Where Are All of the Monsters?

The Nightmare – John Henry Fuseli

“No one would come right out and say it, but the worldwide magical ecology was suffering from a serious imbalance: too many magicians, not enough monsters.”
–The Magicians – Lev Grossman

Let’s suppose there is a magical planet named Fillory that your siblings have found a way to visit from Earth via a magical doorway. However, you never get to stay and it is the only place in the universe that you want to be. One day you find a spring that holds all the magic and you drink from it giving you the power the stay, but it also gives you unimaginable magical power. What do you do?

Those of us who love The Magicians know what happens next. The power of magic absorbs the boy who becomes The Beast and he almost dries up all of magic for Fillory and Earth in his unending thirst for the power of magic.

Let’s put a pin in that thought and turn now to Earth which is comprised of magicians, hedge witches, and non-magical folk. Those who have magic, love and enjoy it, but largely have nothing to do because magic fulfills all their needs. In fact, in my rereading of The Magicians there is one sentence that haunts me and I can’t quite shake it:

No one would come right out and say it, but the worldwide magical ecology was suffering from a serious imbalance: too many magicians, not enough monsters.
–The Magicians – Lev Grossman

Usually on Thursdays I write a little recap on last night’s show with a few thoughts about what is coming. Today I am breaking from that. Instead you will find my thoughts about the space between the books, show, and reality. There are some very concerning things going on in this world and I think this is a good intersection at which to discuss the cross over between fiction and reality. After all, what is the point of fiction, but to give us a chance to explore the themes of our common humanity? So today, I want to think about this sentence and wonder why are there so many magicians and so few monsters?

The thing is I think there are always monsters that are in need of a good magician. I posit that the worldwide magical ecology had gotten complicit in the joy of power without looking for real applications. Magic is a tool. In Fillory, magic grows the crops like water and sun do on Earth – it is a resource. Like all resources it can be beneficial to all or a massive hindrance when only shared among a few.

Meanwhile back in real life Earth; let’s substitute magic for wealth. The current statistic is that about half of the Earth’s wealth is in the hands of 1% of its people. There are so few at the top, but some of the wealth resides with people who live in countries where that wealth is horded and they enjoy it without thinking too much about it. Imagine our magicians on Earth who live comfortably, but have very little they NEED to do. I think there is a clear parallel here which is further reinforced by the current scandals in elections all over the world, but most relevant to me personally, here in the United States.

There are certainly lots of people with all of the privileges and they seem to be okay without giving to the common good. In fact, there have been whole shows to highlight the lives of the uber wealthy and their fabulous looking lives. Of course there are stories of people who attain much and give much in return. The Gates family using their foundation to eradicate disease and the worst issues created by poverty. They use the magic of their wealth and power to fight the children of the monster Poverty.

What happens to our ideas of fairness and brotherhood when humanity becomes a pyramid scheme for survival with those who have everything and are still looking for more power? How do those with minor privilege turn their focus from gaining more power to fighting the monster? How do you organize to make a change to the betterment of humanity?

For an answer to this, I think the show The Magicians has some interesting possibilities. The Brakebills kids have taken on the fight against privilege for privilege sake. The kings and queens of Fillory are doing the best they can to undo the corruption of The Beast every way that they can. Margo and Eliot have chosen to fight for Fillory with everything they have. They try and they fail and they try again. Unlike the kings and queens before them they do not just relish the power, they seek to lead and take on the challenges of Fillory to serve all magic.

And this is where the magical world of fiction and politics all cross and light up the sky of my imagination. I see people in my own country stopping where they are and turning to use their skills and power to fight what they see as an overreach for yet more power. Last Friday, the magical folk of the U.S.A. (and perhaps globally) came together against a common goal. The image of unity between humans up against the wealthiest humans corrupted by their desire to consolidate and control more power is a thing of wonder.

Will this be a time where people combine whatever magic they have and use it to benefit each other? Will this be a moment where we decide to reject the corrupting influence of monsters and demand that we return and reunite as communities? Will this be the birth of a more peaceful union in search of holding up each other and our world?

I dare to dream that as people we will forgo the punch-drunk aimless feeling of privilege and raise each other up. I hope that we will rise up against personal gain for a better world, and like those fighting for Fillory, find a way to replenish and repair the resources so they will serve us again.

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Gretel Shadebender

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