What Kinds of Magical Powers Do Wizards Have in Literature?

Wizards in literature often have the power to see into the future, the power to cast spells over others, the ability to change outcomes and the power to disguise themselves or others. In the film “Excalibur,” based on Arthurian legend, the wizard Merlin is able to see future events such as the coming of the boy-king Arthur, the betrayal by his wife and best friend, and the destruction and despair that eventually spread throughout his kingdom.

Merlin is also able to make himself invisible and cast spells on others. When Arthur’s sister obtains Merlin’s powers, she is able to imprison Merlin within a block of ice, effectively transforming him into a mortal being. She also transforms herself into Arthur’s beloved wife Guinevere and seduces him to bear the demonic child that she renders incapable of being harmed in battle, as he wages war and destruction that plunges the kingdom into poverty and despair. It is not until Merlin is summoned back to life that prosperity is restored.

The wizards in much literature have the ability to perform magic and achieve heroic stature. They also propel the main characters and establish a moral standard by helping the hero avoid obstacles and achieve a noble purpose. However, there are normally limits to the wizard’s power, an extent to which it may be used, as if to remind the reader that they are not omnipotent beings, and that such power is reserved for the gods.