Magic in Medieval Fantasy: An Ordinary Event Turning into Something Magical

Magic in Medieval Fantasy: An Ordinary Event Turning into Something Magical

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Magic is the word that stirs many exciting visions in the imagination; a girl in rags being transformed into a beautiful princess, the magic kiss that changes a frog into a prince or perhaps a destined king pulling a sword out of a stone. It becomes the supernatural force steering the characters through their obstacles beyond natural human power and capabilities with the aid of some other supernatural being or force leading to a point where good overcomes evil. Magic plays an important role in the lives of characters in medieval fantasy as the heroes are confronted with magic in their everyday world and relationships are tested by these elements causing various effects.

For the characters of medieval fantasy an ordinary event turns into something magical as the hero goes about tasks in their daily routine bringing about a challenge or test to be overcome. A state of order turns to a state of disorder when something out of the ordinary happens. There is something that the hero must undertake or complete in order for a new state of balance to be restored.

Pwyll prince of Dyfed is out hunting when he has a confrontation with Annwn of the underworld. The arrival of a pack of ‘white glittering hounds’(p.3) tells us that the scene has changed from a mere hunt in the woods to a confrontation with a magical being. Annwn, king of the underworld and the master of these hounds soon appears. Their conversation leads to a request. Pwyll makes the request of friendship and Annwn presents him with the challenge. “There is a man whose domain is opposite to mine for ever warring against me. And by ridding me of his oppression, and thou easily mayest, thou shalt win my friendship.” (p.4) He must rid him of his enemy’s o...


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These heroes all had to make some sort of sacrifice to get to the other side. Pwyll of dyfed had to leave behind his identity taking on the identity of Anwnn. As he came through his trial he gained a new identity, Pwyll, Head of Annwn. Sir Orfeo had to sarcrifice his kingdom and all his wealth, but he received it back in the end and the return of his wife. Sir Thomas had to leave the fairy kingdom, but he was given some great prophecies to take with him.

We can conclude that magic is an element that tests the heroes of medieval fantasy. It takes them thru trials and tribulations, testing them with seemingly impossible situations. The state of disorder becomes a state of restoration, a new beginning. On the other side of their trials magic has transformed the heroes of medieval fantasy and put them in a better place from where they started from.


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