September 8, 2012

Magic Through Tragedy

My wife and I watched the movie From Time to Time last night. The blurb sounded interesting enough, a boy returning to his ancestral English manor finds he slips back and forth between his current time and the past, deciphering the secrets of the ghosts that still live there. I didn't realize until it started that it was set during World War II. The opening scene sees the young main character sitting on a bench at a train station, waiting to be picked up. This struck me as powerfully similar to THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE as well as other English WWII-set stories like Bedknobs and Broomsticks and what have you.

Magic feels right when set in this period. It was a time of loss and upheaval, trial and depredation. It was a time when imagination was the only thing that could alleviate the tragedy. And that got me thinking.

What if magic is real but it's not limited by the normal tropes like technology or the loss of youthful innocence. What if magic is dependent on tragedy? Wherever you find pain and suffering, magic may manifest itself and the worse the suffering the more powerful the magic. An abusive father terrorizing his family? The mouse in the wall can talk. A deranged warlord causing a world war? The wardrobe leads to another plane of reality.

So we see these old tales of Euro-centric magic and think it folklore of years gone by. But what if the modernization and general improvement of life there means magic disappears? What if you'll find your new magical stories in Sudan or Afghanistan or Myanmar?

1 comment:

  1. It's a strange question. You might be onto something.

    In the very first page of my new book, the protagonist finds out his cancer has come back, and that he's terminal.

    Magic is of course involved, and the vehicle in which he hopes to overcome it. If his life had been peachy and he ran into magic the same way as he did without the cancer, it would be a far less compelling story, as a central part of the plot conflict wouldn't even exist.

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