|Stories - Part Two: Why Do People Do What They Do?
The purpose of magic in fairy tales is to overcome a dramatic problem that holds up the storyline. In the case of transport there are flying broomsticks, magic boots, flying carpets, flying horses, etc. They have a single purpose of getting someone somewhere fast. Today, transport and communications has largely replaced the need for magic in these situations. Perhaps the nearest we have to 'magic' today would be in the James Bond movies where he has an array of weapons made from unlikely objects.
Magic also gives us a sense of wonder. A feeling that there is something beyond our knowledge that has yet to be explored. As children we love to learn tricks that astound others. There is a sense of power that comes from this as well. We like to believe that there is a Loch Ness Monster, flying saucers, and events that have no explanation other than some 'magical' power that we do not understand. The idea that we know the explanation of everything would make life boring.
There is also the idea that magic, like medicine, has effects that will wear off in time. Cinderella's coach and horses and her clothes for the ball only lasted till midnight. Again, they were created from other items: the coach from a pumpkin, etc. This aspect of magic of 'like unto like' requires that certain attributes are necessary before the item can be changed. To use magic as an all-powerful force that can solve anything undermines the purpose of a story, which is essentially to show how characters deal with problems.
Rather than use magic it is better to push credibility to its limits. Popeye uses spinach to increase his strength, his pipe becomes a funnel, and his legs twist and untwist to become a propeller. The similarity of shape, attribute, and purpose make it funnier and more imaginative than magic. In this case we are dealing with conceptual similarities.
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