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Wizard Classic

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Always arrives precisely when he means to.

While the term wizard itself is often applied as a catch-all word for 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". Compare/contrast with Absent-Minded Professor.

  • Traditional Wizardly Attire: Wizards are known for wearing long robes, especially in blue, grey, or purple, and pointed hats, often floppy and sometimes without a brim. Occasionally these will have stars or other mystical designs on them. Sometimes the hat is omitted, but rarely the robe. Older works tend to favor deep hoods over hats. If male (and they very often are — see below), they also have a long Wizard Beard, usually white.
  • Carry a Magic Staff: Wizards are known for carrying walking sticks, both for Mundane Utility and as a focus or aid in casting spells. Staffs are more closely associated with wizards than with any other magic-users.
  • Wizardry: Wizards practice wizardry specifically as their type of magic. While every work has its own definitions and limitations, wizardry can generally be defined as a form of 'high' magic with many potential applications, usually tapping universal forces as a result of intensive study. They are often seen reading the stars and/or tapping into natural energies: and casting spells with runes or magic words. Wizards appear to have been somewhat based on Druids and ascetic Hermits but are not directly comparable. Books of lore — whether a single tome or an entire library — are a frequent fixture.
  • 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, and to work in studies filled with arcane tomes and strange instruments. They have been known to enjoy Walking the Earth, however, and people seem to stumble upon them at random... or is it fate? Since wizardry is a studied art rather than a spontaneous talent, wizards tend to have The Apprentice hanging around, or sometimes even congregate in a Wizarding School. A Wizard can be a Court Mage but even then they tend to have their own areas and act aloof. While "familiars" are more often associated with witches or demonologists, wizards do tend to keep a pet — the most frequent choice is a bird associated with cleverness or wisdom, such as 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: In strict etymological terms, the English word "wizard" is gender-neutral. However, in most works wizards are males. 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 so much as taught to read. In works where this gender rule is not absolute, female practitioners tend to be given names associated with entirely different magical traditions (most often 'witch' or 'sorceress').
  • Association with Age and Wisdom: Wizards are usually very old, the implication being that it takes one that much time studying before one can really be considered a true wizard, fit to master the secrets of the universe. Sometimes younger wizards will even use illusion or disguise to appear old, to gain respect. Furthermore it's common for wizards to have unusual longevity, even most other magic users, so that the average wizard ends up being much older than the average non-wizard. Wizards are known for being very wise—'wizard' actually comes from the word 'wise'. They often act as advisers to very important people, like royalty, and as mentors to heroes. This is often emphasized by making the wizard bald.

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 or Warlock, 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. Compare Gentleman Wizard, contrast Blue-Collar Warlock. See also Witch Classic, which is in many ways the Distaff Counterpart. Compare Grandpa God, which shares many of the aesthetic elements of the Wizard Classic.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • The Familiar of Zero: Old Osmund, the Headmaster of the Tristain Academy of Magic looks the part with his robes, staff, and long white beard but is also a Dirty Old Man who harasses his secretary.
  • One Piece: While they are actually scientists, the men of Weatheria 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.
  • Tales of Wedding Rings: Sage Alabaster is the spitting image of the archetypal wizard, being a wise old man who wears heavy robes, wields a magical staff, has a full beard, and is very knowledgeable about history and the workings of magic. The only thing he lacks is the pointy hat.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain Britain: Merlyn sometimes invokes this on occasion Depending on the Artist. His impostor the Maha Yogi also invoked this.
  • Nnewts: Anthigar, the Big Good, is an elderly Nnewt (the very first one, in fact) who practices good magic. He wears a robe and has a long, white beard. Instead of the typical wizard hat, though, he wears a Cool Crown, since he is king of the Nnewts. However, he is hidden deep underground until Herk finds him in Book 1.
  • Shazam!: The Wizard Shazam, the mentor and sometimes namesake of Captain Marvel/Shazam, is an elderly robe-clad man who lives in the Rock of Eternity. His New 52 design heavily downplays this.

     Fan Works 
  • That Guy Destroys Psionics: Enforced. Elsimore's player initially wanted to play a rogue focused on traps and magic devices, but was told in no uncertain terms by the GM to "min-max or gtfo", and thus decided to play the most stereotypical wizard he could, pointy hat and all. The only part he wasn't allowed to have was the long beard (as elves can't grow facial hair in the setting), so he substituted it with extremely long eyebrows.

     Film - Animated 

     Film - Live Action 
  • The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf is every inch the robed, bearded, staff-wielding, solitary and cryptically wise wizard of fantasy. Ian McKellen was so good as playing this role that he was approached to play Dumbledore in Harry Potter after Richard Harris passed away. He rejected the offer — according to him, not because of a fear of becoming typecast, but because apparently Harris had criticized his acting in the past, and Sir Ian didn't want to replace an actor whom he knew wouldn't approve of the choice.
  • A New Hope: Obi-Wan Kenobi seems to have become a space version of this trope by the movie's time. His Jedi robes serve as wizardly attire, his lightsaber stands in for a staff or wand, Force-sensitivity is the setting's equivalent of magic to begin with, he's a hermit stumbled upon by a young farmboy, he has a white beard and white hair, and is in the twilight years of his life. This comes with the addition of his kendo-influenced lightsaber-fighting skills, and his being a Kung-Fu Wizard (barring the obvious difference between kung fu and kendo).

  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Downplayed. While this sort of wizards do exist — Nathaniel's first master is one of them — it is stated that they are something of poseurs and that the really powerful wizards pretend to look more like accountants.
  • The Belgariad: The Disciples of Aldur are both an homage to this trope and a subverton of it. They are solitary and excentric sorcerers owning their own towers, but they dislike traditional wizardly attires (Belgarath is furious when a king forces him to wear grand ceremonial robes) and hate being called "wizards" (they are sorcerers). They all appear as elderly bearded men, but it is because their powers and immortality comes from Aldur, a god who himself takes this appearance when manifesting to human, and so a Morphic Resonance is at play. They are not exclusively male, as a sorceress exists, Polgara, and while they can use magic (even though they don't like calling it that way), they avoid using it as much as they can due to its inhrent risks.
  • The Crimson Shadow: Brind'Amour ticks most of the boxes, with a Wizard Beard, a long robe, Magic Staff, being described as a wizard specifically, having a solitaly life off in a cave at first, being an old wise man, and mentor to The Hero Luthien (of a typically vexing kind at times).
  • 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.
  • Darwath: Ingold Inglorion is a classic fantasy wizard — a wise old man, robed and hooded and sporting a thick white beard, carrying a long staff that he uses to focus his magic, who serves as a guide and source of ancient knowledge for the younger characters.
  • Discworld: The Wizards of Unseen University fall into this. Of course their "wisdom" in regards to magic mostly consists of not using it and in the earlier books, jockeying for a Klingon Promotion or two. They look the part but their antics usually boil down to them being uncannily indestructible old men who blunder about having adventures at other people's expense. However, on no account should one underestimate them. They are Ankh-Morpork's nuclear deterrent, and the main reason that they don't overuse magic is because it tends to attract Eldritch Abominations and play merry hell with the fabric of reality. It's also made clear that the Faculty are not as obliviously dim as they pretend to be — which backfires on them as Ponder Stibbons, most junior member of the Faculty and resident genius, goes from trying to explain things in exhaustive detail to them (which they pretend not to understand to wind him up) to just assuming they'll get it without explanation and refusing to elaborate. Of course, being Discworld, the etymology of the word "wizard" comes from "Wys Ars" meaning one who, at bottom, is very wise.note 
  • The Dresden Files:
    • According to the Word of God, Harry Dresden 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.
    • In general, the White Council is chock full of variations of this trope. The leader Arthur Langtry, whose title is "the Merlin", is the straightest example described as looking like what a wizard should look like, but is also an Obstructive Bureaucrat who's not so wise (though he gets better — and more dangerous — after his traitorous secretary is caught using subtle mind control via enchanted ink to influence him). Wizard is a title akin to a doctorate or a black belt (albeit one that requires a certain level of power, not just skill) and incidentally most lesser practitioners that don't merit it also end up looking like normal people.
  • 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. They're rare because of Bad Powers, Bad People — they draw magic from their surroundings to cast spells, which makes them naturally unwelcome in environments where magic is endemic to life, such as the home of the dragons and the titular Enchanted Forest. Wizards also tend to be greasy, presumably because they melt in soapy water.
  • Harry Potter: Dumbledore. 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 pointy hats, and lives in his office in one of the tallest Hogwarts towers. The only element he lacks is the staff, because that's just not something wizards of the Potterverse use; he casts spells with a wand like everybody else.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf and Saruman are both robed, bearded old men who are long-lived and nigh immortal, carry staffs and give advice. Gandalf walks the earth but Saruman lives in a tower. However, whereas normal wizards are educated humans, Tolkien's "wizards" are actually Maiar in corporeal form — something that is discussed vaguely in The Lord of the Rings but made more explicit in other Tolkien works.
  • Magister Trilogy: Ramirus looks like this, though since Magisters have very flexible Voluntary Shapeshifting powers, nobody can be sure if he's really a wise elder or just affects the stereotypical appearance because he likes the look. Turns out he really is that old, though the even older and more powerful Colivar explicitly defies this trope, preferring to appear as a rakishly handsome young man who doesn't even bother with the traditional Magister's black robes, much to the disapproval of his peers.
  • Max & the Midknights: Mumblin' the wizard of Byjovia fits the bill. He dresses in typical wizard attire, has a magic wand, has a white beard, and knows plenty of magic spells.
  • The Once and Future King: Arthur's teacher Merlyn of course embodies this with his blue robes embroidered with stars and moons, pointed hat, and long white beard.
  • Spellsinger: Clothahump, while not looking the part (he's an anthropomorphic turtle), fits the rest of the trope completely: he's old, wise and knowledgeable, lives in seclusion in a hollowed-out tree, keeps apprentices and meddles in the affairs of the world he lives in to save it from great dangers. Jon-Tom even imagines him as a classic Gandalf-like wizard when he first hears the description of what Clothahump is.
  • 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.
  • Third Time Lucky: And Other Stories of the Most Powerful Wizard in the World: In "The Last Lesson" Adar makes himself look old, wrinkled and with a long white beard by a spell, to fit this as it's more impressive to other people (he's really only twenty six), alongside the usual garb.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Wizards frequently live in Towers; they're distinguished by long beards and wear robes. All seem to be men too in Fantasyland; women with magic are called Enchantresses or Witches. They are old, solitary men. All of them are very wise, and live quite long lives.
  • Wizard of Yurt: Daimbert tries to make himself look more like one, growing a beard then dying it gray, buying some wizardly getup (though not quite of classic variety) then lamenting that he's not placed in a tower nor has any staff to carry around.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Legend of the Seeker: At first it looks like Zedd is a crazy old man who plays with his hens while nude, but he turns out to be a powerful magician of the First Order. He becomes one of Richard's allies throughout the series. He fits most (although not all) of the traits-right age, gender, clad in a long robe usually (though without either a hat or a beard), his magic's explicitly wizardry (but he never uses a staff), he lives by himself, and shows great wisdom.
  • Merlin (2008): Though Merlin is a young man in this series, in later seasons he occasionally adopts an elderly, white-bearded appearance via enchantment, using it to hide his real identity. His previously foretold alternate name, Emrys, gets attached to this persona, though the name Merlin usually uses is Dragoon. Then the very last shot of the finale, set in the present day hundreds and hundreds of years after Camelot, shows a genuinely aged Merlin more directly evoking this trope.
  • The series Once Upon a Time features an interesting subversion with their appearance of Merlin. While he is centuries old, wears long robes, owns a magical hat with a starry design, and is one of the most wise and powerful characters in the series, he has the appearance of young man of African descent. Ironically, it's his apprentice who looks the part of a Wizard Classic with a long red robe and white beard. It is worth noting that both Merlin and his apprentice are coded as the series' version of Yen Sid and Mickey Mouse respectively. It Makes Sense in Context.

  • The Kalevala: Väinämöinen is roughly neck-and-neck with Odin for the title of Ur-Example. While depictions usually lack the hat, and he often uses a string instrument rather than a staff, he's still got the "bearded old magical man" bit down pat.
  • Merlin is the Ur-Example, unless you count Odin, and is portrayed like this in almost all media. Even if not the Ur-Example, he is certainly the Trope Codifier. Remarkable because the medieval texts don't actually describe his appearance and attire except when he's in disguise, so the wizard image must have coalesced and been taken for granted.
  • Norse Mythology: Odin, 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 could be seen as the Ur-Example to many later characters in this tradition.

  • Silverball Mania: The Wizard, complete with (chrome) pointed hat, (chrome) beard, and (chrome) robes.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Early editions tend to portray wizards in this manner.
    • The original logo for TSR (the original publisher of D&D) was a Wizard Classic in a brimless pointy hat and moon-and-stars robe, waving a magic wand.
    • 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 the 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 the rules unless it's the whole point, and when he goes out to "meddle", he isn't always recognizable as a living creature, let alone as himself.
      • Marune of the Shadow Thieves is portrayed as an old man with a long beard and brimmed, comical hat with a blunt, rounded top.
    • 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.
  • Pathfinder: The rules encourage this. Armor inflicts penalties on spellcasting, leaving robes (preferably one of the more useful magical ones) the alternative. Most spellcasters aren't proficient with weapons beyond the most basic ones and magic staves are not only the best tool for tertiary spellcasting, but can be used as quarterstaffs. Age penalizes physical scores, which wizards don't use much anyway, but grants bonuses to mental scores, bolstering magical potential, and wizards even get access to a feat that grants them biological immortality. If being a hermit is your thing, teleportation and private pocket dimensions do wonders for high level spellcasters.
  • Warhammer:
    • Warhammer 40,000: Parodied. Insane alien barbarian psykers as they may be, Weirboyz use a lot of this trope's visual trappings. They live in towers (or at least in huts on top of poles), carry staffs to discharge and control their powers, and in some cases take to wearing hair Squigs attached to their chins in deliberate imitations of human facial hair, which they often think to be type of Squig as well.
    • Warhammer Fantasy: Human wizards tend not to look precisely like this — a deliberate stylistic decision on the part of the designers throughout the years to make them seem more varied and interesting. Most of the individual elements of the "wizard classic" look are used on some wizard models — robes, staffs, great age, beards etc. — but almost never all together (and the traditional pointy hat is almost non-existent; Lore of Shadows wizards are the only ones to wear them). The ones who get closest to this are the mages of the Lore of Light, the Lore of Metal and the Lore of Heavens. They don't quite make it because the first bear the trappings of a pseudo-Egyptian religious order while the second and third are more akin to scientists studying alchemy and astronomy to learn about transmutation and divination. Those of the Lore of Life and the Lore of Beasts are more akin to druids, and given their knack for subterfuge a Grey Wizard can wear pretty much anything. Those who study the Lore of Death look like necromancers to the common folk, but they will vehemently object to this. The wizards of the Bright College are pyromancers who frequently spot ridiculous hairdos that make it difficult to wear a wizard hat.

     Video Games 
  • Dragon's Crown: Lucain fits the look to a tee, and is also your source for magical knowledge, potions, and runestones.
  • Dragon Quest: The series gives us two examples:
    • In Dragon Quest III, the male mage fits this to a tee, wearing flowing green wizard robes and a floppy hat, as well as carrying around a wizard's staff. He is noticeably much older than any of the other playable characters, which can be a little jarring if his class is changed or another character becomes a mage.
    • Borya/Brey from Dragon Quest IV, the wizened old court magician from the kingdom of Zamoksva. Stats-wise, he is modeled after the mage class from III. He also has elements of the absent-minded professor as well, but he cares deeply for his pupil, Alena.
  • Majesty consciously checks off every item on the list when it comes to the recruitable hero wizards. They're robed and bearded old men, frail but extremely powerful, their guild hall is an eldritch tower (and also allows the player to build additional magic towers as defensive outposts). Their default activity, when not at the library for new spells or mowing down monsters, is wandering about in a slightly befuddled daze.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: MagicMan.EXE takes this appearance, though with a texturally simplified, angular appearance to fit his role as a computer program. This is contrasted with Magic Man as he originally appeared in Mega Man & Bass, where he resembled a stage illusionist.
  • Portal Runner: Merlin appears as a character you save. He dresses just like a stereotypical wizard, he uses magic, and he's fairly wise. He later communicates with Vikki through a Magic Mirror, telling her how to stop Bridgette.
  • Radiata Stories: Curtis, the leader of the Vareth Institute, fits the trope most out of all of the mage characters from the game. His wizard hat is topped with a spinning globe and he has an incredibly curly mustache. He will only join your party once you have recruited every mage from the guild and he is easily one of the most powerful spellcasters in the game.
  • Wizardry: Lord Hawkwind the Timelord ends up looking the part in his later years minus the hat and appears to have many sagely powers befitting a wizard, but this is a subversion, as he's actually a ninja. Also lacking from a true wizard is a sense of wisdom as he ultimately meets his end by the hands of his nemesis in Wizardry IV from being stabbed in the middle of his monologue by a dink. Werdna from the first and fourth games of the latter is an evil version of this.

  • In El Goonish Shive, the Emissary of Magic is fits this, he is a wizard with a long white beard, wears robes and is portrayed as quite wise.
  • Homestuck:
    • Zazzerpan from the in-story novel The Complacency of the Learned is a deliberate exaggeration of this trope. Other wizards are mentioned as well, but there's not enough information to know how closely they stick to the archetype; what is known is that they all wear flowing beards and are in the habit of stroking and bothering them as a default neutral pose. 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.
    • Averted by the god tier outfits of the Mage Class, which looks more like monk vestments.
  • Ingress Adventuring Company: Toivo doesn’t have a beard, but otherwise falls into this trope. While he doesn’t quite have a wizard’s tower, he does have an extraordinarily precarious treehouse that he built in the woods.
  • Nodwick: Arthax uses a robe, a long beard, 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 isn't out questing, which isn't just his wizardly nature but also because of his experiments having an unfortunate tendency to detonate.
  • The Order of the Stick:
  • Tales from Somewhere: In The Legend, Nandiel is an elven wizard, who wears robes and carries a staff, but he doesn't use it to cast spells. As an elf, they cannot grow a beard, but he is very rigid on what is appropriate behavior.
  • Wizard & Giant: Wizard doesn't wear a hat, but otherwise he's pretty much as classic a sorcerer as an ebon Mister Seahorse can be.

     Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: The Moochick hits a fair share of the trope's points — he's got the flowing white beard, the cane, the huge hat, the knowledge of obscure and plot-important lore and magic, and the secluded house in the middle of the wilderness.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Starswirl the Bearded, a unicorn from the distant past, is a pony version of this. As he lacked hands, he did magic with his horn instead of a staff, but otherwise, he's got the beard, the wizard clothes — most notably a large, star-spangled wizard hat with bells around the rim — and is still famed for his magic feats.
  • "Spinning Mice", a Van Beuren Studios cartoon, has a kindly wizard protagonist with the robe, magic, beard, and all.
  • In Star Wars Rebels, after her sojourn into the depths of the Sith Temple on Malachor, Ahsoka Tano appears in the epilogue as what the fandom has dubbed "Ahsoka the White" complete with wizardy staff and long white hooded robe.
  • Averted, to Ellis' dismay, in The Dragon Prince, as Callum is young, normally dressed, and dorky.
  • Mr. Benn: After watching a stage magician put on a performance in his town in "Wizard", Mr. Benn would later find a wizard robe and cone hat in the costume shop, taking on the role of a court magician for a king and a somewhat demanding queen.
  • Little Wizards: Phineas is a kindly-natured rather short old man with a big bushy white beard and sideburns who uses a Magic Staff as a necessary tool for certain spells and who dress in a red robe and pointy hat with a single large crescent moon emblazoned on each. His spellcasting style heavily revolves around books, crystals, rituals and potions, though he is also capable of casting spells with just pointing and chants or pure acts of willpower. He serves as the teacher to exiled Prince Dexter and his three monster creations, tutoring them all in the arts of wizardry and even referring to them as "little wizards".


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Classic Wizard


Martin the wizard

Martin wakes up as a stereotypical wizard with a robe, pointed hat, and beard.

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