While the term wizard
itself is often applied as a catch-all word for male magic users in fiction, the image of the classic mage as it has evolved out of Western traditions and folklore, has a number of distinct trappings and tropes. In short, this is the character most people think of when they hear the word "Wizard".
- Traditional Wizardly Attire: Wizards are known for wearing long robes, especially in blue or grey, and pointed hats, often floppy and without brims. Sometimes the hat is omitted, but rarely the robe. If male (and they very often are — see below), they also have a long Wizard Beard that's usually white.
- Carry a Magic Staff: Wizards are known for carrying staffs which they use as a device to aid in casting spells and for a walking stick. They are heavily associated with wizards over any other type of magic user.
- Wizardry: Wizards practice wizardry specifically as their type of magic which tends to have to do with cosmic energy and powers through intensive study of arcane knowledge. They are often seen reading the stars and tapping into the energy of the earth directly, casting spells with runes or magic words, or pure thought. Wizards appear to have been somewhat based on Druids and ascetic Hermits but are not directly comparable. They may have a personal Spell Book, but more likely they have an entire library of gathered knowledge. The most powerful wizards may call themselves Archmage.
- Wizardly Habits: Wizards are very often solitary folk who live alone in far off, difficult to reach places, studying in seclusion. They also tend to live in tall towers, the better to be closer to the stars. They have been known to enjoy Walking the Earth, however, and people seem to stumble upon them at random...or is it fate? They also tend to have apprentices hanging around. A Wizard can be a Court Mage but even then they tend to have their own areas and act aloof. If they have a pet, it's usually a bird of some kind, like a crow or owl. A degree of eccentricity is quite common, be it real or feigned, which masks the wizard's considerable power.
- Mostly Male; Wizards, when the title is not just a term for 'male magic user', are still often shown as being Always Male. This may have more to do with males being the more educated of the sexes in historical times when even wealthy and noble females were rarely even taught to read. For this reason alone the possibility of a female wizard would be unlikely. However, if wizards can be either gender, and are different from a witch, it is common for the female variety to be called a Sorceress or have some other term applied to help with the differentiation. Strangely, Wizardess or some other variant of the word "wizard" is practically non-existent as a term. These days, however, (possibly due to Wicca and other neopagan religious movements) the term witch carries less of the the negative connotations that it used to, and so is a workable Distaff Counterpart.
- Association with Age and Wisdom: Wizards are usually very old, the implication being that it takes one that amount of time studying before one can really be considered a true wizard, fit to master the secrets of the universe. Sometimes these wizards cast illusions to appear old, if they aren't, so they're more respected. Furthermore it's common that Wizards Live Longer than most other people, even most other magic uses, for which this is common. Wizards are known for being very wise, and 'wizard' actually comes from the word 'wise'. They often act as advisers to very important people, like royalty, and mentors to heroes.
Wizards can be of good or evil alignment, but when they do
turn evil, it's common for them to have a different term to denote this, such as Sorcerer
, although other times, those terms are interchangeable or denote different types of magic-users. It's common for a Wizard Classic to be contrasted with a Wicked Witch
in works where they are significantly different types of magic users and not gendered titles.
A Classic Wizard is not always a Squishy Wizard
, but it's common. The same with a Kung-Fu Wizard
. See also The Archmage
Anime and Manga
- While they are actually scientists, the men of Weatheria in One Piece look the part, with dark-colored robes, pointy hats, long beards and all. In addition, their leader Haredas dresses in the classic midnight blue scheme. The way they can freely control the weather around them can give off the impression they're magical though.
- Gandalf and Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. Both magic, bearded old men who were long-lived and nigh immortal and carried staffs, and gave advice. Gandalf walked the earth but Saruman lived in a tower.
- Dumbledore in Harry Potter. While all male magic users are called 'wizards' in the series, Dumbledore specifically fits the 'wizard' image. He's old, wise, has a beard, wears robes and floppy hats, and lives in his office in one of the tallest Hogwarts towers. Uses wands, although so does everyone else in the universe.
- According to the Word of God, Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files is half-this (half-Gandalf, to be exact), half-Sherlock Holmes. He wears a duster that "looks like it belongs on the set of El Dorado", wields a staff, has both a dog and a cat and is pretty solitary. As much of the series is a serial Shout-Out and parody, just about every trope here is covered:
- Traditional wizardly attire is actually formal-wear for White Council meetings, and also convenient because proximity to wizards shorts out heating systems. Harry wears a bathrobe to one meeting because his one set of robes is at the cleaners.
- Wizards almost universally have Foci. Harry has the traditional blasting rod and staff. Elaine mocks him for it, calling her own electrified chain and thorn wand more progressive and less phallic.
- It takes a lot of time to study magic, and Harry frequently complains that if he weren't so broke, he'd spend a lot more time solitarily studying magic, like his peers. The one time he does, he stops going outside for months at a time, stops taking care of himself, and generally deconstructs that part of the trope.
- "Wizardry:" A Practitioner is anyone or anything corporeal with magical power of any sort. Human Practitioners get it usually but not exclusively through matrilineal inheritance. A Wizard is a Practitioner with both the power and versatility necessary to join the White Council, almost like being certified for a profession by a standards board. A Sorcerer/Sorceress is a medium to heavyweight Practitioner: they might be marginally too weak, marginally not versatile enough, or marginally too untaught to be allowed in, or might not want to be a member the White Council. Sometimes, Practitioners with raw power but not versatility are referred to as Talents. A Warlock is anyone who uses Black Magic regardless of power or versatility, and a Witch is a non-technical synonym for Warlock. Note: in the Dresdenverse, technical uses of magic-related honorifics are gender-neutral unless specified. Much of the "wizardry" aspects of this trope are not only in full force, but systematized nearly to the point of science.
- The White Council is the body of all known Wizards from around the world. There are few enough of them that they can be a direct democracy with a small Senior Council, most of whom also have other roles. It polices the magical community, enforces standards on the quality of Wizards, and occasionally defends humanity from the gibbering monsters from beyond.
- Binder and Mortimer Lindquist are Talents, because neither has the versatility to be a Wizard even though they have the raw power.
- The Paranet is a safety net for non-Wizard practitioners. Imagine if Aggressive Negotiations and Collective Bargaining had a baby.
- Harry and Elaine were sorcerers under DuMorne's tutelage.
- Mavra is a sorceress - powerful enough to be on the White Council, but she's a Black Court Vampire.
- Cowl, Kumori, Kemmler, and the hosts of the Fallen are all human talents and often exceedingly powerful, but definitely not aligned with the White Council.
- "Burn the Witch" of Biblical fame was, according to Harry, an intentional mistranslation from hating Warlocks to hating Wizards.
- Technically speaking anyone can do magic - in the same way that technically a blind person could fly a plane. It's dangerous, stupid, and you don't know what you're doing. But if someone has to land the damn thing...
- Wizards live a long time, giving them the opportunity to grow old and wise. Neither is guaranteed, though. Harry is a walk-the-earth type by necessity of being broke and has a lot more street smarts than most wizards. It also fits the Noir tone from early in the series. He's often very ignorant of magical goings-on and his lack of a long, formal education really shows through.
- The gender thing is almost completely averted, however. Jim Butcher is known for writing strong female characters, and although there are more named male wizards than female, there's no question that there are many female wizards and that they kick eight kinds of ass. Additionally, magical power is known to be mostly matrilineal, so the average wizard's mother had at least the potential to be a Practitioner of some stripe.
- The Wizards of Unseen University in Discworld fall into this, as does Rincewind (whose association with the university varies.) Of course their "wisdom" in regards to magic mostly consists of not using it and jockying for a Klingon Promotion or two. With the exception of Ponder Stibbons and one or two others who seem to actually do important research and get results (for example creating Hex and Roundworld). Stibbons does not fully fit the trope anyway, being young, beardless and wearing a T-shirt under his robe.
- Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, being a gentle subversion of fairy tales, has both Wizards and Sorcerers that fit this mold, although Sorcerers tend to do the lofty tower isolation bit and Wizards tend to do the wandering the earth bit. Note that neither title denotes evil, though - that just gets you an Evil or Dark tacked on the front. Justified in-story by the fact that magic is an semi-active force that likes things to fall into Traditional paths, so the more like a Traditional wizard you look and act, the better.
- In Dark Lord of Derkholm, Wizards are pretty diverse folk and include both genders, but Mr. Chesney made all wizard-guides have to conform to look as close to the classic version as possible when they headed tours, including making all wizards grow beards.
- In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, all wizards wear traditional wizardly attire, have beards and carry staffs, which suck up magic from their surroundings. All wizards are pretty much bad guys in this incarnation. Supposedly there are good wizards (who aren't part of the organization causing all the trouble throughout the series), but they're only mentioned in passing at the end of the fourth book.
- Disciples of Aldur in the Belgariad.
- The Dorrie the Little Witch stories have featured a few, some good and some evil.
- Depictions of Merlin in almost all media.
- Also Odin from Norse Mythology, a god of wisdom who was the precursor to Merlin and carried a spear instead of a staff. Stories of him wandering the lands disguised as a simple traveller (wearing a cloak and a wide-brimmed hat) were a direct inspiration for Gandalf. He thus serves as the Ur Example to many later characters in this tradition.
- Magic users (wizards) in early editions of Dungeons & Dragons.
- From the Forgotten Realms:
- Elminster is traditionally portrayed this way. It's demonstrated in novels and explicitly confirmed that he's a man of many masks and The Old Mage with iconic hat and pipe is his "good example for young wizards" role, because lots of folk look up to him. Elminster is not inclined to play by rules unless it's the whole point; and when goes out to "meddle", isn't always recognizable as a living creature, let alone himself.
- Marune of the Shadow Thieves (see in the canon art◊).
- Player characters tend not to be wizard classics due to the disadvantages of being old (even if it improves mental stats, the penalties to physical stats get prohibitive) and the fact that the gear most useful to wizards deviates from the trope. Also, a character who is first level while elderly is hard to explain.
- Homestuck: Zazzerpan from the in-story novel The Complacency of the Learned. Other wizards are mentioned as well, but there's not enough information to know how closely they stick to the archetype. The Lalonde house is decorated with a frightening amount of artwork of Zazzerpan and numerous other classic wizards—these are the cause of a bizarre, passive-aggressive (and completely one-sided) fight between Rose and her mom.
- Elan from The Order of the Stick dresses as this (Robe and Wizard Hat with stars on them, false Wizard Beard and a staff with an 8-ball on it) when he decides to multiclass as a wizard. He also tries to (unsuccessfully) mimic Vaarsuvius's Spock Speak. V doesn't take it well.
- The wizard Dorukan grew into the classic look in his Epic years. All OotS spellcasters tend to wear robes, and he already had a nice staff, so all he needed was the long white beard. He also lived out his days guarding a Gate in a towering dungeon.
- Arthax from Nodwick uses a robe and a pointy hat (no brim) and is the oldest (if not the wisest) member of the group. He also tends to keep to himself and perform magical experiments when the group aren't out questing, which isn't just his wizardly nature but also because his experiments have an unfortunate tendency to detonate.