Magic Theory

As a writer of fantasy, one must learn to understand how magic works and the different theories of its use. If you let the characters in your book or short story run around inventing magic out of thin air, their power will be completely boundless and it will become incredibly unrealistic, because, as we all know; people have unlimited wants but limited resources. If this economic rule does not apply to magic, then… I don’t even want to think about life if economic rules didn’t apply.

Here are a few theories of magic that I have created or heard of from various sources.


I’m naming this theory of magic off of the element of magic used in my own novel, The Fantastical Journey of Gavryn Wickert. In this version of magic, it is an element in the air that can be taken in by the user. Anyone can use it; there is no special blood or ancestry required, but it takes practice. Once someone is used to letting in the element, they then practice expending it by fire and ice and whatnot. So, I guess you could say the enzonic theory of magic acts as if enzone is a blank element that can be turned into something. However, it cannot only be turned into elements but can also be used to look into someone’s mind or lift objects without touching hem.


This idea of magic is demonstrated in the Eragon books, where magic comes from within and uses up inner strength. This is how the author keeps it from going out of control while giving his characters extra abilities.


In many books, the theory of magic is simply the idea that magical things can be attained via scientific intel. Instead of it being an unexplainable mystery, it is a thought-out process.

If you have another theory you’re thinking of, please comment and share it!


5 responses to “Magic Theory”

  1. adrygrace Avatar

    I was quite mortified to realize I had not replied to this. This is fantastic, perhaps my favorite explanation of magic in LOTR.

  2. Philip Avatar

    Though I have never read many other books with “magic” in them besides The Lord of the Rings, I do very much prefer the magic that LOTR uses to other types of magic that I have heard of. I think this is mostly because magic in LOTR is very much like “magic” in our own world, that is, that magic is merely a mental image, and that the less you understand something the more magic it seems (i.e., we were all at one time convinced that the pneumatic pipes at the bank drive-through were magic). This, you will recall, is much like the “Science” version of Magic that Levi discussed, although there are many other things besides Science that can create the illusion of Magic, such as Music (I often mistake the word musician for magician), Words (death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit -Prov. xviii 21), Love (love never fails -I Cor. xiii 8a), Stories, Truth, Wisdom, Hope, Loss, and Pain, to name only a few.
    Now back to The Lord of the Rings. First of all, I should point out that the whole purpose of the plot is, in fact, to destroy Magic; and that for the story to be coherent, Tolkien could not just have his Good Guys going around using Magic while they were trying to destroy the Magic. It wasn’t enough for the Good Guys to merely have good purposes behind their magic (End doesn’t justify Means); The Good Guys Magic had to be very different from the Bad Guys Magic. And from my understanding of the story, it seems that whereas the Good Guys Magic is much more like the realistic magic we have in our own world (which I discussed in the first paragraph), the Bad Guy’s magic is quite unexplaineable (and perhaps more like that which can be found in other stories such as Harry Potter, although I have never read them, so I cannot say for sure).
    This is, I think, why Gandalf is so awesome. Nearly ALL his “magic” is merely the use of Wisdom, and Knowledge (specifically knowledge of Fire Works, a form of Science). There ARE other instances, such as the door-closing spell that Gandalf casts in Moria, that do not seem to fit in either categories of Wisdom or Knowledge, but we find that Tolkien does his best to eliminate the idea that this is some sort of unexplainable Magic by having Gandalf explain directly afterward some of how the magic works (by making it more Understandable, he eliminates the sense Magic).
    And even with the other Good Characters in LOTR that seem Magical, we find logical/realistic explanations behind their magic. You will find that a good chunk of the Elves’ magic, especially in The Hobbit, is merely Music. Radagast’s is Lingual. Aragorn’s is Medical. Faramir’s is Leadership and Relationships. Hobbits have Loyalty and Contentment. Ect. Whereas, the Bad Guy’s Magic (and even some of the Neutral Guy’s Magic, such as Bombadil and Beorn) I find quite unexplainable.
    If you are not yet weary of my comment, I might then conclude with Galadriel: “‘And you? ‘ she said, turning to Sam. ‘For this is what your folk would call magic. I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem also to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel. Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-magic? ‘” Her Magic is slightly more difficult to explain than the other Good Guys, but surely it is not unexplainable, like that of the Enemy. For the purposes of my argument, I will use The Phial of Galadriel, though I must admit that The Phial is easier to explain that Her Mirror; and yet I should think that both affects of her “magic” come from similar sources. If one has read both The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, then the Magic in The Phial of Galadriel is traced easily enough from the Phial, to Eärendil’s Star, to one of the Silmarils, to the Two Trees, to the Power of the Valar, to Eru Ilúvatar. By this, Tolkien suggests at a very True Idea (a thing he often did in his stories), specifically that: All Good in this world, and every Good part of everything that has some Good in it (no matter how well we can understand or comprehend it), comes ultimately from God.

  3. adrygrace Avatar

    Willing to ignore the fact you don’t know much about Harry Potter, I don’t care for it myself. But I would recommend Lord of the Rings, since Gandalf is only the greatest wizard of all time. 😂

  4. Levi Pierpont Avatar

    I don’t know too much about the systems of magic in either books you refer to. These three are definitely just starters, I assume there are many others.

  5. adrygrace Avatar

    Because they are the two classic examples, I have to ask. I assume Harry Potter would be an enzone? But what about Gandalf? And Lord of the Rings interpretation of magic as whole? Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but it doesn’t really seem to fit into any of your three categories.

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