At the Guardian Book Blog today, there's a debate about who is the greater wizard, Gandalf or Dumbledore. I am not convinced by any of the arguments. Sure, Gandalf's "magical powers" are pretty unimpressive, but, if I am remembering correctly, he himself never claims himself to be a "wizard," and Tolkien never thought of him as a magic user, so it's a bit apples and oranges-ish.

My own favorite "wizard" is Ogion the Silent, from Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books. Or possibly Howl from Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, simply because I like him. And after coming up with these two, I think that my favorite wizards are those that have the most personality, whether of the flamboyant sort or its complete opposite.

A wizard who I find somewhat pointless is Dalben, from Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books. All he does is read bits of a book, and throw sticks in front of his pig.

There's a list of wizards in fantasy here on wikipedia, but it seems awfully short...not that I had time to actually study it.

Edited to add: I just saw this picture, concept art from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie, over at Fantasy Book Review, and it reminded me of how much I liked that particular wizard! And his ability to mix food and magic.

For some reason, though, I always think of his house as very light and airy, not nearly as dark as this movie version...

And speaking of Howl's Moving Castle, isn't this paper model, from the studio that did the anime version, marvellous? Those who are not as paper challenged as I am might enjoy making their own with the instructions provided.


  1. You don't like Dallben? I was always rather fond of him - hidden depths, you know.
    The wizards from the Bartimaeus books are uniformly awful.
    I'm quite fond of Dumbledore's hair and beard in this latest movie - so long, white, and silky. Perhaps I can aspire to this look (the hair, rather than the beard) - currently my hair looks more like Hagrid's. Sigh.

  2. I like Dalben as a person, and Wise Elder, but does he ever actually advance the cause through wizardly magic?

  3. Oh, how fabulous a model of Howl's Castle! I myself am deeply in love with his Japanese version -- all angst and smoky voice and dyed hair. I'm going to have to agree that this wizard thing between Dumbledore and Gandalf is completely apples and oranges -- Gandalf is simply... Gandalf...

  4. Haha very true (about Gandalf)!


  5. I'm a Howl fan. And that's a great paper model. The talented people in this world!!

    By the way, I just read Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress and wondered if you would like it.

  6. As much as I love the Prydain books, I've got to agree with you on Dalben. She may be evil, but Achren is a much more charismatic magic user.


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