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Mage Tower

"Do you ever wonder why the mages built their tower at Lake Calenhad? Do they have an aversion to practicality or something?"
Alistair, Dragon Age: Origins

Wizards often seem to live in towers. Not all of them, certainly, but enough for the tendency to be noticed.

Sometimes these towers are no larger than is needed for a single individual, while other times, they house an entire community of magicians, and may possibly serve as a Wizarding School or the headquarters of a magocracy. Sometimes they're free-standing, while at other times, they're tacked on to some larger building, such as a castle (especially if the wizard is a Court Mage).

This trope probably stems from the metaphorical "ivory tower", which refers to academics who remove themselves from the rest of society to study. A high tower conveys a sense of isolation from "normal" people, which those academics (or in this case, magicians) use to study in peace, much the same way that religious gurus are often depicted praying on mountaintops. In another sense, high towers are ancient symbols of arrogance and hubris. Or simply extreme isolation.

A subtrope of The Tower, obviously. A tower owned by a wizard of evil-ish disposition will likely be an Evil Tower of Ominousness.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Howls Moving Castle: In the Miyazaki adaption, Howl's moving castle is basically a tower on legs. Also, castles are associated with towers.

    Disney Animated Canon 

    Fairy Tales 

    Legends 
  • Merlin, of Arthurian legend, is sometimes given one. Stories which have him living in someone's castle tend to put him in one of its towers, for example. In some stories, his eventual fate is to be imprisoned in an invisible tower, though there are certainly other versions (a cave is probably more common).
  • Older Than Dirt with Odin's tower of Hlidskjalf in Norse Mythology.

    Literature 
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • The tower Orthanc in Isengard during its occupation by Saruman.
    • Barad-dr and Minas Morgul, occupied by Sauron and the Witch-King respectively, might also be considered examples. Though Sauron is actually a Demon Lord that sometimes uses spells, and the Witch-King is an Undead Magic Knight more than a pure Sorcerer or Lich. Saruman is still the best example.
      • Played straight by Sauron before he revealed his true identity after being slain by Isildur. He was known as The Necromancer, an evil sorcerer, and lived in the tower-fortress of Dol-Guldur on the edge of Mirkwood. The White Council eventually drove him out of Mirkwood, but had delayed long enough for him to restore himself in Mordor. He began re-raising his old tower, Barad-dr, less than a decade later.
    • Actually, considering how many characters in the history of the Tolkienverse had some magic-like abilities, and that elves just LOVED towers and high places...point randomly at any map of Arda ever made and there's bound to be a tower that once contained some magical device / wizard / extra-wise man or elf. Granted, only a handful of them could be called "wizard", for various reasons.
  • In Discworld:
    • The centerpiece of Unseen University is the super-tall Tower of Art, which is supposed to be the oldest part of it.
    • In the book Sourcery, the existence of a Sourcerer causes the Background Magic Field to run unusually high, which does funny things to wizards' minds. They are instinctively compelled to build themselves a tower from which to engage in Wizard Duels with anyone who challenges their magical superiority. When a full-scale disc-wide magical war does indeed break out, the two sides have ensconced themselves in recently built towers, directing magical attacks in the same way that you'd direct a nuclear war. Even Rincewind, who is barely a wizard at all, instinctively tries to build his own tower while sleepwalking, piling rocks on top of each other.
    • In The Last Continent, there's another magic university tower. This one doesn't look much, but is Taller From The Top.
  • The Wheel of Time has the Aes Sedai based in the White Tower. Later, the Asha'man proclaim their own base as the Black Tower, because they want to cement their image as the Spear Counterpart to the Aes Sedai. Their plans to actually build a tower are superseded by the need to keep the world from ending, so the Black Tower never physically appears within the series.
  • In Dragonlance, the wizard's Conclave is based out of five different Towers of High Sorcery scattered across the continent, each surrounded by an enchanted grove of trees meant to keep out intruders. All five have vastly different and unique designs and layouts, with apartments and laboratories for wizards in residence, vast libraries, cataloged collections of magical artifacts, and other facilities. Even graveyards are present for mages who want to be buried within the Towers. In addition to being the homes and workplaces of the Conclave wizards, the Towers also serve as a magical Cosmic Keystone, keeping magic stable and predictable. When two of the Towers were destroyed during the Kingpriest's inquisition, the surrounding areas were devastated for miles around, and if all five were gone, the entire continent would be swept with uncontrolled wild magic.
    • The towers were deliberately destroyed to make a show of what releasing that much magic could do. It was a threat to get the rest of the towers left alone, and it worked.
  • Telemain the magician from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles has his own rinky-dink version.
  • Patricia A. McKillip's The Riddle Master Trilogy has a tower with a spiral staircase that cannot be climbed unless the wizard invites you in — otherwise the top remains just as high above you no mattter how high you think you've climbed.
  • In the first book of The Rift War Cycle, the Court Mage Kulgan has a tower in the duke's castle.
  • Each of the disciples of Aldur have their own tower in the Belgariad. Its a deliberate and conscious emulation of their patron god Aldur, though the specific styles vary reflecting aspects of the individual sorcerer's personality. Belkira and Beltira have a bridge linking theirs while the hunchbacked Beldin has a delicate and airy looking tower. Belgarath lampshades it while infiltrating a villain's tower by saying that every sorcerer he's met seems to build one - this particular one is upside down and hangs from the edge of a mountain, apparently just because it can.
  • Referenced in A Madness Of Angels by Kate Griffin, where the villain's organization that's trying to monopolize all the magic in London is called the Tower.
  • In the Earthsea Trilogy, the Master Namer of Roke, Kurremkarmerruk, lives in a tower some way from the School.
  • In The Hero and the Crown, the bad mage has a very very very tall tower. The good one has a one story longhouse/mansion.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's The Black Gryphon, it's implied that Urtho, the Big Good Mage of Silence, has owned several towers in his career, as he reminisces fondly about his first one. His current incarnation, as portrayed in the chapter 6 illustration, is an elaborate and flowing creation with several interconnected spires.
  • Tales of the Sundered Lands: The Wizard's Union is in a big old tower on a mountain. The protagonist, who dislikes wizards, lampshades it.
  • Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age: In Whiskey & Water, Jane Andraste has taken the skycraper headquarters of the Promethean order as her tower.
  • The Wizard Tower in Septimus Heap is a classic example of these.
  • The Iron Tower of Carc in The Worm Ouroboros, where King Gorice goes to study black magic and summon the forces of Hell.
  • In Rebecca Lickiss's Eccentric Circles, the wizard Larkingtower lives in one. After reality has been rewritten, Blendingstone lives there — and has for years.

    Manhwa 
  • Enforced by the government in Ciel The Last Autumn Story, as Mages(basically magic users far more powerful than average) are put in towers and kept under watch to keep them under control.

    Music 
  • In the Rainbow song "Stargazer," a wizard telepathically enslaves hundreds of people to build him a huge tower in the middle of the desert so that he, the wizard, may leap from the top and fly. It doesn't work.

    Tabletop Games 
  • More Dungeons & Dragons examples:
    • DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor. The powerful mage Robert of Dives lives in a lonely tower.
    • Forgotten Realms is riddled with these, functional or otherwise. With time, some of the abandoned towers became taverns; some are so warded thickly that they stay empty in the middle of a town for a few centuries. Some consist only of a few upper levels remaining in their proper place.
      • Elminster the Sage has a tower in Shadowdale. A slightly modified abandoned windmill, really.
      • The craziest is Host Tower of the Arcane—the home of Arcane Brotherhood in Luskan. The building hosts a little magical academy—complete with kitchens, laboratories and all. It branches like a candelabra: the central spire and four side spires at the cardinal directions.
      • The Vorpal Tower, called so because "some force cleanly sliced away nearly a third of the entire structure diagonally across its top two floors".
  • Octavius of Tyrvo from GURPS: Banestorm has a carefully detailed tower.
  • This is Lampshaded in Mage: The Awakening, with suggestions on how to adopt it to modern settings (i.e. by making your Sanctum inside a penthouse).
    • It's actually justified in-universe. Hallows (places where Mana naturally collects) tend to form on high places. Thus Mages that build high towers are more likely to attract a power source.
  • No such justification exists in Mage: The Ascension, where nodes can form anywhere of significance. Therefore the Order of Hermes splatbook questions whether the tendency of wizards to isolate themselves from the general populace in towers might not be a serious problem that keeps causing their downfall.
  • Warhammer has them by the bucketload, at all levels of grandeur and sophistication. The most impressive is undoubtedly the White Tower of Hoeth in the kingdom of Saphery, where the greatest mages of the High Elves study and perfect their craft. The White Tower is several miles high and home to the greatest collection of magical artefacts and lore in the known world, as well as a vast community of mages, loremasters, scholars and academics. It is guarded by powerful spell walls, illusions and sorcery, and if those fail it is also home to an order of supremely capable warrior-ascetics who are themselves seekers of arcane knowledge.
    • There are rules for wizards' towers as battlefield features in both the main rulebook and the Storm of Magic supplement, and several official model kits for these terrain pieces, including Witchfate Tor, Skullvane Manse and the ruined tower of Dreadstone Blight.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age, the Circle of Magi is based in a tower located in the middle of a large lake. At one point, when he considers all the stairs he's about to face climbing to get to the bottom of the tower, First Enchanter Irving grumbles about the inconvenience that this trope causes the older mages (including him) and curses whoever's bright idea it was that decided to enforce it.
    • Also lampshaded by Morrigan, who wonders what it is with the Circle mages and large phallic symbols.
    • The "Circle Tower" actually predates the Circle of Magi and was built as the ancient fortress known as the Kinloch Hold. It's mentioned that such towers are commonly used because they can double as Mage prisons and are built to withstand just about anything. Ferleden's other tower, the one actually built by (evil) mages, is now a general prison.
  • The Elder Scrolls has a few examples.
    • In Morrowind, the Telvanni wizards live in towers, often without any stairs - they use magic to get to whatever level they want, and anybody who can't follow probably isn't worth talking to.
      • In the same game, the wizards are also fond of living in domes.
    • In Oblivion with the right DLC the player can get one of their own.
    • The modding community has a fascination with towers, and often holds the official DLC tower in very little regard. Result: dozens of mods that add mage towers all over the place.
    • In Skyrim, Calcelmo the wizard lives in a tower in Markarth guarded by Dwemer traps. The Hearthfire DLC lets the player character become a Determined Homesteader, and wizard's towers are some of the optional add-ons to one's homestead.
      • The Dragonborn DLC reintroduces the Telvanni tower: Master Neloth makes a reappearance from Morrowind bringing the iconic mushroom tower with him.
  • Warlic and Cysero share one in Dragon Fable. Warlic's half is as you might expect, Cysero's half...not so much.
  • The wizard/mage unit-production building in all Heroes of Might and Magic incarnations is some sort of tower. The third installation even had the wizard city type called "Tower".
    • When we get to visit Bracada (the Wizards' country on Antagarich, the continent that Heroes III takes place on) in Might and Magic VII, the region we see turns out to be full of towers, to the point that the only two buildings in the Bracada Desert that aren't towers is the Stable and the School of Sorcery (well, unless one counts 'floating really high above' as 'in', in which case there is an entire city without towers as well).
    • Too many to list in World of Xeen.
  • The Wizards' Guild building in Majesty is a nest of towers, and wizards are also able to build ancillary "Wizards' Towers" as glorified Guard Towers which they can garrison and which allow the player to cast spells within their line of sight.
  • World of Warcraft: Whenever a mage or group of mages are based somewhere, you are guaranteed to find one of these.
    • The most notable by far being Karazhan, formerly owned by the wizard Medivh (one of the most prominent figures in the Warcraft and Warcraft 3 eras), which featured both as a mission in the original Warcraft and also as one of the first Raid instances in Outland.
    • The mages tower in Stormwind is probably the second most notable examples, as it's design is unique (All the other mage towers have the same model, more or less). Only one mage is actually in the tower, though. To access the others, you have to pass through a portal leading to a small room (the Portal and teleportation spells also leads to it). Where said room is, no one knows.
  • The Mysidia Tower/Magician's Tower in Final Fantasy II.
  • Fork Tower from Final Fantasy V sorta counts. As its name suggests, it has two sides — one side devoted to physical combat, and one devoted to magic.
  • The Fanatics' Tower from Final Fantasy VI.
  • They serve a dual purpose in Age of Wonders 2. Wizards who sit in a tower will have their domain (spell range) extended, and can cast adjacent to allied heroes. Even more importantly, if a wizard dies, he or she will be resurrected at a tower on their next turn. And if there's no tower to resurrect at...
  • Geffen Tower in Ragnarok Online. That's where mages change into wizards. Interestingly, it sits on top of a dungeon, which is accessible in the tower basement.
  • Abraxas' Tower in the first Vampires Dawn game might count. He certainly has a wide variety of magic available and one level of the tower even has magic darkness spread out that not even this game's Vampires' special vision can overcome. Played completely straight in the sequel, with some witch residing in a tower.
  • The Naughty Sorceress from Kingdom of Loathing lives at the top of a tower, which you have to fight through to get to her. Next to it is the ruins of Fernswarthy's tower, who counted before he died.
  • The aptly-named Mysterious Tower from the Kingdom Hearts series, home of Yen Sid. It's located on a piece of turf floating in the middle of nowhere (though you can reach it via ghost train from Twilight Town), and contains a lot of floating staircases and portals.
  • In Master of Magic, your capital city contains a mage tower.
  • The Tower of Magi from the Exile series.
  • The Wizards Tower in RuneScape. There is also an evil Wizards tower, and the Mage's guild is set in an even bigger tower. There's even a wizard living in a tower out in the middle of nowhere. The Mage's guild even contains portals that let you teleport to any of the previously mentioned towers.
  • In the iOS game Highborn, you can capture towers to be able to control the Wizard living in it.
    • There is also a tower where the Wizard's Council meets. They're rather afraid to come out because of the dragon trying to eat them, so Enzo has to go up to the tower himself to talk to them. He grumbles about having to do it a second time in the second chapter.
  • In The Sims Medieval, the Wizard sim lives in a tower. It's three stories high.
  • NetHack
    • The Wizard of Yendor lives in a tower in Gehennom.
    • The wizard role's quest starts in "the Lonely Tower", home of quest leader Neferet the Green.
  • In Emerald City Confidential, Glinda's tower and Magical Library are in disrepair after her death.
  • The Mage Towers in Thief Gold are a large castle complex with four towers at the corners, and a central tower higher than the rest. Only mages of specific orders are permitted into the towers above the ground floor, and only a handful of individuals have access to the central tower.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, anyone who learns necromancy is inexplicably compelled to use zombie slaves to build an enormous tower where they sit and write books.
  • Wizards and other mage-type classes in Desktop Dungeons reside in the Mage Tower, which actually hovers a few feet above ground, so only mages and the occasional birds can get inside.
  • Teslagrad is set in an abandoned one of these. Getting through the traps and decay form most of the gameplay.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Fumblemore from Shadow of Israphel lives in one.
  • In The Lay of Paul Twister, a lot of powerful wizards have their own Wizards' Tower, to the point where it's considered a bit surprising when a powerful archmage doesn't have one. There's also a tower at Stark Academy, which functions as a research center. Exactly what purpose the towers serve is never quite explained.

    Western Animation 
  • The Ice King from Adventure Time lives in a hollowed-out mountain peak that's functionally identical to a tower.
  • Before being sent out to Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic lived in a very ivory-esque iteration of such a tower. Canterlot's landscape in general is dotted with a good number of these, which is appropriate as it is populated primarily by unicorns.
    • Even afterwards, Twilight lives in a giant tree (that also serves as the town library.) Only Rainbow Dash's house is higher, and that's only because it floats in the sky.
  • In Winx Club, the Cloudtower school for witches is a tall tower. It can change its own structure, and the presence of dark magic in it makes Cloudtower bad for fairies to stay in for a long time.


Clock TowerBuilding TropesStar Scraper
Linear Warriors, Quadratic WizardsWizards and WitchesMagic Staff
Lighthouse PointThe TowerOminous Floating Castle
MacGuffin LocationSettingsMagical Library
Lift of DoomDangerous HeightsSpace Elevator
Interactive NarratorImageSource/Live-Action FilmsOur Orcs Are Different

alternative title(s): Wizards Tower; Ivory Tower
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