Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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Where Has All the Magic Gone?

Today, I finished reading The High King, the last book of the original Prydain Chronicles. It was definitely an epic conclusion, bringing in most of the characters from earlier books to play roles in the final battle against Arawn. It was kind of melancholy, though, what with all of the characters either dying or making other sacrifices. And many of the people who survived ended up sailing to the Summer Lands, and since they're described as a place of eternal life from which none of them can return, that's really not a whole lot different from dying, at least from Taran's perspective.

I had heard beforehand that the series ended with all of the magic departing from Prydain, and while this worked better than I feared it would, that's still not a trope that I particularly like. I think part of it ties into my distaste for the dismissal of the whimsical and imaginative as childish, and hence magic as incompatible with a civilized society. But the departure of magic is sometimes also used without the coming-of-age bit, like in Final Fantasy VI, with the disappearance of the magic-producing Espers. Another component is that I prefer when magic is something that operates on scientific principles, and that can be studied like any other academic discipline. Obviously, fantasy series differ in their treatment of magic. The Harry Potter books, for instance, make magic something learned, but it's only available to those who are genetically predisposed to be wizards. The Oz books largely operate on the idea that, as the Shaggy Man sings in Patchwork Girl, "magic is a science." The Wizard of Oz studies under Glinda, and grows from a humbug to a quite skilled magician. On the other hand, there are also cases of someone's ability or knowledge of magic being removed, and suggestions that magic is either less effective or flat-out ineffective in civilized places. I suppose that, if magic didn't have aspects that weren't explained, it wouldn't really BE magic. But I tend to prefer fictional takes that make it a natural part of the world, rather than an unnatural by-product of something, or a force tied in with religion. That doesn't mean a story involving magic HAS to work that way for me to enjoy it; it's just my general preference.
Tags: books, final fantasy, harry potter, oz, prydain, video games
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