The Books of Magic

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From meetings and partings none can ever escape. Nor from magic.

The Books of Magic is the title of a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, and a comic book series based upon it written by other authors. The Gaiman work chronicled the experiences of twelve-year-old Timothy Hunter, who is led by several guides (The Phantom Stranger, John Constantine (Hellblazer), Dr. Occult/Rose and Mr. E) on a tour of the role of magic in the past, the present, alternate universes, and possible futures. The later series explores the further problems and adventures he encounters as a magician of growing powers.

The Books of Magic (1990 - 1991)

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman - ISBN 1563890828
  • This is a work of fiction.
    Any resemblence to any real people (living, dead, or stolen by fairies), or to any real animals, gods, witches, countries, and events (magical or otherwise) is just blind luck, or so we hope.
    • Disclaimer
  • From a mundane standpoint, one might merely observe that Neil has arranged appearances here by every major occult figure in DC's history, to the possible end of introducing a new series character. And I do wonder whether Timothy will be back.
    It is more than a clever story however. It is rich and resonant. Like all good writing it causes the mind to wander off down byways by arousing speculations and leaving them to simmer... Neil Gaiman is a writer I have resolved to watch, and so far the effort has never failed to return more than the price of admission to his worlds.

Book I: The Invisible Labyrinth

Dr. Occult: The boy is a natural force, for good or evil, for magic or for science, and it is up to us to channel that force for good. And perhaps, for magic.
Mr. E: I say that we should kill him. End the matter there.
The Phantom Stranger: There will be no killing. Our role is only to educate, to offer him the choice.

The Phantom Stranger: Constantine, if he is to choose the path of magic then he must choose responsibly, he must know enough about the labyrinth to walk a true path through it.

John Constantine: All we know for sure is that we don't know anything for sure.
The Phantom Stranger: That is a particularly foolish thing to say, John Constantine. Light and darkness, life and death. These things are eternally certain.

The Phantom Stranger: Enlighten the child. Show him what magic truly is, and what it was, and what it may become. He has the potential to become the most powerful human adept of this age. It is up to the four of us to ensure that he chooses correctly. That is our mission and our burden.

John Constantine: Just what the world's been waiting for. The charge of the Trenchcoat Brigade.
The Phantom Stranger: I heard that, Constantine.

Mr. E: Boy! Do you believe in magic?

Timothy Hunter: Nobody catches me. Not cops. Not perverts. Not weirdos. Not teachers. Not anybody. Nobody.
John Constantine: Gotcha! 'Lo Tim. Nice board you got there. Now, don't try to bite me. There are things in my bloodstream you really don't want in your mouth.

The Phantom Stranger: Timothy Hunter. My associate asked you a question. Tell me... do you believe in magic?
Timothy Hunter: Yeah. And I believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Great Pumpkin... don't be stupid.

The Phantom Stranger: Child, magic exists. There are powers and forces and realms beyond the fields you know.

John Constantine: First rule of magic: Don't let anyone know your real name. Names have power.

Dr. Occult: Never ask for a name. Ask instead what those you meet would like to be called. It will save you problems.

The Phantom Stranger: I claim neither a name or a title, Timothy Hunter, although I hope one day, perhaps, you will call me friend. Until that time I must remain a Stranger.

Timothy Hunter: This is stupid. Four loonies... there's no such thing as magic.

The Phantom Stranger: Our role is to educate, Timothy. To show you the path of enchantment, of the art, of gramarye and glamour — whether you choose to walk it after that will be your own affair.

The Phantom Stranger: This is the Void, the space before there was any where to travel to, the time before there was change... Your pain is only the tiniest fraction of the pain that brought forth from the Void... Light. Time. Heat. Life. Everything.

Timothy Hunter: Wow. That's wicked! Like Star Wars.
The Phantom Stranger: A strange analogy, child. But indeed, there was a war in Heaven, and you see the vanquished now, burning as they fall, like stars. In the darkness before the first dawn, theirs was the first folly: theirs the first rebellion.
Timothy Hunter: They look like... angels.
The Phantom Stranger: Indeed.
Timothy Hunter: Who's he?
The Phantom Stranger: The proudest of them all, and the most beautiful.
Timothy Hunter: What's his name?
The Phantom Stranger: Lucifer, the Lightbringer, also called Morningstar.
Timothy Hunter: Oh. Bloody Hell.
The Phantom Stranger: Exactly.

Mage-Lord of Atlantis: Where humanity gets it wrong by your time, is in imagining Atlantis as having any kind of quantifiable existence. Which of course it hasn't; not in the way they imagine anyway. There have been quite a few Atlantises, will be quite a few more. It is just a symbol. A symbol of the art. The true Atlantis is inside you, just as it's inside all of us. The sunken land is lost beneath the dark sea, lost beneath the waves of wet, black stories and myths that break upon the shores of our minds. Atlantis is the shadow-land, the birth-place of civilization. The fair land in the west that is lost to us, but remains forever, true birthplace and true goal.

Mage-Lord of Atlantis: Now about the art itself. About magic... I think I speak with some authority. By means of magic I have lived for many...millions...of years. And I've had the time to do a great deal of thinking. And what I think is this. The whole thing is a crock of dirt. Not worth the price I paid. Nor for one second.

From meetings and partings none can ever escape. Nor from magic.
  • The Dream of the Wu Woman

Myrddin (Merlin): I must do as I will do. Magic grants no freedoms, friend pupil. Everything it buys must be paid for.

The Phantom Stranger: People kill what they fear, Timothy. They burned, drowned and hanged those they saw as witches, the devil's servants: the wise women and the cunning men, the unfortunate, the lost and the strange. While in the forests, and the high places and beside great stones the old religions endured.

The Phantom Stranger: Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common reality. Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore. The two are rarely compatible.

The Phantom Stranger: Since there are always those who would burn those who they perceive as witches, many true magicians adopted new garb, avoiding recognition by disguising their plumage.

The Phantom Stranger: Often the best hiding place is in plain view.

Zatara: I thought that I had found my way to the center of the Invisible Labyrinth; and I had — perhaps — discovered no more than the entrance. Watch my dust.... There is no walking backwards, and I am lost in the Labyrinth Invisible. I cannot retrace my steps. I wrote my name on the wall of the Invisible Labyrinth. I was so diligent in my studies; gave my whole time and heart to the pursuit. I wrote my name but I can find it no longer; My ashes blow like dust around the Invisible Labyrinth.

Mr. E: I still say we should kill him.

Book II: The Shadow World

Boston Brand: I was just talkin' to a dude got himself killed trying to find out where you were.
Timothy Hunter: Look I hate to be personal, but... are you mad?
Boston Brand: Not that I'm aware of.
Timothy Hunter: It's just that I figured it was you or me, and that means its probably me.
  • Boston Brand is an disembodied "dead man" who is active in the physical world by temporarily possessing the bodies of others.

Timothy Hunter: I don't know what you're talking about and to be honest, I don't care.
Boston Brand: Famous last words, kiddo. Mine were: "Gee, from up here it almost looks like that guy with the hook's holding a rifle..."

Madame Xanadu: Four cards: Everything is here, child. Elements, humors, and the corners of the world. Hmm. All major arcana, although I'd've been surprised had they been anything else...

John Constantine: He's been dead since the late 1930s as I understand it. Only he got brought back. And something else got brought back with him — there's a difference of opinion about exactly what. I mean there's a school of thought that says it's his soul, supercharged as it were. And another school of thought that suggests it's something far older. Whatever it is, sometimes it's practically the most powerful thing in the universe. Sometimes it's little more than a bloke in white tights and a green hood...

The Spectre: The forces of darkness are always among us, child. And the light cries out ever for vengeance. There is light and there is darkness, and I cannot rest until the darkness is destroyed and the light shines into the hearts of all.

Timothy Hunter: That Spectre thing. When the man in black showed me the beginning of time, there were these angels. Big as worlds. He looked like one of them.
John Constantine: Could be. Angels have always given me the creeps.
Timothy Hunter: Known a lot of them, have you?
John Constantine: A few.

Doctor Fate: All things are divided into the twin forces of Order and Chaos, forever contending for dominance. Life is something that occurs in the interface; not in the writhing discord of utter chaos, nor in the flatline perfection of pure order, but somewhere in between. … The imposition of order on formless chaos, the release of joyous chaos into the grey monotony of order... this is the true magic. All else is shadow.

John Constantine: Chaos versus Order indeed. I thought everyone had heard of fractals these days. There's no chaos, no order; just patterns of different levels of complexity.

Boston Brand: So what do you make of Constantine?
Timothy Hunter: He's all right, I spose... easier to talk to than the other three. Only thing is I can't figure out how we get from place to place...
Boston Brand: That one's easy, kiddo. He's riding the synchronicity freeway, and so everything just falls into place; time, movement, even distance just sit up and beg for him. You're having an adventure, kiddo. If you survive it, it'll be fun.

Timothy Hunter: Are you sure you're one of the good guys?
John Constantine: There aren't any good guys, and there aren't any bad guys. There's just us. People. Doing our best to get by. Can you drive?
Timothy Hunter: I'm only twelve, John.
John Constantine: I suppose it will have to be me, then.

Doctor Thirteen: I've been professionally investigating the occult for fifteen years, now, lad. Magic, spooks, witch-cults. You might call me a professional debunker. In fifteen years, I haven't seen one thing that was not susceptible to rational explanation. Either it was a hoax, or a fraud, or — often — people wanting so much to believe in powerful forces outside of our ken that they'd convince themselves of the existence of magic, taking simple coincidence or delusion as proof of their superstitions...

John Constantine: He doesn't believe in magic. And he's right. Magic doesn't exist, for him. You have to choose it, you see. That's what we're offering you: the choice.

Timothy Hunter: Look, I'm sorry about all this. I can go.
Zatanna: No. You're twelve and they're trying to kill you.

Timothy Hunter: Um, this may be a silly question, but where did you get the clothes? In my size?
Zatanna: Magic.
Timothy Hunter: Oh.
Zatanna: Okay, I've made you breakfast. It's vegetarian, I'm afraid, but I think you'll like it. Yo-Yo's asleep in the attic for the day.
Timothy Hunter: How'd you know his name's Yo-Yo?
Zatanna: Magic.
Timothy Hunter: Oh. (He eats) This food is amazing. I wish my dad could cook like this. Did you make the food by magic?
Zatanna: No.

Boston Brand: Some hot tomato, huh?
Timothy Hunter: Does the word "incomprehensible" mean anything to you?
Boston Brand: That Zatanna. Oh, oh, oh, what a gal! Pleasures of the flesh, how I miss ya.
Timothy Hunter: You're really starting to get on my nerves Mister Brand. If you don't mind me saying so.
Boston Brand: After what I did for you already? I saved your life twice, kiddo. You should thank God that she kept me around after I was snuffed.

Tannarak: It's not black magic versus white magic. I tend to think of it as live magic versus dead magic. But even that's simple dualism... additionally, magic, even dark magic isn't Satanism — although I've dealt with the odd devil in my time. Magic is about power. It's seeing through the shadows to the real world beyond.

Zatanna: This boy is under my protection. Anyone who wishes to hurt him must first reckon with me.
Tannarak: My dear Zatanna. Face facts — there's one of you, and over a hundred of us. The child is history.

John Constantine: The boy's mine. And in thirty seconds, me, and him, and the witch, are going to walk out of here. You know who I am. Or you ought to. You know my reputation. Now... does anyone here really want to start something?

Zatanna: John, you don't have any power to speak of. Any one of them could have torn you to shreds. But they... were scared of you. I don't understand what happened back there.

Zatanna: Speak english, can't you?
John Constantine: I speak perfect english. So does Tim. It's you that's got the funny accent.

John Constantine: You've been introduced to, insulted, or threatened by some of the most powerful practitioners of the art in existence. What have you learned?
Timothy Hunter: I dunno, that all of them except Zatanna are about as well-balanced as upturned eggs.
John Constantine: Yeah — that's a good beginning.

Book III: The Land of Summer's Twilight

Dr. Occult: Remember your manners: etiquette will be important where we go, and good manners are gold. For a trivial impoliteness you could find yourself gifted with asses ears, or worse. Lastly, never stray from the path. No matter what you see, or hear, or feel.

Dr. Occult: John Constantine . . . Yes. He dances on the edge of the known, like a crazy man, pitting himself against heaven and the pit, because he is John Constantine; and because he is alive.

Timothy Hunter: Constantine said we were going to Fairyland. He was kidding, wasn't he?
Dr. Occult: We travel through the Fair Lands, child. Call them Avalon, or Elvenhome, or Domdaniel, or Faerie, it matters not. It is the Land of Summer's Twilight.

Dr. Occult: Look behind you, child. We have already left your world. This wooden gate exists in both worlds — here and there. There are many such places common to more than one plane, accessible to those who know the path to walk.

Rose: I am no longer Doctor Occult, although we share certain purposes in common. He is himself, as I am me. But I am still your guide.

Rose: Find a name for me... it's a test, of sorts.
Timothy Hunter: I bet it's bloody Rumpelstiltskin. I'll call you Rose.
Rose: That's good, Tim. And fast. The Stranger was right — you have the potential for power.

Rose: You mustn't eat anything in Faerie, Tim. Not if you want to get back — or at least, to get back to the time that you left. A day in Faerie can be a hundred years in mortal lands.
Timothy Hunter: So I stay hungry?
Rose: You get even hungrier.

Timothy Hunter: A sea of blood? Why?
Rose: Why? That's a strange question. Perhaps because there is some level on which we are sitting on a hillside in Sussex, exploring a world within ourselves. Perhaps because it is a metaphor for Woman's power, for fertility and mystery. And perhaps because this is no metaphor: We're in Faerie, and this is what happens in Faerie.
Timothy Hunter: It didn't feel like a metathingie to me. It was horrible.

Rose: We must stay on the path, Timothy. Once we have begun to walk our road, we must walk it all the way. Or we are lost. And all may be lost.

Maugys: When there is fire in me then I am still cold; When I own your true love's face then you will not see me; To all things I give no more than I am given; In time I may have all things and yet I may keep nothing.
Dr. Occult: Er... would you mind repeating that?
Maugys: I have stated my riddle, solve it, and enter, or fail, and die.

True Thomas: Every nation has it's king who sleeps beneath the hill.
And in it's time of greatest pain
He'll wake, and war, prevail, and reign,
And happy days are here again...
But for now he sleeps under the hill — the hill —
For legends are buggers to kill.

True Thomas: Arthur sleeps in Avalon; and he sleeps here, as they all do. And perhaps he sleeps in your world also. Sometimes, I suspect he sleeps inside a waking mind, waiting for the day to rise and free his ancient kingdom. Perhaps he sleeps inside thee, boy?

Baba Yaga: Now, what's Baba Yaga caught for herself, then? Is it stew? Is it roast? Is it blood pudding? Is it tender cutlets? Oh yes. All of them. Juicy, and meaty and toothsome and sweet.
  • After catching Timothy.

Master Leveret (A hare): You're going to be stew. I mean me and Master Redlaw here, we're fairly used to the idea of endin' up in a cookpot.
Master Redlaw (A hedgehog): So to speak, Master Leveret, although mostly us hedge-pigs is encased in clay and roasted in embers, 'cos of us havin' us's prickles.
Master Leveret: Stands corrected, Master Redlaw. Stands corrected and grateful to yer, I mus' say.

Rose: I know your true name Baba Yaga. Do you wish me to shout it now, so that all of the animals of the forest, all the birds of the air, every passing nixie and boggart will know it too? Your name will be as common as crab-grass. Would you like that Baba Yaga?
Baba Yaga: You're lying. You do not know my name.
Rose: Perhaps. Do you wish to find out how loudly I can shout?
Baba Yaga: [pause] No...

Titania: Who rides the wind must go where their steed will take them.
Rose: Who treads the way of stars must walk in silence.

Titania: You wish to see the distant realms? Very well. But know this first: the places you will visit, the places that you will see, do not exist. For there are only two worlds — your world, which is the real world, and the other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there. These worlds provide an alternative. Provide escape. Provide a dream, and power, provide refuge, and pain. They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters. Do you understand?
Timothy Hunter: No.
Titania: You are honest. I'll say that for you.

Dr. Occult: This is Hell, Tim. One tiny aspect of it, anyway. Here do many demons make their homes, the twisted geometries conforming with their own dark internal vistas. They can be called to your world, for a price... the price is too much. This is a place of punishment, Timothy. Those who believe they must atone, inflict this place and its tortures upon themselves... until they understand that. Until they realize that they, and only they, — not gods or demons — create their Hell; and by this they are freed, and take their leave... This place is evil, Timothy. But perhaps a necessary evil.

Timothy Hunter: Where are we?
Dr. Occult: The Dreaming. A realm comprising tales and nightmares, woven on the fragile looms of sleeping minds.
Cain: And we are its guardians and protectors, its heroes and its lords. My brother and I — Lord Cain and Lord Abel. Remember us when you come into your full power, Timothy.
Morpheus (Dream): "Lord" Cain? "Lord" Abel? Tell me when did this elevation in rank occur? Are my congratulations in order Tale-keepers?
Abel: Amuh-muh-um-ba-bah-uwuhwuh-ahwuuh...
Cain: Shut up, nitwit. Just our little, heh-heh, jest, with young Timothy here, sire.

Titania: Timothy, boy, will you stay with me? Will you be my page and servant, here in the lands of summer's twilight. where there is no age or death? You have not seen a fraction of the marvels of this world, Tim. You have not tasted our fruit, nor drunk our wine, nor danced to your soul's delight in our revelries. Stay. Be my page. And in return I will be all things to you.

Dr. Occult: Rules are rules, here as much as anywhere else. An eye for an island, a tooth for a tooth fairy. Rules are rules.

Dr. Occult: What did you get at the market, Tim?
Timothy Hunter: An ordinary egg, he called it. Doctor, made of amber, or something.
Dr. Occult: The Mundane Egg.
Timothy Hunter: That's what I meant. Normal. Boring. Mundane. I knew it was one of those words.
Dr. Occult: No Timothy. It is not one of those words at all. Not in this context... Inside this egg is a part of creation as yet unborn. One day the egg will hatch — and from it a world will emerge. Every world is hatched from a Mundane Egg, Timothy. And they are valuable.

Book IV: The Road to Nowhere

John Constantine: I take it you hammer first and ask questions afterwards.
Mr. E.: The only good vampire is a dead vampire, Constantine.
John Constantine: I'm sure they'd agree with you on that score. You ought to watch it, you know. One day the boogeymen are going to come out of their closets and start parading down the high street. They'll be marching for equal rights, free blood, and your head on a platter.

John Constantine: I don't know about you two, but I have a bad feeling about this. He's not exactly what you'd call well-balanced is he?
  • About Mr. E, after his departure with Tim.

Mr. E: There are very few stable futures, boy. The way my father told it to me, the future is a series of infinitely branching possibilities. When we walk it, we walk down the most probable paths, those with the greatest likelihood of occurring. But nothing in the future is definite. Some are periods of great flux — the next hundred years or so are a wash of conflicting events. Others are relatively stable — so that almost any path you walk takes you to the same universe.

Mr. E: It's sad but true that the dividing line between good and evil blurs, in the realm of magic. Sometimes I think that I alone am pure.

Timothy Hunter: I don't like you, Mister E — or whatever your name is.
Mr. E: And I do not permit affection or lack thereof to influence my actions. There is good, and there is evil. The good must be protected, the evil eradicated. I have shown you the triumph of evil as a a caution.

Mr. E: Where magic is concerned, there is always an initial decision, an initial willingness to let it enter your life. If that is not there neither is magic.

Mr. E: The Earth in the sixtieth century. The pendulum has swung back once more. This world has been segregated from the rest of the universe — by whose will I do not know. The people of earth practice something that is neither magic nor science, but partakes of both in equal measure. Imagine computers composed partly of gleaming silicon, partly of a net of spells.

Mr. E: I have... never come this far forward. I have only heard rumors. I met a great man in my youth — blind, like myself, who claimed he had walked from the far future, seeking something — but even he no longer remembered what. It was he who taught me the art of walking forward.

John Constantine: I can't believe it — you'd trust Tim to a loony whose dad popped out his eyes with a sharpened spoon? I mean after what happened to him and his sister, it's hardly surprising that he's not dealing with a full deck, is it?

The Hierophant: What spirits were you? Of how many souls are you composed? … Within me I have many … souls? … perhaps. I am all the hierophants there ever were. All the popes and priests and shamans and wizards. All of them.

The Fool: A riddle. I sat with my love, and I drank with my love, and my love she gave me light. I'll give any man a pint o' wine, that'll read my riddle right. Only I don't have a pint of wine. Do you give up?
Timothy Hunter: I don't even understand the question.
The Fool: How about your friend?
Mr. E.: It is an evil rhyme, and it has an evil answer. [...] I sat in a chair made of my love's bones, drank from her skull, and saw by the light of a candle made from her fat.
  • p. 33 (issue) or p. 184 (collection), panel 4-6l this passage quotes an old rhyme (a British variation on the so-called "Ilo riddle" common to Saxon people) and its adult answer (children being told "a bottle of wine" or "the moon" instead; see Robert Chambers, Popular Rhymes of Scotland: with illustrations, chiefly collected from oral sources (1826, 1st ed.; another 1826 printing's title ends "collected from tradition"), Edinburgh: William Hunter & al., chapter [8] "Specimens of unpublished classes of popular rhymes", section VIII "Riddles", p. 299 (via Google Books), sic for "licht" and "richt":
    "I sat wi' my love, and I drank wi' my love, / And my love she gave me licht; / I'll give any man a pint o' wine, / That'll read my riddle richt! / Solution. – I sat in a chair made of my mistress's bones; drank out of her skull; and was lighted by a candle made from her tallow." (sic)

The Fool: What do I know of magic? Why, nothing, my masters. Nothing at all. Save that a little magic is a most dangerous thing.
  • p. 34 (issue) or p. 185 (collection), panel 1-6.

Destiny: So my day is done. How strange. We called ourselves The Endless; but only two of us are left, here at the end of everything.

Death: I'm sorry. I can't let either of you stay here and watch. You see, this really is it. The universe is over. Its my job to put it all in order, now, and lock the place behind me as I leave.

The Phantom Stranger: If you choose magic you will never be able to return to the life you once lived. Your world may be more … exciting … but it will also be more dangerous. Less reliable. And once you begin to walk the path of magic, you can never step off of it. Or you can choose the path of science, of rationality. Live in a normal world. Die a normal death. Less exciting, undoubtedly. But safer. … It is your choice Timothy. Always and forever your choice.

Dr. Occult: You showed him the world was, indeed, not the rational place he believed. I have shown him the world that is not this world, where it is always summer's twilight; and other places besides. E gave him a few choice fragments of possibility; and then Tim returned to the fields we know. He has seen magic. He knows it works. he has already walked a harder path than most initiates will ever dream of...

The Phantom Stranger: They say humanity only gets one chance at the carousel's golden ring. But the carousel goes round and round, and round and round. And the golden ring is not going anywhere.

Bindings (1994)

The Books of Magic series (1-4) by John Ney Rieber
  • In this film, this loony preacher says that there's love and there's fear. And that's what makes the world like it is. I think that's almost right. I think it really comes down to love and fear. Sort of. Even though nobody ever talks about love and fear in science lessons.
  • Love is the stuff that keeps things moving so they stay together. Fear is the stuff that makes things hold so still they fall apart. And sometimes you can have both of them inside you pushing and pulling you around, and thats when you cry or laugh.
    • Timothy Hunter
  • I don't know what holds the bloody world together. Unless it's Magic.
    • Timothy Hunter
  • In Faerie, there is only one time : Now. Twilight.
    • Timothy Hunter

Summonings (1995)

The Books of Magic series (5-13) by John Ney Rieber
  • The war has been shaping up quite nicely on all fronts, with no more than a nudge here and a tickle there. … People do insist on making life difficult for themselves. Peculiar things people... dead certain they know what they need. Dead wrong, more often than not. Stubborn as goats in a herd. Still even the dissidents have their uses. No need to search far for viable offerings these days...
    • "Alternate Tim" (1 March 2012)
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