The wisdom of wizards

Cardiff Waterstones wizard by Chris Riddell

For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own. Let them swim in the deepest ocean or glide over the highest cloud.
— Dumbledore

Harry Potter turns 40 today (he was born on 31st July 1980, fifteen years to the day after his creator) so I thought I would offer you a few choice words from just three of the best known fictional wizards in modern times.

First, this is Dumbledore emphasising that we must never undervalue love: “Do not pity the dead, Harry, pity the living. And above all, those who live without love.”

His advice on what approach to follow in life was “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

When it came to standing up to evil, “Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress?” he said, a notion that seems to have relevance in our real world.

And where individual deeds and decisions are concerned he told his pupil, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

* * * * *

The Hogwarts headmaster wasn’t the first to offer pearls of wisdom. Here is Ursula Le Guin’s wizard Ged (also called Sparrowhawk and, earlier, Duny) with this counsel: “To see a candle’s light, one must take it into a dark place.”

Ever the realist, Ged reminds us that “It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.” And in the same vein, he tells us that

“Only one thing in the world can resist an evil-hearted man. And that is another man. In our shame is our glory. Only our spirit, which is capable of evil, is capable of overcoming it.”

* * * * *

Lastly we have Gandalf, who once declared, “It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

Over and again he counselled charitable action, as Dumbledore was to do: “Generous deed should not be checked by cold counsel.”

When intimations of mortality creep up, it’s enough to consider this: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” But first, the first steps on the journey must be undertaken: “It’s a dangerous business, walking out one’s front door,” because of course “The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.”

Still we must never underestimate the power of language. We finish these wise wizard words on the last day of July with these thoughts from Dumbledore:

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

May we all continue to use words, our most inexhaustible source of magic, to remedy injury. And also remember those small acts of kindness and love.

23 thoughts on “The wisdom of wizards

    1. The central message of many of these — so reviled by cynics during the 1967 Summer of Love — is that without love we are essentially dehumanised and debased. But writers who have this theme at the centre of their fiction get my approval every time. Glad you liked my selection, as there are so many collections of literary quotes I chose those examples that I thought would most resonate in these dehumanised times.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. If I may add a few from a favorite wizzard:

    “I’ve never known what to do. Been completely at a loss my whole life. I think it’s called being human, or something.”

    “Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind.”

    *He hated weapons, and not just because they’d so often been aimed at him. You got into more trouble if you had a weapon. People shot you instantly if they thought you were going to shoot them. But if you were unarmed, they often stopped to talk.*

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s awful when a loved copy starts disintegrating before your eyes: my one-volume LOTR, which had stood me in good stead for three reads from the late 60s fell apart, but the next one (with John Howe’s Gandalf on the cover) has so far lasted two rereads. Good luck with your Earthsea replacement!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To be fair, this one has had so many rereads it is subjectively at least a thousand years old – and it’s the one with the utterly inappropriate painting of a long-haired white guy spraying lightning from his fingers on the cover – but I’ll miss it. Still, the Chronicles of Prydain and the Weirdstone of Brisingamen have withstood similar punishment far more successfully.

        Liked by 1 person

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