Magic in Fantasy Fiction

#Magic is often a key element in many works of #Fantasy fiction. How it is defined and used varies considerably, though, depending upon who authored the fantasy fiction.

What is Fictional Magic?

There are a variety of definitions for magic and it’s important to distinguish magic in terms of how it is used and defined within fantasy fiction as opposed to how it may be viewed from a religious context or when used by magicians within the entertainment industry.

In this article, we will focus on how magic is defined an used only within the framework of fantasy fiction, or, more precisely, fictional magic. That being said, here’s our definition of fictional magic, which is derived from several sources (see our References at the end of the post):

  • Fictional magic is an ability or power that a wielder has to use supernatural forces to make the wielder’s intent manifest, often in an extraordinary way.
  • By supernatural force, we mean a force that is beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.
  • By extraordinary, we mean something that is very unusual, strange or unexpected.

Systems of Magic

Authors of fantasy fiction often create a system of magic (a set of rules or guidelines that applies to magic) for the fictional world in which the fantasy fiction occurs. Once created, any magic used has to fall within that magical system. Several examples of magical rules & guidelines are listed below.

  • What is the nature of the magic?
    • Does magic originate from within or without?
    • What powers or abilities can be performed by magic?
    • Is magic natural, mystical or arcane?
    • Is magical power limited to specific items and the possession/use thereof?
    • Does magic have limitations? If so, what are they?
  • Who can wield magic?
    • Is magical ability hereditary or acquired?
    • Can anyone perform magic with the proper knowledge & training?
    • If magic is hereditary, do they still need proper knowledge & training to use magic?
    • How does someone obtain the proper knowledge & training?
    • Do specific magical abilities vary from wielder to wielder?
    • Are there magical creatures?
  • How is magic wielded?
    • Are magical implements (such as wands, staves or crystal balls) required?
    • Are there magical potions?
    • Are incantations required?
    • Are pacts with supernatural creatures required to wield magic?
  • Is there a distinction between “good” and “evil” magical wielders?
    • Do good and evil magical wielders fight each other?
    • Is there a magical judicial system to punish evil magical wielders?
  • How many people know about magic’s existence?
    • Is knowledge of magic’s existence broadly known to everyone (both magical & non-magical people) or only to those who can perform it and possibly a few who are ordinary?
  • Who do magical people interact with?
    • Do magical people tend to only interact with each other?
    • Is there a distinct magical society separate from the ordinary world?
    • If there is a magical society, is it hierarchical?
    • If there is a magical society, how developed is it?
  • If society at large has an opinion about magic, what is it?
    • Is magic accepted, rejected, believed in, not believed in, etc.?
    • How are magical users treated by society at large?
    • Do magical users work in harmony with society at large or are they at odds with one another?

Fantasy Fiction Authors that Include Magic

There are many authors of fantasy fiction that have incorporated magic into their works by varying degrees. Some of the most well known authors are listed below:

J.K. Rowling reading one of her favorite passages from “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”:

References:

Advertisements