Although Magic is an analogy for various types of power, it is NOT absolute
power. Here are a few examples of magic being used, and what that magic
His magic lamp contains a genie. The genie has to be asked the right question
before he can help. The genie is rather like a consultant who will help
out on a specific problem providing he knows what is needed.
He needs to get into the thieves' cave. He has to know the magic words
of "Open Sesame". This is basically a password, or an identity
Jack and the Beanstalk
He has magic beans that enable him to climb into the sky and get to a
place that he otherwise could not get to. In modern times he might buy
a plane ticket to get somewhere that was otherwise impossible to reach.
When he reaches the country in the sky he steals the goose that lays the
golden egg. The golden egg is just money. It is like winning the lottery.
Jack originally gave away his cow (his only asset) for the beans. He made
a risky deal. The whole story might be roughly equated with a poor immigrant
spending everything to get to a new country and then making it rich. The
rags-to-riches story heavily disguised.
Her fairy godmother enables her to win the love of the handsome prince.
The fairy godmother is basically someone who has come along at the right
time to help out in a case of need. Her magic is short lived, and as Cinderella
is already beautiful, it is really a matter of financial support in terms
of clothes and transport. The fairy godmother is a friend in need, or
a sponsor. In modern times Cinderella might go to her bank and say "Look,
I've got the potential to make it big. I just need the money to cover
my costs for some decent clothes, transport, etc. It's a short term loan
as I will be marrying a prince."
His magical abilities are essentially hi-tech attributes. They are available
in the time of crisis, but as there is always a crisis somewhere or other,
he could be flat out twenty-four hours a day. The fact that he is not
suggests he is more of a resource when big things get out of hand. Rather
like governments who send in the troops when things get bad, or aid for
major catastrophes. Superman is ready when called upon; the problems he
is asked to deal with are mainly big time crooks that want to take over
the world, so the moral aspect is strong. He does not win because he is
good or clever, but because he has superior means. In effect he is like
the warrior who wins because of having the better weapons rather than
being the better fighter.
The predictions of the three witches come true. Their method of forecasting
involves magic incantations ceremonies. They are like scientific reports
stating that when one thing happens then another will follow, such as
weather forecasts and the like.
Puss in Boots
The seven league boots enable him to travel very fast in order to carry
out duties that would otherwise be impossible. The magic boots represent
fast transport. Other forms of such transport include magic carpets, flying
broomsticks, flying horses, Fairy dust (Peter Pan) and magic words like
"Up, up and away".
He flies, and never grows old, which is an analogy for freedom and eternal
youth. Both are things that have always fascinated us. These are the powers
of gods, yet Peter Pan is not a god. He is a boy who refuses to grow up,
living half in a fantasy world and half in a real world. He does not have
magic other than being able to fly, and even that is normal within his
world, so he has no real magical powers. But when he meets Wendy and her
family he is able to introduce them to his world and entertain them by
including them in his adventures. He might be thought of as an entertainer
who invites his audience into his own fantasy world, but knows they cannot
His magic is in his spinach. This is essentially having access to resources
when needed, as there is no indication that spinach does anything for
his friends. As the magic of the spinach is limited to making him stronger
and invulnerable, the purpose is like having weapons and armour available
He has eternal life providing he has a feast of blood regularly. The magic
again represents overcoming ageing, but at a cost. A direct analogy would
be a heart transplant where the donor dies to keep the host alive. There
are many variations on bringing the dead back to life, and as with Frankenstein's
monster, creating a living being from the dead. In real life there are
artificial organs and limbs that extend life. These are 'magic'
for the owners.
The Sword and the Stone
Someone worthy can only pull the magic sword from the stone to wield it.
The sword represents power, and can only be used by someone who has the
wisdom to use it. This power has to be used in a worthy way. It is like
someone who is elected to political power. We assume that they have been
given our vote (power) because we believe that they will use that power
The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz supposedly has great powers, but ultimately they depend
upon belief. The real-life magic of power in its various forms are usually
found to be based on peoples belief in the abilities of those they respect
and admire. The 'magic' of qualifications, rank, and fame, enables
the holders to do things they might not be able to do without them. It
is the symbolic power of authority.
We accept that a judge is right when he states "this is the law",
yet it is only our belief that he knows the law that makes us obey. And
also that if we do not obey then we will suffer. Society operates on this
form of 'magic', and in fact civilisation would fall apart if people
did not believe that others could do what they say they can do.
Dr Jekyll and
The 'magic potion' Dr Jekyll took was to help him, but it destroyed
him. A comparison might be made with athletes, who take drugs to improve
their performance, or performers who take drugs and alcohol to overcome
stage fright, or even people who become addicted to drugs that overcome
pain, but end up being worse off than before, and could end up being despicable
people who have no control over their lives.
The Princess and the Frog
The frog turns into a handsome prince when kissed. It is another version
of 'Beauty and the Beast'. Here the magic is basically love. It makes
people see things in a different light, and is as close to magic as most
Lord of the Rings
The Hobbit's magic ring allows him to become invisible. In one way it
allows the owner of the ring to go to places he would not normally go,
and take risks he would not normally take, so is a form of protection.
In another way it is a form of disguise or camouflage. The disguise aspect
comes up a lot in fairy
tales. Cinderella is effectively disguised when
dressed for the ball. Even her ugly sisters don't recognise her. Snow White's stepmother is disguised as a beautiful Queen, when in fact she
is an ugly witch. The idea of tricking people into thinking you are someone
other than you are is something that appeals to us all.
Rumplestiltskin could weave gold from straw. He might have been an artist
who could create a masterpiece with a pencil and paper, or a genius that
had a special skill that enabled him or her to create something of great
value from very little. The magic is a talent, or God-given gift that
sets special people apart from the rest of us.
The Elves and the Shoemaker
Here the shoemaker is poor. He does someone a good turn and each night
the elves come and mend his shoes for him; the analogy that good turns
will get repaid many times over. The magic is that people recognise the
'goodness' of others, and this respect pays off in ways that are not always