Does Magic Do Anything For Our Perception Of History

A while back, I wrote this post about vampires and history. This time round, I thought I’d focus on magic. This is, in part, thanks to the new Mr Norrell and Dr Strange TV series, which looks at what would happen if magic was around in the Napoleonic 19th century. It also happens to be the weekend I am *ahem* going to the Harry Potter studio tour. So what better time?

Much like vampires, magic wasn’t actually a thing. At least, as far as I know. In fact, any film, TV series, or game, tends to focus on this, rather than the actual – you know – magic. Merlin is a good example of this; the first season made a big deal of the will-he-won’t-he aspect of whether Merlin would reveal his gift to his best friend Arthur. <SPOILER ALERT> He never does</SPOILER>. For this reason, above anything else, it is a useful proxy for talking about secret societies and emergent religions. Early Arthurian legends focussed on the contrast between paganism and Christianity.

Then, of course, you’ve got the animal side of things. Monsters are a major part of the magic genre, up there with castles and shiny swords, and they’ve been around for centuries. I have a theory that magical monsters are really a stand-in for extinct European megafauna. But, really, it is just a great way to talk about the wild and dangerous animals that were out there in our historic past.

But perhaps the single most important thing that magic does, is reintroduce mystery. With magic, you’re never going to know all of the things. You, let’s face it, are a muggle. You cannot do magic, and you don’t understand the limitations of the art. When Harry Potter introduced new elements every year, that was allowed, because no-one said it couldn’t. Things do go bump in the night, but with modern knowledge what it is, it’s harder to be afraid of that. With magic, you get All Of That back. And it’s awesome!

Do you like magic? I like magic!

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