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How to Write the Magician Archetype

The Magician archetype is a one-stop solution for many elements you might want to explore in your story. Whether it’s transformation, discovery, or striving for the unseen threads that hold everything together, this dynamic character type opens many doors in your narrative.

The Magician has little interest or curiosity in the mundane issues of everyday life. For the Magician, transformation and a profound connection to the universe are the most important goals.

Using the laws of nature and the laws of magic, the magician has achieved incredible feats of conjuration (both literally and metaphorically). Whether their abilities are used for good or evil in your story, Magicians are often charming and well-liked.

Magicians are similar to the Sage archetype in that both emphasize intelligence and teaching. Likewise, unlike the Creator archetype, who employs natural laws, the Magician seems to get his power from supernatural means.

So you don’t limit yourself, it’s important to remember that a character of this archetype doesn't necessarily know magic or be magical. Rather, they have learned life lessons that the majority of people are ignorant of.

The Magician Archetype: Examples and Characteristics

Magician archetypes include the visionary, catalyst, innovator, charismatic leader, healer, and medicine man. If you've ever read fantasy, you're probably familiar with the Magician.

There are many examples of the Magician archetype:

  • Gandalf the Grey from Tolkien's works

  • Morpheus from The Matrix

  • Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars

  • Doctor Strange and Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe

  • John Hammond from Jurassic Park

Here are the usual traits of the Magician, and you may decide whether or not they match up to the characters mentioned above—or characters in your story.

  • They have the mantra: "I'm the one who makes things happen."

  • What motivates them is an understanding of the underlying rules of the cosmos.

  • They are zealous about making dreams come true.

  • They cultivate a vision and live according to it.

  • Their main weakness or fear is that their creations could have negative consequences that they didn't plan.

  • They can sometimes be a little too manipulative.

As we can see, the Magician archetype can change situations, influence people, and make dreams come true. But their dark or shadow side may succumb to temptation and they may abuse power for personal gain. This duality can be observed in the differences between Gandalf the Grey and Saruman the White.

An Epic Without the Magician Would Be a Boring Affair

There's a reason the Magician is sometimes called the "catalyst." Without the Magician, the Hero's life would not alter significantly, resulting in a weak hook. The story would likely be painfully dull—if the plot gets off the ground at all.

In the Hero’s Journey, the Hero's protected life is punctured by the Magician.

This archetype is generally the one who informs the hero about the new quest and encourages them to leave their protected or routine life in order to embark on the adventure.

In most stories, the hero's mentor or catalyst is a Magician, although they can also play a number of other roles.

Alternatively, the Magician might be a villain in a story. It's easy to imagine a Magician who begins as a mentor and then succumbs to the "dark side" and transforms into an enemy.

The goal of a Magician is not so much to “perform magic,” but rather to alter something or someone. A catalyst that will serve as the driving force behind the story's most pivotal moments.

Powerful But Not Overpowered

The most intelligent of all archetypes, Magicians can be mysterious and difficult to nail down, or they can be straightforward with zero flexibility.

But if there are no constraints on the Magician’s power or no limits to what they’re willing to do, you’ll miss out on some great conflict and your epic probably will end in the first few chapters.


About the Author: Abhimanyu Chavan is a freelance writer with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He writes about technology, film, travel, food, and the craft of writing. He believes writers have a responsibility to the truth and to give readers a unique perspective. Abhimanyu writes short stories and is an avid reader of classics, sci-fi, magical realism, mystery, historical fiction, and nonfiction. He also enjoys hiking with his friends every week.


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