Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Mundane Utility: Literature
  • In The Legend of Luke, Martin uses his sword (yes, the legendary artifact regarded as magic in later books) to cut a cake. Then there's the famous line, "See this magical sword? Did you know it has the power to make pretty hare maidens happy?"...
  • Horse drawn antigravity wagons for farmers. Dune, for all your anachronistic Schizo Tech needs.
    • In Dune: House Harkonnen, Duke Leto uses a jeweled dagger that was given to him by the cut a paradan melon.
  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, this is the training philosophy of the Asha'man; all chores have to be done with their powers. If you can't channel fire, you eat cold food. This contrasts with their nun-like female counterparts, the Aes Sedai, who do not permit such flippant uses by their trainees, since Menial Labour Builds Character. Of course, the main reason the Aes Sedai don't allow trainees to use the Power for tasks where it isn't necessary is because channeling is addictive. But the life expectancy of an aes sedai is more than 10 times that of an asha'man (when the asha'man are created, anyway), so the addiction is considered worth the risk for them.
  • Peter Reidinger of Anne McCaffrey's Pegasus books discovers he has powers after becoming a quadriplegic at age thirteen; as a result he uses his "Talent" for everything, including hiding the fact that he's doing it by puppeting his own inert body, which leads to some Uncanny Valley moments (as well as him literally levitating with enthusiasm early on when he forgets where his feet are in relation to the ground...)
    • In the Dragonriders of Pern series, all dragons can teleport. Green dragons (the lowest-ranking) are sometimes used to deliver messages or carry passengers. Since dragon riders are an elite class, they only do this when it's important (or when they want to impress a girlfriend, etc).
  • In the second book of the second trilogy of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Thomas uses his white gold ring, an artifact of indomitable magic that destroys peace, to shave.
    • Shaving is excellent training for controlling the wild magic. Considering he couldn't use it in the first series at all, and when it did activate, it had a tendency to blow up everything around him, that sounds perfectly reasonable.
    • It's also his own (morbid) personal self-mastery ritual. Being a leper he doesn't have the feeling of presure in his fingertips to have perfect control. Also as a leper he is very prone to infection. Tom being the cheerful character that he is uses a cutthroat razor, in his left hand, that's missing two fingers, and he still slips up with.
  • The mighty weapon of Thief of Time's Chaos is a sword as rule-breaking as he. It is made of blue flame, which burns with absolute coldness. When he's not fighting, it creates a handy freezer that keeps his dairy products cold and fresh. Combining this with teleportation powers akin to Death's he becomes Ronnie Soak, the Discworld's greatest milkman, able to deliver said dairy products anywhere, anytime, always fresh. Most importantly, everyone's milk arrives at 7:00 AM sharp. Everyone's.
    • On a similar note, Susan, Death's granddaughter, has inherited The Grim Reaper's many talents, among them the ability to exist outside of time. She uses this talent to grade papers (largely due to her suffering a heavy case of I Just Want to Be Normal). Her classes take quite interesting, Disc-travelling unscheduled field trips during her lessons. However, her Compelling Voice, while able to help her skip on teaching when her grandfather needs her, cannot be used to get her a raise.
    • There's some mundane uses of magic-derived technology on the Discworld, such as using tiny summoned imps to paint pictures (essentially a photo camera), or as (dis)organizers. However, magic on the Disc is likened to nuclear power - it's good to know it's out there, but you wouldn't want a pile of it in your living room.
    • On a related note, many nobles in Discworld send their children to the Assassin's Guild of Ankh Morpork. There are two main reasons for this: 1: Knowing how to assassinate people teaches their children how to guard against assassination, and 2: it actually is one of the best formal education schools in the world.
    • Unseen University's omniscopes are powerful scrying devices that can see anywhere and anywhen. Because of this it's extremely hard to get them to show anywhere and anywhen in particular, so they usually show the blackness of empty space (that being what most of the universe consists of). The wizards mostly use them as shaving mirrors.
    • In a world in which technology to make clockwork is rare, how does one keep track time? Trap tiny demons in watches of course! They aren't dangerous, but the clocks aren't very reliable, which makes mechanic ones far better.
    • Swamp dragons, dog-sized and nonsentient fire breathers, are frequently used by their human owners as firelighters, forges, paint strippers, and the like. Lady Sybil, the expert on the species, firmly objects to such practices, and dislikes when her husband lights his cigars with dragon hatchlings, although she unhesitatingly instructs him on how to use Raja as a weapon in defense of their child.
    • On the other side of the fence, Discworld witches are trained to avert this trope (which doesn't necessarily mean they do it 100%, just that they're trained not to rely on magic as much as possible). Most of them seem to take it as a point of pride how far they can go using only hard work and completely nonmagical things like herbalism and headology.
      • Lampshaded in Witches Abroad, with a conversation between Nanny Ogg (a witch) and Mrs Googol (a voodo priestess) about when it's appropriate for a witch to use pins, or a mambo to raise zombies:
    Nanny: But only when there ain't no alternative.
    Mrs Googol: Sure. When there ain't no alternative.
    Nanny: know ...people ain't showing respect, like.
    Mrs Googol: When the house needs paintin'.
    • Meanwhile, Wizards will occasionally use magic for mundane purposes - in Sourcery, for example, Spelter turns water into sherry.
    • In Equal Rites, Esk disguises her wizard staff as a broom, occasionally using it to sweep up. When Mustrum Ridcully was summoned to UU to become its Archchancellor, he had to retrieve his own staff from the garden, where it was serving as the support-pole of a scarecrow.
  • Katie Welker of The Girl With The Silver Eyes uses her telekinesis to do things like push her glasses up on her nose and turn out the lights in her room without leaving her bed.
  • The Animorphs frequently use their powers for mundane things, despite the risk that it would blow their cover and lead to the enslavement of the entire planet. For example, doing a science project and watching concerts for free (twice!). They technically have a rule against this, which Team Dad Jake is miserable at enforcing — especially since he wanted to go to both concerts. Lampshaded in the final book, when Marco morphs a lobster to get his car keys off the pool floor, and Jake makes fun of him because, you know, people who can't morph are just screwed then. Marco then asks Jake if he's thirsty, and Jake snarks back, "Why? Going to morph cow and squeeze me out a glass of two percent?"
  • Keith Laumer has written a series of stories about "Bolo" tanks, super sized military tanks. In one of the stories, it is mentioned that after a war an attempt was made to use them for peaceful purposes, including attaching a blade for demolition work to one and calling it a "tractor". The half-megaton/second firepower still available on it tended to belay the "peaceful" status.
    • A later scheme was to use an obsolete Bolo's massively powerful AI and large hull space to create an automated tractor/bulldozer/genetics lab for adapting crops to survive on newly settled colonies. While those responsible were smart enough to remove the Frickin' Laser Beams this time, they made a really shoddy job of adapting the AI's programming: the result being that when the colony was invaded by hostile aliens it kicked into combat mode and exterminated them all with customised bioweapons, all while thinking they were just a particularly large type of crop pest.
  • Miles Vorkosigan in Komarr is given the position of a Barrayaran Imperial Auditor, which means he is above the law and can issue orders to anyone about anything with the Emperor's personal authority, subject to review only by the Emperor himself. At one point he uses this power to bypass paternal consent on a routine medical treatment for his love interest's son. Lampshaded by his comment "Just like swatting flies with a laser cannon. The aim's a bit tricky, but it sure takes care of the flies."
    • Ekaterin's own point of view regarding this scene:
      Yes, she realized enviously, he could just wave all ordinary problems out of his path. Leaving only the extraordinary ones...her envy ebbed.
      • Miles also gets one in Memory. He and Simon Illyan aren't having much luck fishing, so Miles messes with his Sonic Stunner's cartridge so that when he discards it into the water, it creates an explosion of fish.
  • In Harry Potter magic is used for nearly everything imaginable. From making animated Chocolate Frogs, to the various practical joke items, transport, Quidditch, enchanted items that do household chores for you, self stirring cauldrons, semi-sentient owls, radio (no muggle radio for them, which works out fine since wizards apparently get better radios), the list goes on. It's stated that high levels of magic such as at Hogwarts cause Muggle technology more advanced than a wristwatch to fail to work.
    • Justified Trope in that, if Arthur Weasley is any example, the magical population of the world hasn't a clue how Muggle technology works. If the wizarding world ever gets hit with an Anti-Magic Field or something, they'd die of starvation surrounded by filth.
    • The House-elves. A race of powerful magical beings with near absolute loyalty as their Hat, whose magic isn't bound by the same rules as human wizardry, and what do most wizards and witches use them for? Chores. Justified by the condescending attitude most wizards and witches have concerning House Elves. A few wizards do make clever use of their House elves though: Crouch Sr. entrusted Winky with the very important task of keeping his son hidden (and fired her for nearly letting him escape), Regulus Black told Kreacher to destroy Voldemort's locket Horcrux, though even Kreacher's powers weren't enough to break it, and Harry put Kreacher's talents to good use for espionage in Half-blood Prince and for capturing a thief in Deathly Hallows.
    • The Time Turner. For nearly the whole year Hermione uses it to go back an hour or so to do more classes, extending her days to about 28 hours each with 13 classes a week on almost no sleep. Put to better use at the end, when Harry and Hermione go back in time to save the lives of Harry's godfather and an innocent Hippogriff. Still, the glaringly obvious application for retroactive CSI is completely ignored.
    • The invisibility cloak. It makes you (and up to two of your short friends, apparently) invisible. Primary use? Pranks, and sneaking around Hogwarts. James used it to get free food. When it is described as one of the supposedly mythical Deathly Hallows, Hermione is actually shocked speechless.
    • Hermione wears braces because her parents don't want her to mix regular, muggle dentistry with magic. When a jinx hits her and she needs to get the teeth fixed to their proper size again? Lets the magical nurse of the school fix them past the necessity of wearing braces.
  • The boys in Hidden Talents all use their powers unconsciously at first, causing them to wind up together in a disciplinary alternative school because none of the adults in their lives could get them to stop cheating/starting fires/throwing things etc., and the boys all insist that they aren't to blame. After they find out about and learn to control their gifts, some of them go on to use them casually. Cheater, who's telepathic, lives up to his (previously wrong) nickname by cheating in poker games, and Trash uses his telekinesis to try and get cash out of his bank account when his dad won't let him buy art supplies (this has unforeseen consequences). Flinch, who can see a few seconds into the future, is an inversion: he doesn't compete in sports because he feels it gives him an unfair advantage. Before he found out about his powers though, he was a champion at dodgeball.
  • Bloodsucking Fiends: Upon concluding that Vampire saliva acts as a healing agent (primarily to keep those tell-tale neck wounds from being noticed), Tommy tries to convince his Friendly Neighborhood Vampire girlfriend Jody to fix his cuticles and get rid of a blister on his toe. Jody is not amused.
  • In the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel How Much for Just the Planet? our heroes encounter a baking dish made out of dilithium (a valuable type of crystal that is one target for both sides of the Federation/Klingon Cold War currently in effect). To make it even better, the slab of dilithium is engraved with writing from the local Precursors, combining two kinds of Mundane Utility. The locals argue that if dilithium can regulate a matter-antimatter reaction a few hours in the oven isn't going to hurt it.
  • Many of Nina Kiriki Hoffman's magic-using characters have creative methods of using their abilities in everyday life. The character of Terry Dane from the Matt Black series is probably the best example. She can cast spells to summon money (in the short story Airborn she mentions that she paid for a new car by casting spells to make multiple minor wins in the lottery), to make oneself more attractive, and to help someone study better by improving memory and concentration, and is constantly looking for new ways to use magic. She even invented a way to create portable spells in tablet form that can be used by nonmagical people. She runs an Internet-based business where she sells weak versions of these spells to ordinary people (her biggest customer base is college students), and although her mother disapproves of the way she uses her powers, she doesn't complain too much since Terry makes more money than she does and pays at least half the rent. However, Terry is careful about how she uses these spells to avoid attracting too much attention or giving too much of an unfair advantage to her customers.
  • Sorcery in Belgariad has nearly limitless application, which all of the sorcerers take advantage of to some extent. The extent is simply a matter of a sorcerer's personal preference; the high end would probably be Belgarath (who prefers to take shortcuts in things like physical labor), and the low would probably be Durnik, who prefers working by hand if time isn't an issue.
    • At one point Belgarion asks Polgara why she's mending something no one is ever going to wear. She closes the rip with sorcery to make the point that she never actually needs to fix things by hand, and responds to his bewilderment with "because I like to sew, dear." She then rips the shirt again and proceeds with the mending.
  • In Stephen King's novel, The Tommyknockers, an alien spacecraft is discovered, and it makes the people near it technical geniuses. The main character uses her new abilities to power up her water heater by creating a small sun in it, making a tractor that can fly, and a typewriter that can read thoughts.
  • H. Beam Piper's Uller Uprising features a project to use A-bombs for volcano mining. Justified, because by the point in the future Piper's novels are set in, people have access to weapons like the Bethe-cycle bomb, which creates a miniature sun 2000 miles across at its point of detonation (which has no mundane utility, because it's kind of hard to find a mundane use for a 2000-mile-across fusion fireball lasting several hours).
    • How about a really, really, REALLY hot tub?
    • Also justified in that the planet they're testing the A-bomb mining on is utterly uninhabitable by humans, with a flourine atmosphere and an x-ray emitting sun.
  • Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, Wizard of the First Order, AKA the Wind of Death, has been known to use his exceptional and frightening mastery over magic to cook dinner just a little faster.
    • A necessary function, as he is a Big Eater.
    • Another case has Zedd restoring a wilted flower to full vitality before he goes to speak with his girlfriend.
    • Also of note, Nicci, Death's Mistress and former lieutenant of the Keeper of the Underworld, applies Subtractive Magic to tasks such as healing and changing the color of clothes. Zedd Lampshades this, but considering his own example, he doesn't have much room to talk.
  • Harry Dresden uses his magic to light candles and his fireplace, and occasionally to create energy drinks in magic potion form, among other things. Also, Thomas uses his White Vampire abilities to give the most pleasurable haircuts possible, thus earning his rent and "eating" all at once.
    • In fact, this is Harry's day job. Every Monster of the Week that he tells this to can't comprehend that he'd break The Masquerade just to earn a paycheck.
    • In Skin Game Harry has access to miles of tunnels, all filled with imprisoned horrors beyond human comprehension. He goes jogging down them.
    • According to Word of Jim, Molly once tried to make a potion to dye her hair different colours on command.
    • One of the powers of the Knight of the Cross is the power of Contrived Coincidence. Useful to save a person in need in the best possible moment, and to find yourself someone that can take care of your kids while you go out and fight evil.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Yoda: Dark Rendezvous has a conversation about such uses of the force (But of course using the force for such things leads to the darkside)
    • Vibroblades are awesome weapons that can cut and slice through most armors. Sure enough, they are used for day-to-day cutting of non-warfare-related items all the time, and scaled-down versions exist that aren't even supposed to be used for fighting at all. And yeah, lightsabers get used for similar purposes too every now and then, as well as torches.
  • One of the perennial complaints of Marvin the Depressed Robot from The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is that he has a brain the size of a planet, yet is assigned only simple household tasks that wouldn't challenge a lobotomized goldfish's intellect.
  • Good Omens: The divine / infernal powers are nice for miracling up vintage wines into existence and keeping your car dent-free.
    • To the surprise of both the Wine, and the Car, apparently.
    • "Oh Lord, heal this bicycle."
  • Mendanbar, king of the Enchanted Forest, wields a magic sword responsible for choosing the succession and powerful enough to make him a match for "any three wizards" within his own territory. The first thing he does with it in his introductory book is place an improvised and stealthy spell to keep a wizard's staff from absorbing magic from his kingdom. The second? To unclog a sink. He offers to let it do the dishes as well, but is told that would be ridiculous.
  • In Wilson Tucker's 1954 novel Wild Talent, the psychic protagonist uses his ability while growing up to find out who is willing to hire kids his age for various jobs (extremely useful since the character grows up during The Great Depression), and is also able to learn things more quickly during school, job training as a movie projectionist, and military training as he possesses a combination of telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition.
  • In A Lee Martinez' Monster, the villain of the story, Lotus, possesses an indestructible stone that is responsible for the birth of the entire universe and its continued existence. And though Lotus mainly uses it as a handy source of power she can leech off, she also uses it as a cutting board, a nutcracker, and a paperweight.
  • Since absolutely everyone (except Tavi) in the Codex Alera series has at least some degree of Elemental Powers, they're generally used for Magitek purposes to make everyday life easier. earthcrafters use their furies for construction and mining and Super Strength, and can also use them to either calm people, or excite them. Windcrafters can fly, manipulate sound, calm down storms, and bend air into magnifying glasses or telescopes. Watercrafters can use their powers to heal, swim, channel waterflow, create aqueducts, and hide the presence of ships from massive sea beasts. Firecrafters use can create lamps and cook food, or use their abilities to incite courage or fear; the best orators in Alera are firecrafters who unconsciously incite emotions in their audiences. Woodcrafters are excellent farmers, able to grow vast amounts of food in days. Even metalcrafters, the most martial of the crafting disciplines, are master smiths and metalworkers.
  • By the fourth book of the Safehold series, A Mighty Fortress, several of the main cast besides Merlin been granted access to his supercomputer Owl and his SNARCs, which provide near omnipotent levels of spying ability on a planet otherwise locked in Medieval Stasis. Some of the uses Emperor Cayleb puts it to: Checking up on his adopted son and following baseball scores back home. Although he does use it for more serious things too.
  • From the Inheritance Cycle: When the (financial) going gets tough, the Varden have their mages use their powers to make valuable lace to sell for funds, since the only limit on their magic is that it takes the same amount of energy to do something by magic as it does to do it by hand - thus they can make the low-energy lace really really fast. They consider this beneath their dignity and are horrified when Nasuada orders them to do it.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • The setting's currency consists of gemstones set in glass spheres. Said gems can be infused with Stormlight, which makes them glow. Since they don't flicker or smoke, and don't need refueling/replacing nearly as often as lamps or candles, scholarly types frequently use infused spheres as light sources. It's something of a status symbol how much money you can "waste" on light.
    • Shardplate, a Lost Technology that is effectively magical Powered Armor, has always been used exclusively for combat. One character wonders why no one ever thought to use it for anything else — and then proves his point by digging through solid rock to make a latrine for his army.
  • Franchise/Mistborn:
    • From the same author of the Stormlight Archive, one could create an entire lifestyle out of the magic system. feruchemy is based on weakening an attribute to store for later, tapping it to gain manyfold the power that was there originally. Playing games all day long? Store speed. Bored waiting for the dentist? Store mental speed. Even eyesight can be weakened by storing to using glasses all the time if you're okay with that kind of style
  • In Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, the protagonists are given access to the source code of the universe and are often seen using it for such frivolous things as teleporting around to save money on the train fare, finding a lost pen, and co-locating the inside of a fridge with someone else's when they want a snack.
  • Played with in Mercedes Lackey's novels. Using power for frivolous or mundane purposes (things that could be done just as easily by hand) is the mark of a corrupt or evil mage — good mages save their magic for things only magic can do.
    • More a result of the fact that doing something with magic is always harder than doing it mundanely. Anyone who does something magically when an easier way exists is probably addicted to magic.
    • Sometimes, the person using magic for mundane purposes is just being dumb. There's a reference in The Fairy Godmother to one of Elena's predecessors, who used so much magic on things like housecleaning that she didn't have any magic on tap to deal with an Evil Sorcerer.
    • On the other hand, several mages in the Elemental Masters series use their powers for such things as making sure dinner doesn't burn or the butter churn gets completely clean.
  • Mentioned and then subverted with Numair Salmalin, one of the most powerful mages in the Tortall Universe, specifically Protector of the Small. While most mages can just use magic to extinguish a candle, his power is so great that it would cause an explosion. However, he can do small things like drying a shirt if his magic reserves are low to begin with.
  • According to The Bible, Jesus' very first miracle? Turning water into wine during a wedding party as a private favor for his host, and upon a request from his mom Mary. (Sacred Hospitality is Serious Business.) However, tempted by Satan to use His God-like powers either for His own convenience or as a publicity stunt, Jesus says no thanks.
    • In other Gospels not considered canonical, a young Jesus also experimented with his powers by animating a clay bird and raising a kid from the dead when he accidentally smote the guy for being stupid.
  • The One Ring, the object that holds most of the dark lord Sauron's power, binding him to Middle Earth as long as it exists, the One Ring designed to rule all the other rings of power, and what does Bilbo use it for after The Hobbit? To avoid meeting unpleasant relatives and to play a prank at his birthday party. Justified and Exploited: the Ring canonically grants power "according to the wielder's stature," so the hobbits can't tap most of its deeper and more intimidating powers; but the fact that they think so small, desiring to be left alone in peace above all else, makes them more resistant to the Ring's corruption than most.
  • The boys in Krabat may and do use magic for their daily work and even just for pranks.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy magicians often summon demons for mundane tasks such as redecorating their homes or working as manservants. Despite the lack of risk they often resent this as much or more than their more dangerous jobs. There's glory to be found in battle, less so in wallpapering.
  • Attempted by the apprentice in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Unfortunately, the spell quickly went out of his control.
  • Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, which gives us "ice-nine", a revolutionary chemical that freezes at room temperature and immediately freezes any liquid substance that it comes in contact with. As revolutionary as it is, it was only created by the US Army so that they would have a way to freeze mud instantly, and soldiers wouldn't have to spend so much time slogging through the mud and getting their boots dirty. At the end, it wipes out all life on Earth when someone accidentally drops it into the ocean and freezes the ocean solid, causing a global climate meltdown. Oops..
  • Lila Black does this quite a lot in Quantum Gravity. Once she lit a cigarette with the pilot light for her flamethrower. Another time had her turning her hand into a touchscreen... in order to play naughts and crosses.
  • Shadow Ops goes into this with regards to the various magical powers the military Latents develop. The various Elemental Powers get used for a huge range of mundane tasks. For example, when the base's heating system break down, one of the hydromancers uses his powers to heat up the showers. A terramancer uses his control of dirt and rock to instantly wipe away the mud off a soldier's trousers, and so on.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Rana uses Shock and Awe powers given to her by a god to keep her dress clean of dust.
  • Done by all Others in Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch. A good number of spells are specifically designed for domestic uses and are fairly simple to cast even by low-level Others. All female Others use magic instead of conventional makeup (except Svetlana, who reveals in New Watch that she has stopped using magic outside of the apartment in order to retain her humanity). There are spells for slicing vegetables, shaving, ironing, wiping dust, etc. It's mentioned that every Other tries to be clever and use a domestic spell in combat. However, dedicated battle spells are much faster to cast and can be "hot-keyed" to fingers. On the other hand, old and experienced battle mages have learned how to use these domestic spells to end battles very quickly and unpleasantly in a Combat Pragmatist fashion (as Anton states, most magical battles involve mages hidden behind Mage Shields hurling fireballs at one another to no effect). How would an Other feel if he or she suddenly felt like they were being ironed instead of a shirt? Or if a millimeter of their skin was suddenly gone with a Peel spell? Most Others also use their ability to predict future events to avoid traffic.
    • The latter is also used by both Watches to predict stock markets and currency exchange rates in order to maintain a steady cashflow.
  • Lampshaded in His Dark Materials when a character comments on the absurdity of creating a knife that can cut through from one world to another and using it "to steal candy."
  • In the de Camp & Pratt short story "The Better Mousetrap", a hatchling dragon is used for pest control.
  • In Freakling by Lana Krumwiede, everyone in Taemon's city has Psychic Powers, called psi. They use them for everything, from driving to eating. It is seen as disgusting to eat with your hands. This becomes a problem when Taemon loses his powers and has to hide it.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Dovewing has Super Senses that allow her to see pretty much the entirety of the lake territories. She often uses them so that she knows when her crush is leaving for their meetings and can beat him there. Just to mess with him.
    • Leafpool at one point uses her Twin Telepathy with Squirrelflight to check the weather outside.
  • Tris from the Circle of Magic is a weather mage: she can call lightning, shove storms around, and the like. In Shatterglass, the first thing we see her do with her power is set up a personal breeze as air-conditioning; later, she uses a small lightning bolt as an arc lamp, and uses a small cyclone as an elevator to get to the top of a tower. She's also been known to use her control over the rain in place of an umbrella, and once summoned lightning to spot-weld wire into a mesh.
    • Meanwhile, her step-sister Sandry has the ability to weave unmagic and tie life to a body. The technical term for this is "Stitch Witch", power over thread, so mostly she uses it to make very durable and pretty clothes.
  • Jace to Magnus in The Mortal Instruments: "Nearly unlimited supernatural power, and all you do is use it to watch reruns. What a waste."
  • In The Heroes, a novel in The First Law series, Whirrun of Bligh, a cloudcuckoolander Barbarian Hero invents the sandwich by slicing bread with his Thunderbolt Iron Cool Sword and putting cheese between it. The response of the other warriors (who rip off chunks of bread with their cheese) is It Will Never Catch On.
  • In Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold the Grainne military uses an Orbital Bombardment weapon consisting of blocks of metal dropped from orbit ... to carve a gap through a mountain range for a highway. Justified because they were paid to do it and the system was nearing the end of its operational life anyway.
  • In Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human, Lone asks Baby to come up with a mechanical device that would help a farmer keep his truck from getting stuck in mud... Baby gives him instructions on how to build what turns out to be an anti-gravity machine. Neither character actually realizes the full extent of this invention - Lone is capable of making the device with help but doesn't comprehend how it actually works, while Baby does have this knowledge but, having a mind comparable to a computer, doesn't consider any other uses for it until later on when he's specifically asked about what might happen if the device is found.
  • In After The Golden Age, the superheroine Spark uses her fire powers to cook meals, saying they turn out better that way because she can control the heat more precisely than with an oven.
  • In Kevin J. Anderson's Dan Shamble novel Unnatural Acts, a succubus whose life-leeching touch causes plants to shrivel gets fired from a brothel for accidentally draining a human client so he winds up in the hospital. She finds a new job with a company that makes dried flower arrangements, where her Touch of Death for flowers triples their productivity.
  • Two of the main characters in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick are "pre-fash consultants", people with precognitive powers employed to find out whether or not various products will become fashionable before they're accepted for production.
  • In Gifts, the first Annals Of The Western Shore, much is made of the powerful and fearsome powers of the different families. One example is the gift of the knife, so named because its wielder can cut flesh at will. Gry's father uses it to painlessly remove splinters. He's also a bit of a Non-Action Guy and only uses it for mundane purposes like this, which Gry thinks is a better idea than weaponizing it.
  • In Scott Meyer's Magic 2.0 duology, all time travelers learn to do this. However, this involves coming up with creative ways of modifying the reality file. Since pretty much all time traveler "colonies" utilize some type of interface similar (and frequently based on) the shell program developed by Phillip, they can write a macro for a specific spell and use it whenever they want. There are limitations, though, as most objects can't be easily manipulated due to the fact that the program considers any inanimate object made up of a number of parts to be separate objects. Thus, attempting to levitate or teleport a computer will probably break it, since only a part of the device will be affected. The same can be said of simple rocks as well, if they are not made up of a single mineral. Atlantean sorceresses (specifically, Brit) came up with a solution by designing a macro that creates objects on a molecular level, aligning the molecules in a desired pattern. Thus, many things in Atlantis are made of molecularly pure diamond and can, thus, be easily manipulated. In fact, Atlantean sorceresses are even more guilty of this trope than most. Brit the Younger projects the Interface on a sheet of glass to, basically, make it work like a remote for various "systems" in her home (e.g. open windows, change temperature), while all sorceresses use the file to adjust their metabolism so that they don't have to go on a diet or exercise. A wizard named Gary is particularly fond of using the file to play pranks on people. All time travelers make food out of thin air (Phillip likes to pull burritos out of his hat). Just to be clear, the file in this case controls the complex program that we call reality, and most who discover it tend to be at least a little careless about editing it.
  • Journey To Chaos: This verse uses mana in place of electricity, and so magic is used in every appliance and aspect of daily life. When Eric first arrives he marvels at the differences in technology.
    • The air conditioning in Eric's bridge house is wind magic.
    • Scries (cell phone equivalents) use runes in place of circuitry.
    • Locks use enchanted crystals instead of metal keys.
  • War Crimes has the members of the Horde and Alliance conduct a trial with a bronze dragon's help, effectively using time travel to get error free witness testimony. It's also useful for helping a defendant escape justice.

FilmMundane UtilityLive-Action TV

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy