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Old 10-01-2010, 10:39 PM   #1
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What is "magic" and what properties can one wield from it?

Greetings everyone.

I'm a first time poster to the barrowdowns but a long, long time reader of sir Tolkiens masterpieces of which we all know so well.

To start things off I have a question of which I'm fairly mystified on which is more or less the power of "magic".

Now I'm not talking about the supernatural or divinely powers of the valar but of power of magical crafting, spells, enchantment etc.

As we know magic is is disipled as magic to the likes of men, hobbits etc, where the elves for instance see it as a natural part of their being if you will.( i think at least?)

Of course their are cases where truely unnatural effects happen i.e the witchkings sword of flame, the magic powers of the istari, the glowing of glamdring and sting, the rings of power, the mirror of galadriel, the palantir's etc.

So my question is as in the title: What is "magic" and what properties can one wield and craft from it?

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Old 10-02-2010, 01:59 AM   #2
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.Being a cynic I am inclined to say that the vast majority of what is termed magic is due to a disparity in skill or technology... certainly I think this is why the Elves were bemused by Sam's question.

I remember my grandmother telling me how her father was amazed when he heard a live radio broadcast - the child of someone in the village was playing at the Albert Hall - and that they in a village in Gloucestershire could hear something as it occured in London was pretty much magic to him. Even for me as someone who was born into a world where we were impressed by digitalwatches and simple calculators it is mind boggling the diffence in technology - I never expected at the time I first read the Silmarillion that I would be discussing it twenty odd years later with peple all over the world on my own "palantir" ...

However at times there is clearly more going on and there are some threads already where this has been looked at already (but not especially recently).

This is one - not necessarily the best but one I can find easily because I started it...
But Finrod walks with Finarfin his father beneath the trees in Eldamar.

Christopher Tolkien, Requiescat in pace

Last edited by Mithalwen; 10-02-2010 at 02:19 AM.
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Old 10-02-2010, 08:37 PM   #3
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Since the Istari were banned from exercising most of their powers, we only see Gandalf and Saruman engaging n some magic. From Saruman's 'voice' as a hyper-hypnotism to Gandalf holding the door against the Balrog in Moria with 'Word of Command' for the door to stand firm, to Gandalf setting fire to wood(requiring the wood to already exist, not able to totally produce fire out of thin air) to the Elves having dreams of foresight and Galadriel using water to see into the future.

Most of the magic on it's own is each quite significant, the kind your average person wants, but in the greater scene of things don't dramatically affect the course of events. I'm reminded of what Merlin tells Aurthur in the Disney move of The Sword and the Stone that "Don't get any ideas that magic will solve all your problems! Because it won't!"

We don't admire characters in Tolkien's works for the magic they resort to. When you think about it it's because of their intelligence and decisions, how they decide to face their fate. Whatever the circumstances. Thinking on your feet is very important in many areas of real life. It's the twists and turns and how people deal with them, work as a team, that makes the story worth a read.
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Old 10-29-2010, 03:27 PM   #4
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I think that the magic that the istari, the nazgul, the elves, and whatever other creatures do is really their willpower. The incantations are like a way to turn it into whatever action you want to happen. One of the easiest things to explain is how the Dunadains, Gimli, and Legolas were able to cross Gondor with hardly any rest. It is supernatural for anyone to be so...strong, full of energy, etc. I think that what happened is that Aragorn, who had great inner power, enabled himself and his army to ake this journey.
This also explains why someone like Pippin wouldn't be able to make something with an incantation - he has inner strength, but lacks the inner power.
Elven magic is very often connected to nature, just like elves. I guess that since they live for so long, they establish connections with their environment, and nature helps them (for example: Bruinen swept the Nazguls away; Galadriel's mirror was water that a star shone upon, etc).
Even today there are peo0ple who can do things with their thought, read minds, and that sort of stuff.
You passed from under darkened dome, you enter now the secret land. - Take me to Finrod's fabled home!... ~ Finrod: The Rock Opera
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