In a sailor's mind every Finn was a warlock who could conjure up storms by lifting his finger, but Hornblower had quite failed to think shabby-genteel Mr Braun as that type of Finn, despite those unwholesome pale-green eyes...
— The Commodore, by C.S Forester* For the record, Mr Braun does not summon storms, though he does try to kill the Czar of Russia.
The tendency of that argument is to represent the Irish or the Celts as a strange and separate race, as a tribe of eccentrics in the modern world immeresed in legends and dim dreams. It's tendancy is to exhibit the Irish as odd, because they see the fairies. It's trend is to make the Irish seem weird and wild because they sing old songs and join strange dances. It is the opposite of the truth. It is the English who are odd because they do not see the fairies.
In most fantasy series, if the resident spellcaster isn't a long-white bearded Merlin type, or a Vain Sorceress, then they're probably reminiscent of a non-European culture. (Or at least a European culture outside the Western European Germanic- and Romance-speaking countries, as seen in both page quotes.) Part of this is Positive Discrimination. After all, if magic is that world's equivalent of science, somebody particularly adept at it is The Smart Guy. Also, many African and Asian cultures were already advanced while Europe was just getting out of the hunter-gatherer phase. On the other hand, it becomes something of a cultural Flanderization, reinforces stereotypes of non-whites having some mystical nature, and may evoke a sense of the hero being full of valor and vigor, while the darker skinned spellcaster is a distant Squishy Wizard.
Common in sword and sorcery settings, though in Westerns, Native Americans will fill the mystic slot. Japanese works often use white people or Chinese for this role, but the principle is the same.
Not to be confused with Magical Negro, which normally doesn't involve actual sorcery. Often results in Religion is Magic.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Mohammed Avdol from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, an appropriately dressed Egyptian fortune teller who introduces the main cast to the concept of a Stand. His own stand, appropriately enough, is named Magician's Red and gives him power over flame.
When Ranma from Ranma ½ needs esoteric lore, he goes to Cologne, an unspeakably ancient Chinese wisewoman.
Another manga by Rumiko Takahashi: Urusei Yatsura features Tsubame Ozono, Sakura's boyfriend, who is a practitioner of Western black magic. He is involved in a fight with Sakura's uncle Cherry, and while Cherry uses Obake to do his work, Tsubame summons Western creatures, including a Gorgon and Frankenstein's Monster.
In Cardcaptor Sakura, Clow Reed is famous for merging Eastern and Western magic styles, because his father was British and his mother was Chinese.
In the Genzo extra, the Big Bad Genzaemon mentions the use of sorcery "from the western lands".
In Berserk, the Western-analogue cultures like Midland and Tudor have very few (human) magic-users, really only a couple of witches who subscribe to an oppressed, near-dead nature-focused pagan religion. The Kushan, on the other hand, an Indian / Persian Fantasy Counterpart Culture, have sorcerers out the yin-yang.
In Erik the Viking, the mysterious wise woman Freya was played by Eartha Kitt with an exaggeration of her customary vaguely-foreign accent.
In Holes, the old Egyptian curse-woman Madame Zeroni is also played by Eartha Kitt with an exotic accent.
Older Than Print: In the Norse sagas — for example, Heimskringla — if a character was a Finn (note that this word usually referred to those who later would be called Lapps or Sami, not Finnish/Suomi people), it was implied they were inherently magical. This tradition went on for a long time. The last person to have the reputation of a Lapland Witch died in early 20th century.
Earthsea was created simply to avert many heroic fantasy tropes, with the aforementioned pale barbarians and darker skinned advanced races, but in doing so helped cement this trope.
The heavily-disavowed miniseries made this worse, with almost all the main characters being a shade of white... save for Ged's mentor, played by Danny Glover. So the only black actor was the (quite literally) Magical Negro who helped the white hero with his magical talents.
The Lord of the Rings mentions that the less Europeanish corners of Middle-Earth have sorcerers and magical cults. Although you have to bear in mind that this doesn't say anything about if they are actual 'magic sorcerers' or just believed to be, as the typical generic fantasy spellcasting kind of wizards doesn't exist in Middle-Earth. And "wizards" like Gandalf & co. are another thing entirely.
And there are also sorcerers who come from Númenórean descent as well, though according to Faramir this generally does not happen in Gondor. The Witch-King himself was one prior to his, ah... alteration. "Sorcery" (as opposed to the wizard or elven magic) is generally presented as the province of Sauron and his minions, regardless of what culture they hail from.
In Robert A. Heinlein's Magitek novel, Magic, Inc., Archie Fraser is surprised to find the English accented magic expert on the phone turns out to be a black African "witch smeller" in person.
In Rick Cook's Wiz Biz series, the leader of the Wizard Council is Bal-Simba, a towering black man who has his teeth filed to points and wears a lionskin loincloth. It's practically a lampshade...
Aces with magical powers in Wild Cards are almost exclusively this. Justified in that the powers manifest from subconscious, so western people usually get super-strength, flight, telekinesis and other stuff, while people of less advanced cultures get whatever powers are known in their native cultures. Likewise, western jokers are almost exclusively half-animal hybrids, while in other countries they tend to be mythical beasts: among infected Mayans there were literally hundreds of Quetzalcohuatli.
The most straightforward example of this trope is Fortunato, a tantric magician ace who is a twofer minority: black/Japanese, his powers have nothing to do with his nationality but root in the fact that he is a pimp, thus gets sex-based powers. His counterpart, Astronomer, whose powers use rape and violence as a power source, is very Caucasian, though.
The red priests from A Song of Ice and Fire are seen this way, at least in Westeros where their monotheistic religion never took hold. Of the three prominent red priests in the series, Scary Black Man Moqorro fits this trope the most.
Mild examples in Night Watch, since this is an Urban Fantasy setting, many powerful Others are very old, and don't usually talk about their origins. Geser is a powerful Light Other, originally from Tibet, although he has adopted a Russian name after moving to Moscow and his vaguely Asian appearance doesn't seem strange to people (considering how many ethnic groups live in Russia, it's not surprising). He is, occasionally, seen walking around in an Eastern robe and pointy shoes. Zabulon's origins are unclear, although an old friend of his calls him Arthur in a spin-off novel, and the latest novel indicates that he lived in Ireland for a time, so he may have been born in the isles thousands of years ago. The latest novel also introduces a powerful Jewish mage whose spells tend to be related to his culture in some manner (for example, he creates a golem to fight the Tiger and commands it in Hebrew). Overall, it's not that magic is different from culture to culture (Magic A Is Magic A, after all), but the way the Others use magic tends to be affected by their culture.
In Holes, Madame Zeroni is an old Egyptian woman with dark skin and a very wide mouth. She puts a curse on Elya and his descendants for not carrying her up the mountain so she can drink from the stream.
In The Kingdom of Little Wounds, Midi isn't actually a witch, but everyone—including the other protagonist Ava—treats her like she is because she is "The Negresse."
Myth And Legend
when the pilot Jose Maraleda (who really existed btw) wished to prove his proficiency to these huilliches (Mapudungun means "southern people") and establish that he was the most formidable sorcerer in the world. The locals didn't believe him and called upon the Machi Chilpilla, who lived in Quetalco, to confront this intruder to their lands. Moraleda was defeated and in recognition of this offered the Machi an enormous book of ancient witchcraft around the world. Further, Moraleda wrote that the natives of Chiloé were not as deplorable as he had believed and, in fact, were even better than some Chileans. This being the origin story of the "Warlock of Chiloé."
The Vampire Diaries: All witches, save one, are descended from one apparent family line of black people... Descendants of a handmaiden...
In the Dungeons & DragonsBirthright setting, the Khinasi culture (the setting's generic Middle Eastern Turkish/Persian/Arabic mishmash) is particularly renowned for its wizards, who are held in even greater esteem than magic-users of the other human cultures, and this is reinforced by the Khinasi getting a cultural bonus to Intelligence.
In the Ravenloft setting, the Vistani are a race of magical gypsies, based off of the stereotyped gypsy fortune teller.
'Ethnic' wizards also show up in the Oriental Adventures setting (for the Far East) and in Arabian Nights-flavored Al-Qadim. The Sha'ir in particular is a wizard who doesn't so much memorize and cast spells in the classic Vancian fashion as send out his or her genie familiar across the planes to fetch what spell he or she might need next.
Everquest: The Erudites. Their skin was changed to gray for the sequel.
Shadowbane: One of the "seven races of man" is the Indyu: "dark as the Northmen are fair", and "magic runs in their veins".
The original Diablo game has a black sorcerer and two white warrior types as player characters.
Diablo II mixes it up a bit — the two distinctly non-white heroes are the Sorceress (a Squishy Wizard type with a haughty intellectual personality) and the Paladin (a decidedly non-squishy fighting priest type, complete with lots of analogies to real-world monotheistic religions). The Barbarian class is the only one that doesn't use magic of any kind, as his culture forbids it, and he is white.
Diablo III has a white Barbarian, a black Witch Doctor, and an Asian Wizard.
Think of how many classic magic performers have stage names ending in "-i" or "-o." That's because in the 19th Century the best-known magicians on the English music-hall circuit were Italians. So later generations of magicians adopted pseudo-Italian names to sound all magickey. Erich Weiss, a Jewish kid from Wisconsin, took the name of a Frenchman and added an Italian -i suffix to become... Houdini.