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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 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". 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. 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 staves, both for Mundane Utility and as a focus or aid in casting spells. Staves are more closely associated with wizards than with any other magic-users.
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  • 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. 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. 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.
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  • Mostly Male: In strict etymological terms, the English word "wizard" is gender-neutral. However, in most works, wizards are usually 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 even 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.

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 

  • 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.

    Comic Books 

  • 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.

     Fan Works 
  • There are a few of these kicking around the rejiggered C'hou in The Keys Stand Alone, notably Shaamforouz, one of the ruling wizards of Daarthayu; Channt, the Guardians' chief wizard; and several background characters.

     Film - Animated 
  • Yen Sid, the sorcerer from Fantasia, has a long grey beard and a blue robe. He also has a magic hat that has the power to bring household tools to life.
  • Merlin from The Sword in the Stone is portrayed as a somewhat comical old man with a long beard, blue robe and pointy hat.
  • Vitruvius from The LEGO Movie. Notably Gandalf and Dumbledore cameo as Those two guys.

     Film - Live Action 
  • By the time of A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi seems to have become a space version of this trope. Case in point:
    • Jedi Robes - Wizardly Attire
    • Lightsaber - Staff/Wand
    • Force-sensitivity - Wizardry
    • Is a hermit stumbled upon by a young farmboy
    • Is obviously male
    • Has a white beard and white hair, and is in the twilight years of his life
    • With the addition of his kendo-influenced lightsabre-fighting skills, he is also a Kung-Fu Wizard (barring the obvious difference between kung fu and kendo)
  • Ian McKellen was so good as classic wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings series, 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.

  • The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf and Saruman are both magic, bearded old men who are long-lived and nigh immortal and 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Disciples of Aldur in The Belgariad.
  • The Dorrie the Little Witch stories have featured a few, some good and some evil.
  • Somewhat defied in The Bartimaeus Trilogy: 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.
  • Ramirus from the Magister Trilogy 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.
  • Clothahump from Spellsinger, 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.


  • 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.
  • 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 could be seen as the Ur-Example to many later characters in this tradition.
  • Väinämöinen from The Kalevala 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.


     Tabletop Games 

  • Magic users (wizards) in early editions of Dungeons & Dragons.
    • 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.
    • 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 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 (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.
  • The human wizards of Warhammer 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). In earlier days the wizards of the Grey College did tend to sport this look, but even they have dispensed with much of it and become shadowier and more sinister of late.
    • 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. And the wizards of the Bright College are pyromancers who frequently spot ridiculous hairdos that make it difficult to wear a wizard hat.
  • The rules of Pathfinder 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 capable of being used as a quarterstaff. Age penalizes physical scores but grants bonuses to mental scores, bolstering magical potential, and wizards even get access to a feat that grants them biological immortality. And if being a hermit is your thing, teleportation and private pocket dimensions do wonders for high level spellcasters.

     Video Games 

  • Of all the mage characters in Dragon Age: Origins, First Enchanter Irving probably fits this image best.
  • The Dragon Quest 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.
  • Apolimesho from Loren: The Amazon Princess
  • Lord Hawkwind the Timelord of the Ultima and Wizardry series 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.
  • The Apprentice from Dungeon Defenders is an adorable tyke version of this.
  • Fire Emblem: The sages Gotoh, from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, and Athos of Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade appear as aged, bearded and powerful wisemen guiding the main heroes in their quests, and both join the heroes' armies very late into their respective games.
  • The "generic" sprites and portraits for magi in Exile and Avernum tend towards either classic wizards, or younger "scholar" types that will become them in a few decades. However, the important, named wizards such as Solberg, "X", or Erica tend to be different.
  • 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). And their default activity, when not at the library for new spells or mowing down monsters, is wandering about in a slightly befuddled daze.
  • In the Mega Man Battle Network series, 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.
  • Curtis, the leader of the Vareth Institute from Radiata Stories 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.


  • 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.
    • Averted by the god tier outfits of the Mage Class, which looks more like monk vestments.
  • 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.
  • Wizard, from Wizard & Giant doesn't wear a hat, but otherwise he's pretty much as classic a sorcerer as an ebon Mr. Seahorse can be.
  • Toivo of Ingress Adventuring Company 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.

     Western Animation 

  • The kindly wizard protagonist of the Van Beuren Studios Rainbow Parade cartoon "Spinning Mice". He has the robe, magic, beard and all.
  • Yen Sid, the master of the Sorcerer's Apprentice has a grey beard, a blue robe, and a pointy Magic Hat adorned with moons and stars.
  • 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.
  • In Star Wars Rebels, after her sojourn into the depths of the Sith Temple on Malachor, Ahsoka Tano appears in the epilogue as what fandom have dubbed "Ahsoka the White" complete with wizardy staff and long white hooded robe.

Alternative Title(s): Classic Wizard


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