Created By: PaulA on September 28, 2011

Mundane Resemblance Bonus

The reader may notice that the effects of this supernatural event resemble a natural occurrence.

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I'm not sure if this is a thing, but I've got three examples, so I'm giving it a shot.
In a fantasy story, some supernatural event occurs, and its effects are described. The characters don't notice, not having access to modern science, but the effects resemble a thing that actually happens in the real world and has (is believed in the real world to have) a non-supernatural explanation.

It's not a case of "this is a natural occurrence that the characters just think is supernatural"; these are stories where the supernatural really does exist.

Examples

  • In Soldier of the Mist, the protagonist has been cursed by one of the gods to not be able to remember more than a day into the past. He also has a head wound that would have a modern doctor suspicious of post-traumatic amnesia.
  • In Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, there's a bit where Odd needs to find a rainbow, so he goes to a waterfall where he's often seen a rainbow in the water. It's winter and the waterfall is frozen, but he figures that if the rainbow was in the water when it froze it's in the ice now, so he cuts out a chunk of ice, holds it up to the sunlight, and gets his rainbow. It's mentioned in passing that the chunk of ice is the shape of a triangular prism.
  • In The Curse of Chalion, the protagonist is afflicted with a tumor that is attributed to him having a demon trapped inside him. He really does have a demon trapped inside him, but that aside the description of the tumor is in accord with medical science; even the doctor's anecdote about a tumor that started developing its own body parts has a basis in fact.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • September 29, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    In The Quest for Saint Camber, after Conall attacks his father Nigel with magic, Conall summons help, and Nigel is presumed to have suffered a stroke. Even Deryni mages Morgan, Duncan and Arilan don't know exactly what happened until some time later. The similarities between the effects of a stroke-induced coma and Nigel's magically-induced one help the culprit avert suspicion for a couple of weeks.
  • September 29, 2011
    Stratadrake
    It may be a case of symbolism on the part of the author. Take CS Lewis's "deplorable word" (or whatever it was called) from The Magicians Nephew, which literary critics rather universally declared a metaphor for nuclear bombs.
  • October 2, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    This can be useful for maintaining The Masquerade, or for concealing arcane treachery under a cover of a merely natural event.
  • October 9, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Perhaps the description needs revision; sometimes the required knowledge is magical rather than scientific.
  • October 9, 2011
    Chabal2
    One of the reasons Omnian pastor Mightily Oats is always in two minds as to his religion is that he read too much. It's difficult to accept the miracle of a prophet turning the seas to blood to vanquish a sea monster when you also know about the microscopic organisms that cause the rare red tides, and their effects on marine life...

  • October 9, 2011
    ChimbleySweep
    Doing In The Wizard?

    The "Sea Monsters" the Vikings encounter in Eaters of the Dead fit the description of humpback whales.
  • October 10, 2011
    PaulA
    ^ It's not a case of "this is a natural occurrence that the characters just think is supernatural".
  • October 10, 2011
    TBeholder
    So, someone throws a lightning and - ohmygosh there are natural lightnings!!1

    But how it's a trope?
  • October 10, 2011
    LobsterMagnus
  • October 10, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    @ TBeholder: as implied by LobsterMagnus, and as I suggested before, this can help maintain The Masquerade and/or allow someone to use magic/divine power and pass it off as a natural event. This trope capitalizes on the in-universe doubt inherent in Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane.
  • October 10, 2011
    PaulA
    So far, nobody seems to be on the same wavelength as me on this. Maybe I'm just bad at explaining, or maybe this isn't a thing after all.

    69BookWorM69, I should have spoken up earlier to say that you're barking up the wrong tree. (Which is not to say the thing you're thinking of isn't a trope, but it's not the thing I'm thinking of.) This is not about the characters passing off a supernatural event as a mundane one; the characters never even notice. It's not spelled out. This is a hidden bonus thing, for any reader who notices it to be able to feel smart about. (TBeholder, lightning is far too obvious to be an actual example.)

    In Soldier of the Mist, nobody actually talks about post-traumatic amnesia; doctors in Ancient Greece didn't know about that stuff. It's only that the reader is told that the protagonist has a memory problem, and also incidentally that the protagonist has a whacking great head wound, and then is left to put them together and think "Hey, that's a coincidence".

    In Odd and the Frost Giants, nobody remarks on the ice being a triangular prism; the story's set long before Newton. The way it's written never implies that Odd's explanation of the event is wrong. It's just an interesting coincidence for the reader to notice.

    In The Curse of Chalion, when I say the details of the tumor fit with medical science, I mean our medical science; the medical science of Chalion says that tumors are caused by demons, and there's no reason given to suppose it's wrong.

    It is related to Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane, but that's not exactly what it is. The magic explanation is true: Latro is cursed by the gods, the rainbow is magical, Caz does have a demon. It's just that in some way it matches the mundane version as well.
  • October 10, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    Nobody said it was Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane, but they're closely related. They could be Sister Tropes?
  • October 11, 2011
    PaulA
    I didn't say anybody did say it was Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane; I was using a demonstration of what it is not in an attempt to clarify what it is.
  • October 11, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    OK PaulA So this is a kind of meta-easter egg thing you're after.

    I still wonder if mine isn't a second type, the way other tropes have types/subcategories. Morgan's little trick with the whip in his Establishing Character Moment (see the Deryni page for details) would be another such. In both of these cases as well, the magic explanation is definitely true, but the event also looks much like a non-magical event. The biggest difference I see is that in these cases, one or more people in-universe (as well as the audience) know the event is magical while the rest do not know, while in yours only the audience knows. Either way, the knowledge is a plus for those who have it.
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