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Thread: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

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    Chaplain Shas'o Gavner'Elan's Avatar
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    Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and, although I have not read any other Middle-Earth books, I have some knowledge in its interesting and very detailed history.

    However, what I can't figure out is whether or not recent LOTR games (Conquest, War in the North, Online etc.) are accurate in the fact thast they suggest wizards and mages are common across the world. I got the impression from the books and movies that wizards are rare and idolized figures, while games and certain stories make them seem relatively common, like magic-wielders in the Warhammer World.

    I like to think that Gandalf, Radagast and Saruman were not the only major wizards in Middle-Earth at the end of the Third Age, but at the same time am not keen on the idea of magicians everywhere!

    So what does everyone think?
    Have a look at:
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    -The humble thread that caught the eye of writers across Warseer, and blossomed into greatness... mob16151's It's Going Down... on Arcadia IV., and its legacy, Harvest of Martyrs by Okuto.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Tolkien's idea of magic is very different to that of WH or other similar fantasy settings. It mostly seems to be simply a use of skills beyond the knowledge of other men - for example, Gandalf's Fireworks. I can imagine that there is an element of mysticism to them, but a lot of it is simply a knowledge of explosives. The "healing hands of a king" can be explained simply by the education of the Royal House in the use of certain plants and herbs in healing, as discovered by the Elves. However, there are times when we see more obvious magic unleashed - the main example being Gandalf vs the Balrog. The Istari were forbidden from showing off their powers more obviously except in dire circumstances -fighting a demon of the ancient world just about makes it.

    In my view of Middle-earth, there are people with knowledge that may be seen by the unknowledgeable as "mages". Beyond that, the only true "magic" is that of the Valar and the Maiar, and since they were involved in the shaping of the world, it makes sense that they can manipulate it pretty well.
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    more of that is in the Silmarillion. yet manny magical effects come from created items, like the magical rings.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Even apparent magical effects like the Rings or the Silmarils come instead from a high level of mystic craftsmanship and knowledge of the world rather than the notion of magic as used in other fantasy settings.

    One example in the Silmarillion has Sauron and an Elf singing against each other. Their songs themselves have power to alter the world, in much the way as a spell would. The Elf sang to try and conceal his disguise from Sauron, while Sauron sang a song about secrets being revealed. Sauron won so he saw through the Elf's disguise. This is also shown in the LOTR movie, when Saruman and Gandalf compete over influencing the mountain Caradhras. If you dig up the translations of what they are actually saying, they really amount to little songs or verses. Saruman's telling the mountain to awaken and be angry, while Gandalf's tries to lull the mountain back to sleep.

    If you go back really far back, Ea and Arda are created from song, or at least song as a metaphor. What all this boils down to is that in Tolkien's Middle Earth paradigm, beings of sufficient power and knowledge can alter the world through acts of will expressed through such media as songs and crafting trinkets.
    Last edited by Iracundus; 28-11-2010 at 01:25.

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    Chaplain Shas'o Gavner'Elan's Avatar
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    That's interesting. So basically there are lots of minor wizards in Middle-Earth, but many different ways of expressing magic (singing, nature etc.) so they are not often noticed?

    Hehe, now I can't the image of Sauron singing Lady Gaga or something to a mountain out of my head.
    Have a look at:
    - The Story of Jokob'Ya
    -Lt Bradford's epic RP tale of bravery, intrigue and adventure: Incident at Outpost XXXI
    -Vulkan454's awesome Blog (containing a battle against my Tau): Vulcan454 Raptor Blog
    -The humble thread that caught the eye of writers across Warseer, and blossomed into greatness... mob16151's It's Going Down... on Arcadia IV., and its legacy, Harvest of Martyrs by Okuto.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    well as far as I've seen in the books there aren't that manny wizzards, and I think most of the elven wizzards stayed in Valinor

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    There were two other Wizards I believe, known as the blue Wizards, Allatar and Pallando I believe they were called but other than them being the blue Wizards nothing else is mentioned. Wizards in Middle Earth are another kind of Maiar spirit. So in many respects they are a essentially Angelic beings in the form of men, think Castiel from Supernatural for example. They were sent by the Valar to Middle Earth as messengers to aid in the battle against Sauron. Each was given a specific task and it is said that only Gandalf succeeded. The others basically got distracted by lesser callings. In many ways Tolkiens Istari have much more in common with the concept of Angels in Christian lore than wizards and seers mentioned in folklore i.e. Merlin. Wizards are usually set apart from society by being outsiders who can channel 'supernatural' energy by way of unexplained means, science, magic etc, most of the time these kind of wizards are still mortal men. In Tolkiens work Wizards are supernatural beings to begin with. The look of Gandalf for example is what we would class as the stereotypical wizard, however this look is directly influenced by the Norse God Odin who often went about in the guise of a tramp like old man with a brimmed hat.

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    Chapter Master Chaplain of Chaos's Avatar
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    It seems more like tolkiens societies tie into more ancient concepts of mytho poeic worlds where the magic of the world is intrinsic with it's nature. Where as in our modern society we see magic as more cause and effect. I want light so "poof" light appears. This concept of ex nihilo magic does not exist at all in Tolkiens world.

    Every case of magic in Tolkiens society can be seen as one exerting ones own will or power over something that already exists and changing it. "Magic" as we understand it then is manifested as a dark and cruel science that twists the natural order. Thus Sauron the sorcerer or Sauron the necromancer. Morgoth, Sauron and Saruman are good examples of "magic" not power ex nihilo but the will to corrupt and change things to suite ones own ends.

    Gandalf needs to work with the flow of the natural world, work perhaps within the song of fate that was extolled at the beginning of all creation. When he creates fire he needs fire to work with, when he merely extolls words of power he is using his own intrinsic power as a Maia.

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    Chapter Master Nuada's Avatar
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shas'o Gavner'Elan View Post
    ... whether or not recent LOTR games (Conquest, War in the North, Online etc.) are accurate in the fact that they suggest wizards and mages are common across the world.
    I'm same as you, i haven't read many extra LotR books (and haven't read LotR for 25 yrs, must read it again) But i did get the impression magic was very rare and it's only the Maia that are spell casters (the Istari, Sauron, Balrogs, *Tom Bombadil (i think he's Maia as well) Tom's water nymph etc)

    Also, wasn't the Witch King called the sorcerer lord or king? or a similar title? .. so maybe the other Ulairi also had minor magical powers? i do vaguely remember some reference to the black breath.



    *unless of course you think he's actually Eru. I personally go for first Ainu created
    Last edited by Nuada; 29-11-2010 at 21:50.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    I think the witch king and the other nazgul got theire powers from sauron, before they where just human kings. as far as I know the humans didn't have anny magics at all, couse the istar aren't really human. maybe it has something to do with the ring they got from sauron I don't know I didn't read all the books so far

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    The men of numenor had powers and abilities beyond those of normal men. That was more a racial thing from blessings by the Valar and the little bit of Elven blood in their line.

    If your looking for ways to put more "magic" into middle earth that would be the way to do it, claim decent from elves or maia. For the most part magic in ME should be subtle and not at all flashy the various computer games and what not are trying to make it like D&D magic, and it shouldn't be.
    Once upon a midnight dreary...
    Quote Originally Posted by Hanska of Kompletely Kroot, May 12 2009, 12:42 PM
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    Chaplain Shas'o Gavner'Elan's Avatar
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Quote Originally Posted by ForgottenLore View Post
    The men of numenor had powers and abilities beyond those of normal men. That was more a racial thing from blessings by the Valar and the little bit of Elven blood in their line.

    If your looking for ways to put more "magic" into middle earth that would be the way to do it, claim decent from elves or maia. For the most part magic in ME should be subtle and not at all flashy the various computer games and what not are trying to make it like D&D magic, and it shouldn't be.
    That sounds about right. "Subtle magic" is exactly the message the books seem to be putting across. Even the movie didn't resort to having every second character spouting flames and incinirating any obstacles they came across! If anything, the film's lack of obvious magic-use made ME wizards seem even more mystical.
    Have a look at:
    - The Story of Jokob'Ya
    -Lt Bradford's epic RP tale of bravery, intrigue and adventure: Incident at Outpost XXXI
    -Vulkan454's awesome Blog (containing a battle against my Tau): Vulcan454 Raptor Blog
    -The humble thread that caught the eye of writers across Warseer, and blossomed into greatness... mob16151's It's Going Down... on Arcadia IV., and its legacy, Harvest of Martyrs by Okuto.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    And the movies I thought actually exaggerated the magic more than the books did.
    Once upon a midnight dreary...
    Quote Originally Posted by Hanska of Kompletely Kroot, May 12 2009, 12:42 PM
    May your enemies taste as sweet as your victories...

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    Chaplain Shas'o Gavner'Elan's Avatar
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Yeh but they kind of had to, otherwise Gandalf would like like a pretty useless wizard. "Oh look, Gandalf sang and things kinda became a bit better" is a bit more boring that "Wow, Gandalf just shot a beam of pure magical light into the Nazgul and saved the remaining Gondorian Knights from their impending doom, before wheeling Shadowfax heroically back towards the towering Gates of Minas Tirith and using his blazing, inspirational staff to lead the exhausted men home!"
    Have a look at:
    - The Story of Jokob'Ya
    -Lt Bradford's epic RP tale of bravery, intrigue and adventure: Incident at Outpost XXXI
    -Vulkan454's awesome Blog (containing a battle against my Tau): Vulcan454 Raptor Blog
    -The humble thread that caught the eye of writers across Warseer, and blossomed into greatness... mob16151's It's Going Down... on Arcadia IV., and its legacy, Harvest of Martyrs by Okuto.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Oh, I'm not complaining about the magic in the movies, just commenting that they exaggerated it.

    In fact I am very happy they didn't make magic more overt in the movies, I was afraid they would make magic all D&D,WOW like.
    Once upon a midnight dreary...
    Quote Originally Posted by Hanska of Kompletely Kroot, May 12 2009, 12:42 PM
    May your enemies taste as sweet as your victories...

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    Chaplain Shas'o Gavner'Elan's Avatar
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    I completely agree.
    Have a look at:
    - The Story of Jokob'Ya
    -Lt Bradford's epic RP tale of bravery, intrigue and adventure: Incident at Outpost XXXI
    -Vulkan454's awesome Blog (containing a battle against my Tau): Vulcan454 Raptor Blog
    -The humble thread that caught the eye of writers across Warseer, and blossomed into greatness... mob16151's It's Going Down... on Arcadia IV., and its legacy, Harvest of Martyrs by Okuto.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    From what I've read of LOTR, and the Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales, magic seems to work this way, IMHO.

    Everything has a soul, but not all souls are equal. Imagine the valar and the Maiar as great magnesium flares, bringing the light of day to the deepest darkness. They an perceive everything under that light, and can bring that light to influence things it touches, but only in keeping with their nature. Elves and the Numenorean line of kings were like lighthouses, or great beacon fires, whereas lesser mortals were simple candles.

    So Aragorn could bend his will to perceive deeds and thoughts across great distance, as could Legolas and Galadriel. Aragorn unveiled as a true Numenorean was kingly in bearing, and filled the hearts of his fellows with the will to fight on, and an awe and worshipful feeling. Gandalf inspired trust and confidence, and only the darkness under Sauron's power shut out his perception. When aroused, the might of Manwe his (Master?) made the darkest of foes recoil, and he was as a flame, terrible and powerful in his wrath.
    Even among lesser mortals, (Theoden, Faramir..etc), there were those bright lights who who saw far, and inspired fellows to their cause.
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    Chapter Master de Selby's Avatar
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    There's a close association in Tolkien's books between 'magic' and divine or infernal authority. Higher beings like Wizards just instruct the natural world to behave as they will it. The Istari also seem to implement a renaissance level of scientific understanding (optics, gunpowder etc) in a pseudo-medieval world. Then there are magical objects that ordinary folk can use (with varying levels of success). An association with the Powers in the west seems to help mortal individuals and races with this sort of thing.

    I'm struggling to think of non-magical creatures performing magical acts (ie. learned magic rather than intrinsic powers). I feel it may have been implied once or twice particularly in the case of dark sorcery, but I can't really put my finger on a reference. I think generally it would be necessary to call on some higher (or lower) power to do anything that we would regard as supernatural.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    de selby, i believe you may be thinking of the mouth of sauron who is described as being a black numenorean who learned black sorcery or something along those lines

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    I think that canucklhead has it right. There is no great well of magic for wizards to draw on to cast spells but the strength of an individual's spirit can be used to exert will on the world. That can be in making objects of power or changing behaviour or encouraging bees or anything else. The hard edge of magic, like fireballs summoned from the palm of the hand just doesn't seem present but raising a storm and drawing lightning from it, is.

    More like using one's spirit and will to manipulate what is rather than conjuring magic from somewhere arcane and abstract. How that manifests depends on the character doing the magic, Radagast is different to Beorn who is different to Tom Bombadil who is different to Gandalf, Melian, Sauron, Saruman, Curufin, Feanor and so on....

    It is just a reflection of how in tune with the world an individual is. How they use or abuse that connection or understanding is up to them.
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