verbalobe (pilgrim_eye) wrote,

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Fantasy rules

We recently (re)watched Harry Potter I. In Book One, if you recall, we are introduced to a great many of the rules that govern Rowling's world. Potions, elixirs, spells, hexes, curses -- each has "easier" and "harder" varieties. There's a "good" side and a "dark" side to magic. Magic is recognized as distinct from non-magic -- and while magic is the norm for magic folk, still they acknowledge that it's "special," wondrous. It's not like breathing air -- you have to invoke it.

Magic folk can fly -- but usually, mostly, with the aid of a broom. Made sense, right? And then Harry is given the latest model, a coveted Nimbus 2000.

This, of course, is one of the kinds of things that made the Harry Potter series such a hit -- the adaptation of current school-kid sensibilities to this magic world. Cliques, romance, sports rivalry, class warfare, nerds v. slackers -- and broomsticks. Broomsticks are like down vests, Nike shoes, the latest bluejeans.

What is it that the Nimbus 2000 can provide, that mama's household broom can't? As far as I recall, we aren't told. Maybe it's faster, nimbler. But Harry's skill is apparently still paramount -- Nimbus brooms do not compensate for lack of talent. In this, they are perhaps most like gym shoes. The latest Nikes convey, mostly, status.

But what I love noticing is that it's still a broom. The Nimbus, despite its aerodynamic shaft and other attributes, could still nominally be used to sweep a floor.

This MUST be so. Some other movies/shows/games have had fun with mops, vacuum cleaners, etc. But no advance in magic broomstick tech or status can violate the essence of the thing itself.

Does this, in fact, define magic? In the real world, which we think of as non-magic, utilitarian objects can be transfigured. Phones are now cameras, handsets are earpieces, storage media are flash chips and thumb drives, books are Kindles or Nooks.

If the object persists while the function changes, it's magic. If the object evolves, while the function stays the same, it's technology.

If you can't tell the difference, you are a time-traveler.
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