It’s week ten and the final week of my Class Showcase series, where I take a class from D&D and give three examples from popular culture. This week: Wizards.
#1 Gandalf (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)
On the one hand, Gandalf is really much more than just a Wizard. In certain ways, he is a demi-god charged with snuffing out the fires of evil through the purifying fire of light (indeed you could say he fights fire with fire). But, on the other hand, he is the quintessential forgetful Mage who is so wrapped up in his own grand thoughts and plans that many of the smaller details pass him by. This makes him both invaluable and flawed which is exactly how Wizards in D&D should be played. Yes, they wield incredible powers that can stop entire armies in their tracks; but they are also vulnerable in many ways and require the help of others more often than they would like to admit. That’s why Gandalf is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of a Wizard in popular culture.
#2 Harry Potter (The Harry Potter Series)
“You’re a Wizard, Harry!” I know that it sounds corny but who hasn’t wished to for magical powers from time to time? The power to change your world with a few mystical words and a flick of the wand, for better or for worse, is a very desirable thing. That subconscious desire is a part of what makes the character of Harry Potter so exciting and interesting for millions around the world. His innocence and naivety towards magic draws us in and we learn about his world at roughly the same pace that he does. In many ways, this is also the path that I’d like to see many players who assume the roles of Wizards in D&D to progress. Magic should be a wondrous thing, even in a magic heavy world, and both players and DMs alike should always give arcane powers a level of mystery and respect. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun.
#3 Merlin (Various)
As near as anyone has been able to decipher, the character of Merlin was originally an amalgamation of several historical and legendary characters brought together by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae, written around 1136 (Wikipedia). His name was Merlin Ambrosius and he was depicted as one of the heroes of the Romano-British War. Over the centuries he has evolved from a prophet soldier, to the chief advisor and teacher of King Arthur, to the magic wielding wizard many of us are familiar with today. And, despite what many believe, Merlin is not just a British figure. Many examples of the Merlin legend have been written in France, Norway, Finland, Germany, and Italy. In almost all of these incarnations, Merlin uses his vast knowledge of both the real world and the fantastical to bring about peace and justice. I consider him to be the original Wizard and the foundation for almost all who have come after him.
Honorable Mention: Bavmorda (Willow)
So I had to sneak in Bavmorda because, as a boy watching this movie, she was the one Wizard I always loved to see get what was coming to her. Willow is, in my opinion, a terribly underrated film. It was the precursor to many of the modern fantasy franchises of today (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, etc.) and it was also the first time in years that a fantasy film was done with great care and attention to detail thanks to the wildly creative folks at Lucasfilm. Getting back to Bavmorda however, she was delightfully evil and, unlike many of the Wizard villains of the past, she was able to back up her words with some impressive magic. The fact that she is eventually brought down by some slight-of-hand and showmanship was the icing on the cake.