark lord raising armies to rule the world in my novels comes from both Lord of the Rings and Thomas Covenant.
The Riftwar Saga- Raymond E Feist
Want a fantasy novel that deals predominantly in magic, why not try one with the word in the title? There are many more books that formed part of the Riftwar world, but the original three of the Riftwar Saga is legend. It showcased the difference between might and magic. This is one of the core themes in the Celenic Earth novels, the battle between the natural elements of nature and the cold steel of weapons and armour.
A softer element in these tales is the romantic twists found in between. Sure, LOTR had it between Aragorn and Arwen, Thomas Covenant had it with Linden. But nothing piqued my romantic interests more than that between the growing love between Pug and the princess, in the first instance, and later between Pug and Katala. As can be seen in Celenic Earth, romance and relationships are the core that keeps the characters together.
With regards to magic, although the themes is Pug’s training in magic, it is mostly centralised around him and those that teach him. Celenic Earth has a stark contrast to this whereby most of the humans practice magic in one form or another, mostly in the elements. It has become a way of life, especially in the battles to save Celenic Earth from the growing armies of darkness. It is so abundant that the master levels for each element have been named, even the illusive title of the master of all elements, the Sadgi.
The Death Gate Cycle- Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.
Magic and mystical creatures?! Yes please. I could not finish reading this heptalogy fast enough. And why am I so excited about this series? Simply because the magic in these are closely related to Celenic Earth – it has realms for each of the elements. There is another aspect in these novels closely related to mine: not only are there various ‘worlds’, but they are closely related to one another and the fate of the one is tied to the other.
Harry Potter – JK Rowling
This is probably the strangest comparison to a fantasy series that I’ve had, not because its untrue, but because I simply did not see it coming. There are very few readers that I know that have not compared The Windfarer at least to Harry Potter.
It took some thinking and querying to find out why. To quote Professor Snape from this series: “There will be no foolish wand–waving or silly incantationsin this class“. The natural elemental magic used by the humans are brought forth by the fifth element of the soul, which of itself has some base magic without the elements (telekinesis, psychokinesis, premonitions, etc). And even though tools can be used to extend power, such as the staff and sword, the use of spells is restricted to Heula and other witches in DragonRider.
So where does this comparison come from? The first part of The Windfarer deals with Shadowolf’s training in the Asbec College of Elements. The classes and schedules are spelt out to give the reader an idea what the school is like during the normal run of things. I have also identified the elemental sports that they play. This has been compared by readers to Harry Potter, in terms of schooling and sports. However, this is only Part 1 of the first book and never happens again.
There was one compliment I got though by a reader and that was that “The Windfarer’s magic in the beginning is like Harry Potter, but just more intelligent.” Thanks again to that reader, that was really appreciated.
So that is a very brief summary of the comparisons of the magic in my series compared to those that I have read and can remember of them. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I compare Celenic Earth’s magic to faith, mythology and religion.