Le Morte d'Arthur

Magic in Malory's Arthurian Tales

Sir Thomas Malory’s masterpiece version of the Arthurian tales captures the spirit of the classic tales and brings something new to the heart of the stories. An important element in the traditional Arthurian legends is the presence of magic and sorcery. Ideally, magic could coexist peacefully with the real world, used as a means of benevolent action. This ideal is crushed, however, when most of the magic used throughout Malory is wielded in sinister ways with limited purposes.

Sir Thomas Malory’s use of magic in his adaptation of the tales of Arthur is very different than any other version of the story. Although these powers exist in Malory’s retelling of the tales, magic is limited to pragmatic ends. While previous installments of the great Arthurian tales recognize magic as an otherworldly presence, magic in Malory is an accepted element in the Arthurian world, with no real sense of wonder. The character of Merlin is an example of how magic could realistically coexist with the Arthurian world. Merlin is wise and experienced from his years as a sorcerer, but he is far from perfect. Jack Fritscher, Ph.D. says of Merlin,

“Neither devil, nor man, nor god, Merlin wears the masks of all three. He is equally capable of the...

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