The Study of Magic

As Steve mentioned in his post “City of Scars: On Magic” earlier this week, Magic is an element of Fantasy that you can typically find in most stories, even if you have to look pretty hard to find it.

Another very common theme in Fantasy, especially more in the YA Fantasy area, is “Magic School”.

Now, in our world universities typically have two functions: the first is to teach students. You go to a university to learn your chosen field so that you can go out and practice it.

But there’s a second, equally important role that universities play. They host graduate students and receive grants to study the advancement of fields.

This is an aspect of Magic in Fantasy that we don’t see very often. Magic schools spend all of their time teaching children how to use magic, how to cast spells, and other “wizarding” related activities. But where is the progress? Where is the advancement of knowledge for the good of the field?

Some lack of study in the advancement of knowledge can be explained by the magic system: maybe crafting spells is as easy as creating the right mental picture and then the spell poofs into existence and does what you want.

But not every magic system works like this. The Harry Potter universe would a fantastic example of a magic system where the words of a spell are important. Maybe in your world, the exact phrasing of a spell is vital to that spell’s effect. What happens if you try to change the phrasing?

I think as part of our magic systems, we need to consider how knowledge advances if not for “graduate” students performing experiments in a dark corner of the school.

And now I think I have an idea for a short story…

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3 comments on “The Study of Magic

  1. Funnt you should mention that – Prisoners of Fate, the next to be released in my Masters & Renegades series, is based around one of those experiments by a researching graduate student going wrong.

  2. In my fantasy book, everyone possesses magic, but not everyone can work it and everyone has different levels. It’s kinda like human strength. Everyone has some, some have more than others, and some individuals have the potential to gain more strength. In other words, a five-foot woman might weight train to become stronger, but she will never reach the potential of a six foot, four inch man. Words, herbs or motions and a combination of these things work spells in my book. It all depends on the spell and the spell user.

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