Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A wizard (from 'wise') is a practitioner of magic, especially in folklore, fantasy fiction, and fantasy role-playing games. In popular use in 16th century England it was used to denonate a helpful male folk magican, a cunning man as they were usually called, and the male equivalent of a witch. The word does not generally apply to Neopagans, or to stage magicians (properly termed illusionists) like David Copperfield, Paul Daniels, or James Randi.
They have historical roots in the Shamans.
Colloquially anyone who is especially adept at some obscure or difficult endeavor may be referred to as a wizard. For instance someone who is particularly skilled with computers might be referred to as a "programming wizard." (However, normal usage applies more specialized superlatives to specific fields of endeavor, thus a musician is more likely to be called a "maestro" than a "wizard").
In most cases there is little to differentiate a wizard from similar fictional and folkloric practitioners of magic such as an enchanter, a magician, a sorcerer, or a thaumaturgist; but specific fantasy authors and role-playing games use the names with narrower meanings. When such distinctions are made, sorcerers are more often evil, "black magicians" (i.e., practitioners of black magic), and there may be variations on level and type of power associated with each name.
For example, Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition, distinguishes between sorcerers and wizards:
- "Sorcerers create magic the way poets create poems, with inborn talent honed by practice."
- "Wizards depend on intensive study to create their magic. ... For a wizard, magic is not a talent but a deliberate rewarding art."
Another example: "The difference between a wizard and a sorcerer is comparable to that between, say, a lion and a tiger, but wizards are acutely status-conscious, and to them, it's more like the difference between a lion and a dead kitten." (Steve Pemberton, The Times & Life of Lucifer Jones)
Lyndon Hardy's Master of the Five Magics suggests ascending ranks of thaumaturgist, alchemist, magician, sorcerer, and wizard.
Myths and Legends
Wizards found in old fairy tales and myths include:
- Faust - supposedly a wizard, but maybe more of an alchemist.
- Merlin - The most famous wizard from Arthurian legends and their modern retellings.
- Prospero is the famous wizard in Shakespeare's "The Tempest", also said to be John Dee.
- The Telchines, four wizards of ancient Greek myths
- Thoth, Egyptian god of magick
- The wizard in The Wizard King fairy tale
Famous wizards in folklore and fantasy fiction (sometimes both) include:
- Allanon is a wizard, also known as a druid and historian, from the Shannara series, which was created by Terry Brooks.
- Belgarath - created by David Eddings as a leading character for The Belgariad series of fantasy novels (also called 'Belgarath the Sorcerer').
- Chun the Inescapable, Rhialto the Marvelous, and others - from Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories.
- Crispinophur is the wizard that helped King Graham in the King's Quest computer game series created by Roberta Williams and produced by the game company Sierra Entertainment.
- The Dean of Unseen University in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is not named, but is a senior wizard and recurring character.
- Doctor Strange is a wizard superhero and Sorcerer Supreme in the Marvel Universe. Doctor Fate is the DC Universe equivalent.
- Elminster - featured in many of the Forgotten Realms fantasy novels and RPGs.
- Elric of Melniboné - often called a sorcerer or a wizard - from Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné and its sequels.
- Fizban is the mortal avatar of the god Paladine from the Dragonlance fantasy novels.
- Gandalf, Saruman and Radagast - from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings - are called Wizards, but are really supernatural entities. In the Middle-earth legendarium, "wizard" is a term applied only to the five members of the Order of the Istari; the term "wizard" could never be applied to a human, and a human magic user is simply called a sorcerer. The other two wizards are Pallando and Alatar the Blue Wizards.
- Gareth Yaztromo is a major wizard in the world of Titan, which was created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.
- J. Wellington Wells ("a dealer in magic and spells") - the eponymous Sorcerer of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, who also features in two books by Tom Holt.
- Michael Scot - protagonist of Michael Scott Rohan 's The Lord of Middle Air - a historical figure and an ancestor of the author!
- Mondain was the villainous wizard of the first Ultima game.
- Mordenkainen was the greatest wizard in the Greyhawk fantasy series by Wizards of the Coast.
- Obi-Wan Kenobi, as a master of the Force, has some wizard-like attributes in George Lucas' Star Wars films: "That wizard's just a crazy old man" said Uncle Owen to Luke Skywalker in Episode IV: A New Hope.
- Ponder Stibbons is the Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic at Unseen University in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.
- Pug (also known as Milamber) is the wizard protagonist of the fantasy books by Raymond E. Feist.
- Mustrum Ridcully - Archancellor of Unseen University throughout most of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.
- Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face are the sorcerous advisors for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, in Fritz Leiber's Swords series. They are (apparently) unhuman, and they aid (in other words, complicate the lives of) the two rogue heroes.
- Rincewind - strictly a "Wizzard" (it says so on his hat) and the wizards of Unseen University - from many of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.
- The evil entity Randall Flagg from author Stephen King's works occasionally appears as a wizard, notably in the novel Eyes of the Dragon.
- Sparrowhawk or Ged - from Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea and its sequels.
- Tim Hunter , the young wizard in the Books of Magic comic by Neil Gaiman and others.
The eponymous character of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a stage magician pretending to be a genuine wizard; in the 1939 movie version the wizard was also a fake. However, in later Oz stories, he studies magic with Glinda and becomes a genuine wizard.
In some fictional and game settings, wizard or a similar term is the name for a "race" or species, not just a job description. For example:
- The five Istari in The Lord of the Rings (also mentioned above)
- "Black Mages" in the video game series Final Fantasy(some games)
- "Demon Sorcerers " in the TV show Jackie Chan Adventures
In history, there have been several real people who are popularly believed, or who claimed to be, wizards, sorcerers, etc. Examples include:
- Aleister Crowley is a controversial figure, the most famous "modern wizard," who is believed to have coined the alternate spelling, "magick."
- John Dee, whose magical powers were said to come from angels.
- John Diamond, and his granddaughter, Molly Pitcher, were supposed to have the ability to foretell the future and help (or doom) sailors at sea.
- Gerald Fitzgerald , the Earl of Desmond, was said to be a shapeshifter wizard, whose spirit is said to still haunt the living.
- Nicholas Flamel, though he is really more of an alchemist.
- Michael Scot may have been fictional, though those who claim his reality say he could do amazing feats by conversing with spirits.
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