Wizards; a Very Brief Biography –
While doing a final edit on the manuscript of ‘Revelations: book one of The Merlin Chronicles’ a line of dialogue caught my attention. Late in the story a Buddhist monk named Lu Shi comments to Jason, “For reasons which escape me, one seldom meets a young wizard.” At the time of writing it was simply a small part of a larger scene that I was structuring, but on re-reading it I began to wonder why it is that wizards are always portrayed as old men; and even here we have a second curiosity; why are wizards always male?
I can certainly understand that the concept of a ‘boy wizard’ might be cute in a children’s’ book, but in real life there is no such thing as a young wizard for the same reasons there is no such thing as a young surgeon or a young astrophysicist – accumulating vast amounts of knowledge requires many years of study. But why aren’t there any wizards in their early middle-age; gray at the temples but still sporting a rakish smile and a full head of hair? And why do they have to be men? Is there some kind of ‘boys only’ rule in the club of wizardry? Obviously the feminine version of wizard is not witch – a male witch is a warlock, not a wizard. So what does the dictionary say about gender and wizards? According to the copy of Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary that has been setting on the corner of my desk for more than 40 years a wizard is: “1 archaic: a wise man: sage 2: one skilled in magic: sorcerer 3: a very clever or skillful person.” Ok, so in its archaic form, the one indicating a wise man or sage, the wizard is apparently gender specific and the word does not refer to a wise woman. But the definition pertaining to magic and sorcery does not seem to apply to one sex while excluding the other. This certainly does not answer the question and we are forced to wonder, like Lu Shi, why one almost never meets a young (or young-ish) wizard. And now I want to know why we never meet a female wizard? We really need to address this shortcoming and work toward better integration in the ranks of wizardry. If any of you know of well-known literary instances in which middle aged, or feminine, characters are said to be wizards I beg you to join this blog and enlighten me and our fellow readers.
Several years ago, while I was still working on the Merlin manuscript, someone said to me that Merlin is nothing but a rip-off of Gandalf. Wow. I gently pointed out that the Merlin legend has been around for a millennia-and-a-half but Tolkien only created Gandalf in 1936 while writing ‘The Hobbit’. This exchange did, however, get me to thinking about the wizard’s place in literature. Besides serving as a model for all wizards to follow, Merlin also set three important roles that most wizard characters take on. 1. Deus ex Machina – Literally translating as ‘god from the machine’ this was a device first used in Greek theater to clean up hopelessly confused story lines. When the playwright couldn’t figure out a solution to a messy plot he simply lowered a ‘god’ character on a rope to magically make everything better. It’s good to have magical powers. 2. The Trickster – People with magical powers seem to be incapable of telling the simple truth. The old gods all lied and included ‘catches’ in any promise they made. When Apollonius of Tyana asked for the ability to accurately foretell the future the god’s granted his request but arranged it so no one would believe him. In ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Shakespeare’s Puck delights in misdirecting and fooling humans. A close reading of my own Merlin makes it clear that the simple truth is far from simple for Merlin. 3. Mentor – Because they are almost universally old (if not ageless) wizards often serve as mentor to a story’s main character. Merlin mentored Arthur, Gandalf mentored Frodo and Dumbledore, et al, mentored Harry Potter. Now I have brought Merlin back to life with a new student who needs his advice, guidance and tough love at least as much as Arthur ever did. This is our hero, Jason Carpenter, and Jason’s journey from slightly awkward archaeology student to hero will be the topic of my next blog – so stay tuned. And don’t forget to read the Prologue to ‘Revelations: book one of The Merlin Chronicles’ – just move your cursor to the ‘More’ button above and click on Prologue.
Having brought my reluctant hero, Jason Carpenter, into this piece I would like to take a moment and talk about Jason’s journey from archaeology student to hero. In particular I want to look into the particular type of story known as ‘the hero’s journey’. According to the late, great mythologist Joseph Campbell there are only seven basic storylines and the most popular by far is known as The Hero’s Journey. Because ‘Revelations: book one of The Merlin Chronicles’ is a hero’s journey story I will discuss the other types of stories in a future blog The hero and their story – whatever it may be - is as likely to be real as it is to be fictitious because all fiction is an extension and distortion of real-life. According to Campbell the hero’s journey has an identifiable, 12 step progression that goes like this: The Ordinary World; The Call to Adventure; Refusal of the Call; Meeting with the Mentor; Crossing the Threshold; Tests, Allies and Enemies; Approach; The Ordeal; The Reward; The Road Back; The Resurrection; Return with the Elixir. I can’t go into each of these steps here, but if you know fantasy and/or adventure literature you will recognize most of them. In fiction every major character from Oliver Twist to Luke Skywalker to the world’s oldest hero, Gilgamesh, have passed through very similar steps to fulfill their destiny. And speaking of Luke Skywalker, when George Lucas was writing Star Wars he conferred closely with Joseph Campbell for months. Because fiction is drawn from reality you will find most of these same steps in famous real-life stories from the lives of the Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth to the great medieval knight William Marshal. As you read ‘Revelations: book one of The Merlin Chronicles’ keep an eye out for Jason’s passage from each step to the next on his own voyage of self-discovery and his quest to become the hero of his own story.
About the Book: Merlin the Magician only exists in myth and legend – at least that’s what archaeology student Jason Carpenter thought until he discovered the mysterious orb that had housed history’s greatest wizard for 1,600 years.
Forced into an uneasy alliance, Jason and Merlin are sucked into a web of deceit, intrigue and murder that sends them on a chaotic race to outwit, and out run, Merlin’s ancient nemesis, the evil sorceress Morgana le Fay, her gang of drug smugglers and a 500 year-old Chinese necromancer. Tis a race against time to complete their quest before an army of dragons are unleashed on a vulnerable and unsuspecting 21st century world.
About the Author: Daniel Diehl has been an author, writer and investigative historian for thirty-five years. For nearly twenty years Diehl has been involved in writing for publication and documentary television production. Mr. Diehl’s work has won awards from the Houston (Texas) Film Festival, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (US) and the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Arts Foundation. Working alone and as a part of the multi-award winning team of Daniel Diehl and Mark Donnelly, Diehl has produced work in two main categories; trade publication and television documentary scripts. His canon of work includes twenty non-fiction books (which have been translated into ten foreign languages), one previous work of fiction and scripts for more than one hundred and seventy hours of documentary television primarily for A&E Network, The History Channel, History International, Biography Channel and Discovery Network.
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