marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

philosophizing on magical things (Macguffins and otherwise)

In which I generalize from a post I recently made. . . .

Had a fun panel once at Philcon where I answered the questions posed in the description in the first minutes, and we still had a ball.  It asked why a magical sword is only logical but a magical toothbrush is fun.

There are two reasons, really, and the minor one is familiarity.  Magical swords are age-old.  Magical toothbrushes would be new.  A magical car is still hard to conceive of, but a magical train is fairly common -- as long as you hit the major reason rightly.

The major reason is there must be some suitability between the purpose and the object.  Some works of fantasy are weak on this, and it weakens the story.  A sword that cuts anything, or just about; that inflicts wounds that do not heal; that requires blood to be resheathed, magic not needing to be nice -- all of these fit swordly nature.  A sword that shoots fireballs is pushing it.  A sword that translates foreign languages is really pushing it.  A train therefore should be a means of transport, however magical; send it off to Fairyland -- or the afterlife -- rather than let it cure the land of its curse.

We spent the panel riffing on this magic item and that one, discussing the metaphorical suitability of each to its type.  Rings are popular because you can put on things, such as invisibility, with the ring, though some writers really push the sorts of abilities involved.  Mirrors, showing faces and forms, are the logical sources of doppelgangers that move on their own and perhaps are other than what they reflected.  Keys unlock things.  Or, of course, lock them, or both.  A horn would send a message of some kind.

And we interchanged it with trying to devise a magical toothbrush.  We finally concluded that it was made from the bristles of a boar out of Celtic legend, and its effect was to make everything you said sweet and eloquent.



Tags: macguffin, metaphor, world-building: magic (objects)
Subscribe

  • Paganism in the Roman Empire

    Paganism in the Roman Empire by Ramsay MacMullen A large and not entirely coherent subject, with very patchy evidence. So this contains much…

  • The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes

    The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes: The Ancient World Economy and the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia and Han China by Raoul McLaughlin An…

  • Destroyer of the Gods

    Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry W. Hurtado Discussing what Christians looked like from the…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 2 comments