WoJ on Magic in the Dresden Files (Part 1)

Link back to the main Dresden Files WoJ compilation

Magic, Misc. 

(GnosisRoadsDecember 11, 2006) What death curses are able to do? How powerful can they be? Why don’t more wizards just use die as their curse? Its short and kills your killer. 

They sometimes do. :)  See what happened to all the vampires around Simon when they assaulted his compound immediately prior to the onstage events in Summer Knight.

However, while taking your killer down with you might be the most immediately gratifying thing to do with a death curse (assuming that they haven’t up and prepared to defend against that kind of magical retaliation, which only a real moron *wouldn’t* do if they knew they were off to murder a wizard), it might not be the SMARTEST thing you could do with it.  Still, magic in the Dresden universe is only as formidable as a wizard’s imagination can make it.

I mean, Maggie’s death curse on Raith did /more/ than render him virtually powerless.  It freaking crippled the entire White Court by rendering its head executive suddenly unwilling to get aggressive.  It took that same executive’s focus and warped it from an outwardly-oriented expansionist agenda (What, did you really think Raith just bumped into Maggie at a /bar/ somewhere?) to one of frantic power-defense, paranoia, and infighting.  Had she merely killed Raith, another vampire much like him would simply have stepped into his shoes.  Instead, her curse sandbagged the entire White Court for two or three /decades/.

It isn’t until the events of White Night that the White Court really begins to . . .

. . .but perhaps I’ve said too much.   ::)

Anyway, Maggie’s curse, of course, also made Raith suffer.  Horribly.  It made him live in a constant state of drug-withdrawal-level hunger, and fear, and eventually reduced him to outright slavery to someone with centuries of comeuppance to dish out.  But that was just icing on the cake.

Quote from: Jaroslav on October 21, 2007, 09:35:47 PM

Maybe you right. But Toto, Abby’s dog from White Night, didn’t seem able to sense the supernatural. And he even had a magical owner, who while not strong by herself interacted with many other practitioners. So you think if the skill simply comes from being around magic, he would have picked it up.

Don’t forget, Toto was trained to detect seizures. So I don’t think it was simply a case of him being unobservant.

What, all dogs are equally talented, the way all people are equally talented?  Please. :)  Dogs who can sense the supernatural are all over it, when it comes to protecting their adopted family, but not all dogs can “see” in that spectrum, all of the time.  It doesn’t make them any less good or dogly, any more than Murphy is cheapened by not being able to hurl around cosmic energy.  It just means that it isn’t a part of what they are.

Cats are much more likely to be sensitive to the supernatural, but their reaction to it is considerably less predictable–anything from the fluff-up-the-fur-and-hiss to the yawn-and-go-to-sleep.  I mean, you just never can tell with cats, can you. :)


JoeC February 14, 2007

In SF p.66, Harry draws the circle to contain Toot, memorizes it’s exact location, then covers it with leaves and twigs to hide it from view. Toot eats, the circle closes – everything works. However, on p.175 (when he and Susan are being attacked by the demon), Harry goes nuts ensuring that every scrap of paper is clear from the circle in his lab (the copper circle he installed in the floor – he should remember where it is… ;)) prior to activating it. I’ve gotten the impression that a circle’s perimeter needs to be clear before activating it. Is this an inconsistancy, or am I missing something?

Something to do with the environment here, too.  You can’t have any foreign objects interrupt the circle.  But since the circle was being made out of earth and twigs and leaves, it isn’t going to be disrupted by earth and twigs and leaves.  It still could have been /broken/ by one of them, if any of them had actually marred the circle drawn in the earth, so that it wasn’t a complete shape any more (not just fallen over it).  For that matter, if Toot had scuffed his foot through the circle on accident on the way in, that could have blown the trap, too.

Different situation with a big copper circle in a smooth concrete floor.  I mean, I suppose Harry could have made a circle out of, I dunno, dirty laundry or something, and other dirty laundry laying across it could obscure it without breaking it.  But then if the wrong sock gets shifted, pift, no circle any more.  Much safer to go with the big metal circle in the floor that you know isn’t going to be broken, and just take extra pains to make sure nothing falls across it.


(The Corvidian, September 27, 2007)Could the world of Harry Potter exist within the world of Harry Dresden?

Nah, the very foundations of the story worlds–their magic–are fundamentally incompatible.  Potterverse magic is based largely upon the dictates of story drama.  It’s irrational, capricious, finicky, and generally doesn’t make a lot of sense from any rational perspective.  (Flick your wand like THIS not like THAT and say the word like THIS and not like THAT and it works.)  Magic is a force unto itself, a law unto itself, and while it /does/ operate with absolute fidelity and consistency within the story world, it’s beholden to no one.

Dresden universe magic is modeled more closely upon physics.  Magic still has to pay attention to fundamental universal laws–such as “matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only rearranged.”  The energy for all those magical effects has to come from somewhere.  There ain’t no free lunch.

For instance, you could fly someone on a broom in the Dresden universe, but you’d have to be providing the same kind of kinetic energy you’d see from one of those James Bond rocket packs that they fly into the Superbowl from time to time–IE, a buttload.  (Those packs are good for about twenty or twenty five seconds of flight, if I remember correctly, and that’s it.)  In the Potter universe, dozens of children who know next to nothing about magic can gad about on brooms in the afternoon for fun and recreation, and no one thinks anything of it.  There’s a foundational difference in the approach to how magic interacts with reality.

And yeah, Voldemort wouldn’t have graduated high school in the Dresden universe.  Once Tom Riddle started playing with the evil juju, someone in a grey cloak would have shown up to whack off his head and nipped him in the bud.

Unless, of course, someone more highly placed in the Council intervened on Riddle’s behalf, and maybe gave the kid a little more guidance and maybe even a chance to choose a different path.  Then, who knows.

Old Tom might up and do something else entirely with all that potentially-dark talent. >:)


kazimmoinuddin, June 05, 2011

So the crystal contain all the knowledge of margret lefay had to do with the ways, where they were, where they would be, how to find, hide, build, destroy, change, block and alter. HArry has soul fire, so he can create amazing feats of magic.
Being able to travel the nevernever and the world is great and powerful, but what would it mean for harry really.
he needs no longer pay for shipping, he can visit suppliers him self.
he has a huge business range, could offer his sevices international, set up dresden investigation in many places.
The ability will bring in the money, harry dresden could become the supernatural version of the transporter.
if he has so much power, a whole new group would be after him for work simply to gain the ability of the ways.
if he could make new paths or doors, could be richly rewarded.

The crystal sounds very much like a notebook,  or grimoire, that margret wrote on the ways. When she left raith, she left all the dodgy people, but she likly had her own grimoire, which is what the lord raith kept as a trophy, as she likly wrote secrets that others dont want being spread both magical and political. the thing is margret would have secured it so harry would be the best to activate it, but no one knows..

And that’s really the issue for using the Ways, isn’t it?  You don’t ever know what’s on the other side until somebody actually goes through it.

That’s the reason wizards mostly stick to established, known, “safe” passages.  No one wants to be the first guy into uncharted territory, especially since that uncharted territory could prove to be an environment of, for example, all molten lava.  No one wants to be the one that finds out that the portion of Earth that this side of the Nevernever hooks up to is at the bottom of the Laurentian Abyss.  Especially when “finding out” means being exposed to it first hand, without any warning.

I mean, there’s more than one reason Maggie the elder got dubbed “LeFay.”  Sure, it was because she was on good terms with the faeries, and sure it was because she could travel all over the world in very brief amounts of time the way some of the fae can.  But remember that “fay” or “fey” is also an old word for “crazy.” :D

She was the one who was insane enough to go /exploring/ in the /Nevernever/.

The observation that her jewel is basically a notebook is bang on.  It’s nothing but knowledge.

I mean, come on.  How powerful could THAT possibly be?  :)

2009 Lexington signing:
Q:  What are the upper levels of magic?
A:  There are none, if the person has enough juice.  If someone was strong enough, they could completely rewrite reality.
Q:  Will the problem with wizards and technology be resolved, since most kids growing up now are so surrounded by technology?
A:  Nope, it will always be an issue.
Forum post in response to Mab not being crazy
Then again, “crazy” is generally considered to be a lack of connection with reality–and a lot of characters in the Dresden Files can MAKE reality.  They might have a seriously skewed idea of the way reality should be, but if they can make it happen then they aren’t crazy, per se.
2009 Bitten by Books interview:
What kind of research did you have to do to create the story world for The Dresden Files. How much of your research has actually been used throughout the life of the series?
I raided my local bookstores and prowled their metaphysical sections. I read up on several systems of the practice of magic as embraced by various systems of faith who incorporate them into their belief. I read about magical practitioners in a historical perspective, throughout multiple centuries. I read books coming out against the practice of magic as well, and tried to gain a general understanding of the principles the various systems had in common. That’s how I built the basic magic of the Dresden Files–by taking those common elements and combining them into a polyglot whole, based upon a skeleton of Newtonian physics.
I wanted the magic o the Dresden Files to be simply a part of the story universe, a source of energy just like heat or electricity, and one which obeyed certain universal laws that governed its interaction with reality. I didn’t want Dresden to be a mystic, shamanistic wizard. I wanted him to be a plumber, a carpenter, an engineer. Only instead of working with water, wood, or physics, he was working with magic.
It’s all come in somewhere, though it’s hard for me to point out exactly what has gone where. I had the whole thing formed in my head when I started writing, and it just kind of started breathing on its own as the first story got rolling.
2010 Bitten by Books Q&A:
#397 “…until “Changes,” where we have several gestures described. Such as “I love you” in sign language for a warding gesture, and a ‘C’ shape for a newly-acquired icy spell. Did you create these symbols? Or are they existing in some mythology or another?”
I just kind of put them together. I don’t have anything particular in mind that I base them on, but I’m sure that (like everyone else) I occasionally draw from my memories of various stances and poses seen in movies, TV, comics, theater, etc.
These days, I kind of lean away from describing a shielding gesture as an upheld hand, though. Neo put a real strong claim on that one in the Matrix .:)
2011 Bitten by Books Q&A
My question “Could you use the NeverNever to travel to other planets like Mars for example?”
You can’t get much farther out than the moon, in terms of moving through normal space–and it’s /hard/ to get that far.
How come harry never uses ventas servitas anymore?
Hasn’t felt a need for it–wind is easy, flashy and intimidating, but it’s sloppier and not as reliable as using force in an actual dangerous situation.
Harry uses fire. harry uses force. he used to use wind and though its not his forte he occasionally uses earth. how come there is no water magic in the books?
There’s water magic all /over/ the place, but part of its nature is that it flows in accord with the natural world, permeates it, and doesn’t call attention to itself. Harry uses water magic all the time without realizing it, as do the Alphas, and Listens-to-Wind is probably the premier water mage of the White Council.
Patrick Rothfuss interview of Jim
In the Dresden Files, you have to remember that you’re getting the whole world from Harry’s point of view,  and when you’re a wizard like Harry is, everything gets thought of in terms of ‘this is how it works’, because everything’s a spell. Other people, for instance the werewolves and so on, they don’t think of what they do anywhere near the same terms as Harry does. But he’s a wizard, so he’s got to lay everything out in the model that he understands. The old saying is: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem’s a nail.” And that’s the way Dresden approaches things.
2011 DC signing
Harry’s pentacle necklace. Thomas had one like it, why didn’t he use it to try to find Harry’s body?
Can’t use magic through that much water. Unless you’re a water mage, but nobody called Injun Joe
Sword and Laser Ep. 16
Are there other governmental groups out there who are clued in? As an example FBI, KGB, NYPD, et cetera. Do they have their own versions of Special Investigations, and if so, would we ever see them in the course of the novels?
A detail that a lot of readers have forgotten is the end of Fool Moon where Susan Rodriguez, the reporter, actually got on videotape the werewolf and the big closing fight scene at the end. And then the videotape disappeared and most people kind of forget that the videotape just sort of disappeared. They just sort of put it down to oh, that’s random background stuff. It’s not random background stuff. Somebody made it disappear, and yes, there are people like that that exist and the difference is that most of them assume that anybody involved with the supernatural is the bad guy, they don’t make contact. Not only is Dresden the exception because he’s reaching across the aisle, so to speak to work with Murphy, but Murphy’s the exception because she’s reaching out to work with Dresden. There’s something more going on there but the only side of the story we get to see is Harry’s side of the story.
2014 AMA
What would happen to someone who spends a year or more in the nevernever, eating nevernever food, breathing nevernever air, then returns to the real world? Do they get sick/die as all the ectoplasmic stuff in their bodies turns to goo, or does it metaphysically become one with them?
They get sick and die. That’s why you shouldn’t eat Faerie Food. :) After, what is it, seven years or so, you’ve completely replaced the cells in your body with new cells. If they all come from faerie food, you just glorp to the floor. I think there might be some brain left.

Wizardly longevity

otrebor75, January 16, 2008

This question has to do with Harry’s (or any wizards) regenerative abilities. It’s already known that a wizards ability to heal far exceeds that of a “normal” person, but does this ability extend to areas of human anatomy which do not heal to begin with (read brain cell)?

Not only is nerve regeneration not very well understood, when it /does/ happen, it’s slower than hell–along the lines of a quarter inch a year or so.  It does happen, though, and it isn’t like it’s hugely rare.  I slashed open a fingertip on a razor blade that required several stitches to close, and lost all feeling in that fingertip right up to the first joint.  That was when I was 19.  But I slowly regained sensation in that finger, and by the time I was 26 or so, while I still have the scar, I have complete sensation back in the finger.

But at the same time, I have another finger that got slashed open on a safety blade less than six months later, requiring the same number of stitches to fix, (and, by the way, teaching me to be careful with knives) which also caused a loss of sensation–and it never did come back.  C’est la vie. :)  (Though interestingly, when I started playing guitar a couple of years ago, I started getting pins-and-needles sensation from time to time in that finger, so I suppose it’s possible that using it daily–IE, therapy–might be stimulating blood flow or otherwise encouraging some form of recovery.)

There’s a ton of interesting belief and theory in what might be possible for the human body–including some /really/ interesting studies that showed that in one case study, a /fake/ surgery for relieving arthritis pain proved to be /equally/ as effective as the /actual/ surgery.  The placebo effect of the pretend surgery was equally as powerful as the surgery itself–right down to reducing swelling and so on.  Some people have argued that this study indicates that the primary force behind modern medicine is not so much the medical practice itself, but /belief/ in the power of that practice.

What’s the truth of it?  I’d love to know. :)

Harry’s abilities, though, aren’t like Wolverine regen.  He can just bounce back, over time, from stuff that would leave a regular human permanently crippled.  And it won’t last forever.  Even wizards will die of old age eventually.  Their bodies just perform at something like an idealized maximum of human potential, assuming that the mind really /is/ able to restore the body so effectively.


Info on Wizard healing + other wizardly limitations
(long ago) Disease, in general, was a lot more rampant and likely to kill you.  Yeah, wizards have the capacity to recover from things, but they don’t have any particular increased resistance to contracting a disease.  They just come back from it in better shape than regular folks.  For example, if you get a good case of pneumonia (like I did), you’ve got a reduced capacity to resist subsequent similar infections.  And that’s it.  In fact, having gotten pneumonia once gives you a pretty darn big mathematical probability that you’re going to die of pneumonia in the future.  (Pneumonia being one of the main things that actually does the killing when you’ve got cancer or other serious medical issues.)  Wizards don’t face that same danger.  If they beat it, they beat it, and it isn’t of any more consequence than getting over a cold.
But even so, before antibiotics, wizards were as worried about disease as everyone else was.  And a great way to not get diseases was to STAY HOME.  Which most of them did.
2011 Bitten by Books Q&A
I’ve been wondering, is a magic-users longevity/ability to repair themselves due to their use of magic, or is it because they are able to access magic at all?
It’s because they /use/ magic.
Charity Carpenter was able to use magic at one point; will she have an extended life?
Not unless she takes it up again, which would be extremely difficult and which she doesn’t want to do.
And is the longevity tied to strength levels, as in do stronger wizards live longer?
Indeed. In the Dresden Files universe, magic is the essence of creation itself. Constant exposure to it through use changes the person who uses it in a number of ways, not all of them as obvious as physical recovery and longevity. The more exposure, the more dramatic the changes.
Ok, so like making promises and signing contracts is a bigger deal for wizards than pure mortals, is this why we have’nt seen any married wizards in the series?
Marriage is tough enough for regular folk. It’s that much more difficult for wizards who have to spend large portions of their life doing inexplicable stuff, who after a few decades find that they have little in common with much of the world in terms of life experience, and who have to constantly be aware of the threat of supernatural predators and the schemes of their fellow wizards.
There /are/ married wizards on the Council–most of them married to other wizards–but those tend to be the ones who have settled comfortably somewhere and who make it a practice to live their lives in peace and quiet and a long, long way from Harry’s neighborhood.  In addition, most of the Council have been married at sometime in the past–and essentially gotten to stand still in time while their husband or wife grew old and passed. They aren’t eager to repeat the experience.
Having extreme power of any kind, whether it’s magic or political or monetary or military, is in many ways a very lonely way to live.
Patrick Rothfuss interview of Jim
PR: Harry is the “get back up” guy.
JB: He is. He is. And that was a very conscious choice in the beginning, too. I wanted a guy that I could beat up a lot. And it wasn’t actually until about the fourth book in that a fan pointed out, “hey, you’ve done this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and he’s taken all these injuries here. I’m a professional therapist, and he would take this much therapy to get back from this, and he would never recover from this..” and I’m like, “wow, you really have beaten him up a lot. You know, wizards must just be better at getting better than other people, I need to write that in. Hey, we’ll tie that in with how long they live, and, okay, cool. That works. That’s good.


Link back to the main Dresden Files WoJ compilation