– by Mark MacDonald –
The word ‘wizard’ first appears in the early 15th century, though it can be argued the term’s roots go back as far as ancient Egypt, with the word ‘was’ describing a powerful magic staff carried by the gods. Associated with magic and sorcery as well as wisdom, over the centuries wizards have been found in literature, film, television, plays, poetry, video games, board games and the like. Here are the top 10 wizards of all time. (For the sake of variety, I have kept it to one wizard per fictional world)
10. Harry Dresden
The protagonist in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, a series of 15 novels, Harry Dresden is a private investigator in Chicago and a powerful wizard of the White Council. He is known to use both his significant (yet reckless) brute strength in addition to fire, wind and earth magic and carries a number of magical items like force rings and his staff. Dresden also has some mean entrapment, tracking and summoning spells to boot.
9. Wizard Howl
Also known as Howl Jenkins or Howl Pendragon, Wizard Howl is a reclusive, mysterious character from Diana Wynne Jones’ renowned fantasy novel Howl’s Moving Castle. A classic Byronic hero, Howl is tall, suave, intelligent, charming and powerful, but can also be stubborn, vain, dishonest and self-indulgent. He’s also got a moving castle.
In William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero masters the ways of sorcery while exiled on a small island. The rightful Duke of Milan, Prospero learns how to alter the weather, control spirits (most notably Ariel) command the monster Caliban and even raise the dead. He is successful in bringing his enemies to the island, in addition to a noble husband for his daughter, and uses all his powers to thwart his foe’s devious plots and achieve his own aims. In the end, Prospero forgives those who plotted against him, pardons Caliban, relases Ariel, drowns his book of magic and invites the audience to free him with their applause.
Elminster, also known as the Sage of Shadowdale, is a powerful wizard from Dungeons and Dragons who has had more than his fair share of adventures over the 1,200 some years of his life. The shape-shifting prince of Athalantar has spent a significant amount of time as a woman, trapped in a tomb, inside hell and on another plane of existence. He also had his hand in defending Shadowdale from Bane and the Zhentarim, confronting Lord Ao, defeating Manshoon, saving Toril from a legion of devils, and defeating Nergal.
6. Dr. Strange
Marvel Comics’ Dr. Strange first appeared in 1963 and is the Sorcerer Supreme, protecting Earth from magical threats. A master of magic and sorcery, Dr. Strange can conjure up all manner of spells and, if he must, will even use dark magic. Dr. Strange is affiliated with the New Avengers, The Order and the Illuminati and plays a part in some of the most pivotal events involving bizarre worlds and parallel universes.
5. The Crimson King
Stephen King’s villain The Crimson King is the evil antagonist in the acclaimed author’s seven-volume Dark Tower series and is also featured in the novels Black House and Insomnia. The sorcerer takes on many forms, from a handsome man to a spiderlike being or a red-skinned horned monster, but is defined by his blood red eyes. The Crimson King seeks to destroy the multitude of universes held together by the Dark Tower and is so hateful and mad that he not only kills nearly all of his minions but also himself-rendering him undead and therefore even more frightening.
4. Kefka Palazzo
Final Fantasy’s Kefka Palazzo is a psychopathic maniacal nihilist who was infused with Magitek, giving him the ability to wield magic and use magical weapons. He poisons drinking water, creates a floating continent, reshapes the face of the planet, becomes a god, kills millions who refuse to worship him, and is generally ruthless and evil. Kefka Palazzo is considered to be one of the best video game villains of all time, renowned for his power, remorselessness, and desire to destroy everyone and everything.
Professor Albus Dumbledore of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels is one of the most beloved and famous wizards of all time. Though the most powerful wizard in the world, Dumbledore is wise and benevolent, composed and calm though delightfully eccentric. He is perceptive, caring and loving, reminding Harry on several occasions that love is the greatest magic of all. For the most part self-taught, Dumbledore won every notable prize Hogwarts offered, is an accomplished alchemist, can conjure Gubraithian fire, apparates silently, can become invisible without a magic cloak, and is an expert at occlumency, legilimency, and transfiguration among many other skills.
Derived from Myrddin Wyllt, a prophet from Welsh legend, the wizard Merlin was introduced into the legend of King Arthur by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1136 AD. In Geoffrey’s account, Merlin creates Stonehenge and enables Uther Pendragon to father Arthur in disguise, but for the most part he simply prophesizes things to come. In later versions, Merlin is the mentor to King Arthur, a shape-shifter, an evil mage, or a wise advisor. Throughout the Middle Ages, Merlin appears in all manners and forms in literature from Robert de Boron’s poem to Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. Hundreds of years later, Merlin is still characterized in film, television and literature-my favorite version: the animated Merlin from Disney’s Sword in the Stone.
Also known as Gandalf the Grey, Gandalf the White, Stormcrow, The Grey Pilgrim and Mithrandir, Gandalf is the wizard of all wizards. The legendary mage from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, is of the Maiar in Valinor and carries with him Narya the Ring of Fire. His wit and power is matched by his kindness and benevolence, and his accolades include aiding the dwarves in retaking Erebor, driving the Necromancer (Sauron) from Mirkwood, slaying a Balrog, discovering the Ring of Power, and returning from death to lead the fight against Sauron and his dark armies. In the thousands of years Gandalf spends in Middle-Earth, he continuously comes to the aid of those seeking to do good, guarding them against evil and counseling them with wisdom and good-natured humor. He can also make awesome fireworks.