Showing posts with label Enchanted World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Enchanted World. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Enchanted World: Magical Beasts

The Enchanted World: Magical Beasts
I love monsters. Monsters and mythology is what got me into Dungeons & Dragons to start with. Well, that and the fact that everyone in my school seemed to be playing it all at once. So, today's Enchanted World volume, 1985's Magical Beasts, is a rather nice treat for me. In a way, it was a major publisher that paid tribute to my hobby's roots.  While I have no concrete evidence that the Enchanted World series came about due to D&D's popularity, I am not ruling it out either. 

Magical Beasts

by Editors of Time-LIFE Books, 1985 (144 pages)
ISBN 0809452294, 0809452308 (US Editions)

This book is divided into the standard three sections, as with Wizards and Witches it is divided into larger chronological sections. 

Chapter One: Vestiges of the Elder Days

We begin back 40 centuries ago when humans were still primitive hunter-gatherers and how the monsters of our lives, the cave bear, the wolf, the large cat, were just animals that we were barely equal to. Monsters, it seems, go back as least as far as magic. This is not the first or last parallel this volume will have with the W&W book.

This chapter largely covers the creatures of ancient Greece and their mythology. We begin with the minotaur, though its conception is glossed over. The greek myths have quite a number of animal-human hybrids like the minotaur. Also discussed are the centaurs, both noble and savage, satyrs, and stranger creatures like the chimera. Thrown in are the maenads, who look human (are human), but can be as savage as any other monster. From Greece, we head to Egypt to discuss Set, Hours, Tawret, and other animal-hybrid gods. From here, we go on to Ireland and the Fomorians, described as animal-like, though they interact and inter-marry with the more noble Tuatha Dé Danann. The Tuatha defeat the Fomorians and their great ruler Balor of the Evil Eye. 

Chapter One: Vestiges of the Elder Days

We make quick stops to talk about various dog headed humans, like the inhabitants of the islands of Andaman and Macumeran, whose locations are lost to time. 

In the sub-section, The Tale of the Monkey-God, we go to India and recount the tale of Hanuman, the Monkey King, and Ravana, the many-headed king of demons (Rakshasa). Humans and Monkeys joined forces to defeat the evil king.

Chapter Two: Riders of the Wind

Humankind has always looked to the sky and marveled at the flight of birds. So it is natural that there are so many flying creatures. From the legendary Pegasus, to China's Feng-huang, Japan's tengu, to the Roc, Griffins,  and the Harpies. This chapter hops (flys?) around the globe to give us tales and creatures from all over. Even the hubris of man is discussed in the tale of Daedalus and Icarus. 

An Enchanted Bestiary gives us a brief overview of some "lesser-known" creatures—lesser known if you weren't playing fantasy games in 1985, that is. 

Chapter Two: Riders of the Wind

Chapter Three: Paragon of Purity

Lastly, we get to the unicorn. Following the format of the other books in this series, they equate the death of the last unicorn with the death of magic in the world. But before we get to that the unicorn is discussed at great length. We even get coverage of related creatures like the Yale and the Japanese Ki-rin. And more distantly related creatures like the Mi'raj and Shadhavar.

A Peerless Mount for World-Conquering Alexander ends our talk on unicorns with a tale of the Macedonian King and his quest for a unicorn mount.

Chapter Three: Paragon of Purity

Reading this, I think they maybe could have made a book of Unicorns like they did for Dragons

This particular volume feels like an extended "Ecology Of..." article. Indeed, of all the ones I covered so far, this one might have the most actionable content for your Fantasy RPG. Especially if you want to add more details to some tried and true monsters.

Monster books

There are only a few monsters here that will be new to anyone who has ever played D&D; this is still a great resource.  I *do* have more than a few of these new ones ready to go for Basic Bestiary, but I was still happy to see one or two that were still new to me.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The Enchanted World: The Secret Arts

The Enchanted World: The Secret Arts
 I was going to do this one last night, but since my A to Z was still going strong I thought today would be better. Plus, it helps me transition from last month's topic.

Magic is discussed a lot in the Enchanted World series and 1987's The Secret Arts is no different. Maybe because it is one of the last (second to last, really) entries, it does feel a little different.

The Secret Arts 

by Editors of Time-LIFE Books, 1987 (144 pages)
ISBN 0809452855, 0809452863  (US Editions)

Unlike the previous editions, this one is divided into seven chapters, each dedicated to a type of magical practice. 

Chapter One: The Power of the Word 

Magic scrolls, books and words are the tools of trade of these magic-users. We start with the papyri of Ancient Egypt, dedicated to the God Thoth the inventor of writing. We read tales of the mage Nefrekeptah and the lengths he went to gain the Book of Thoth. Even creating souless, deathless makins to travel under the Nile to dig up the vault where the book was held. Though all his efforts only lead to his ruin. In this early tale of magic, we learn there are "things man was not meant to know."

Chapter One: The Power of the Word

Our journey takes us to Renaissance Europe to Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, better known more simply as Agrippa. His challenges were no less than Nefrekeptah's and the secrets he sought were too dangerous for him to take on other students. These tales are repeated throughout history as more would be mages sought out more powerful magic words.

Chapter Two: Decoding Destiny 

This chapter covers divination is all it varied means. Casting lots, shapes in smoke, palmistry, the entrails of animals, and the drug or poison-induced trances of oracles. One thing these all have in common, is the future was truly unknown and unknowable. 

Chapter Two: Decoding Destiny

We get into a bit of history about the Tarot and various "magic squares" where magic gives way to math. Which is pretty close to real magic. This leads us to the Number 13 and all its magical conontations. 

Chapter Three: Arcane Harmonies 

In the first book, Wizards and Witches,  we are introduced to the power wizard and singer Väinämöinen. He returns for this chapter on the magic of music. We see how old Väinämöinen makes his magical harp from the jaw bone of a giant pike. 

Chapter Three: Arcane Harmonies

We see magic in other instruments, like the pipes of Pan and all sorts of harps. The lute of Celtic magicians/musicians. And we hear again about the violin-playing prowess of the Devil himself. Even the horns of ancient armies and the bells of churches are considered to be a type of magic. Each being used to ward off evil. Bells were used quite a bit, from the church bells to even small bells that were used to by the superstitious to ward off evil spirits, demons and faeries. 

Chapter Four: The Witch's Kitchen 

No mighty armies. No ancient wise wizards. This is the simple homespun magic of the Kitchen Witch. The symbolism of the witch over cauldron is almost as common as the witch on her broom. But not just witches stirred the cauldron, this is an image that goes back to Celtic myth and even before. What sorts of brew come out of those cauldrons? I suppose this is often why the ancient words for "Witch" and "Poisoner" were often confused. However, some of those potions did have a magic of sorts. 

Chapter Four: The Witch's Kitchen

It is often believed that many of the balms, potions, poultices, and ointments had a mild (or strong in some cases) psychotropic effect. Could images of faeries, demons, ghosts and the like be more akin to an LSD trip? Seems likely. 

Chapter Five: Lapidary Lore 

The power of stones and crystals is so pervasive that even Dr. Jung talked about it as a universal symbol. Stones harder than diamonds, metals with associations to the various heavenly bodies, and healing stones were common everywhere. Not to mention all the attention given by alchemists to transmute a base metal to gold, considered to be pure and nearly divine. This transmutation was symbolic, if it could be done then the transmutation of our "base metal" to something "divine" could also be achieved. 

Chapter Five: Lapidary Lore

Chapter Six: Mirrors and Metals 

Continuing the themes of metals, this one deals more with reflective surfaces. Though there is a good bit on how swords could, via the metal worked by the blacksmith, take on personalities of their own.

Chapter Six: Mirrors and Metals

Chapter Seven: A Magician's Arsenal 

Less weapons, and more tools of the trade. Books, herbs, and stones have been mentioned already. This includes how magic wands are made, or divining rods, or fetishes. Magical staffs held by kings and wizards alike are mentioned.

Chapter Seven: A Magician's Arsenal

This one has a lot going on in it. There is a feel of "this is the end of the series and we have all this stuff left over" but it is still fun read. I enjoyed the bit on magical swords gaining personality and had never really thought about where that idea came from in myths. 

Next time: We celebrate My Mom for Mother's Day and what she has contributed to my blog!

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Enchanted World: Dragons

The Enchanted World: Dragons
 It has been a month since I have done one of these. My plan was NOT to do one during April with the whole A to Z thing, but today is St. George's Day and he rather famously killed a dragon. It is also still year of the Dragon and the 50th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, so my choice was made for me.

This is also the second book in the series, after Wizards and Witches.


by Editors of Time-LIFE Books, 1984 (144 pages) 
ISBN 0809452081, 080945209X (US Editions)

While I have mentioned the Eurocentrism of the other volumes, this one does a good job of presenting both European and Eastern dragons. It also has a bit of others from around the world. 

Chapter One: Chaos Incarnate

This covers the early tales of dragons, not just in medieval European myth but also the ancient tales of dragons like Apep, Tiamat, and the various monsters of Ancient Greece.  One of the things this chapter hits home is the dragon as a force of chaos and nature. In the case of many, like Tiamat, the dragon is a destructive force.  This is one (of the many) reasons why I always have Tiamat in my game as Chaotic Evil rather than Lawful Evil. Tiamat is even called the "Enemy of Order" and her myths are referred too as Chaoskampf


We hear tales of the Midgard Serpent and the dragon Nidhoggr, which gnaws on the roots of the World Tree.  These are not the dragons for mortals to deal with, but the domain of the gods. There were heroes that fought these creatures, but they were often demi-gods themselves. Like the tale of Cadmus who fought a dragon and built the city of Thebes where the dragon had once ruled. The dragon was cast into the sky to become the constellation Draco. 

We even get some Indian myths of Sesha, also known as Ananta the Endless, a multiheaded serpent that wrapped around the world. 

This chapter also has a wonderful Field Guide to Dragons. A visual guide to help you tell the differences between the amphiptère, the wyvern, the heraldic dragon, the lindworm or lindorm, and the snake-like guiver. It also has some habitats.


Chapter Two: Glittering Gods of the East

This chapter takes us East, mostly to China and Japan, where dragons had a very different role. They were spirits of the weather, air, and water. They were considered divine and had a place in a very ordered universe. Though not all were benevolent. They were still prideful creatures and could be offended. So offerings were made for rain, or even to keep destruction at bay.


In any part of the world, an angry dragon was terrible to behold.

We learn that these dragons fly not due to their wings, but the magic crests on their foreheads and many are the descendants to water snakes. Or maybe there are water snakes that are in fact baby dragons. 

These dragons are incredibly long-lived. It spends 1,000 years in its snake form, where it will grow feet and an elongated head with a beard. After 500 years in this form, it will grow antlers. After 3,000 years, it will reach its final form with a branch-like protrusions from its body. The oldest dragon is the Dragon King and it is 1000-feet long. 

Chapter Three: The Serpent Ascendant 

As with many of these books, there is a chapter that focuses on the Medieval era, which is where we get many of the tales we know today. This is that chapter.  

Since our focus is mostly on Medieval Europe, we often link the Dragon to the Devil. This is in keeping with the notion held in Medieval times that the dragon was the bringer of disease, famine, and ruin. This chapter also has a great map of Europe showing where various dragons were spotted and when.

Where Dragons Dwelled

The section on Maidens and Dragons is great and discusses the complex relationship women and dragons had in these tales. There is the sorceress Marina and her pet dragon, the French Le Succubé (The Succubus) who rode a dragon, and the many maidens kidnapped by dragons. There is even the tale of Margaret of Bamburgh who was transformed into a dragon.

We even get a tale of the Tarasque who could not stand up to a Saint and her faith. 

Chapter Four: Rise of the Dragonslayer

It is St. George's day today, so only fitting we open up with the tale of St. George in this chapter. Maybe to most storied dragon slayer after Sigurd, who we also talk about later on in this chapter. 

Dragon Slayers

We get a nice mix of dragon slayers from all over Europe and some of Asia. All usually have to deal with how pure and virtuous the would-be slayer needs to be. Often their reward was a maiden of equal purity and virtue. 

Even though this book is the same size as the others, it feels like a lot more is packed into it.

While many of these tales are known to us all (and that is the point) there are enough details here to still educate and entertain. This one is certainly a must read for any Fantasy RPG and in particular Dungeons & Dragons. I also see a lot of value here for players of more "serious" medieval fantasy games like Pendragon or Chivalry & Sorcerer. Even Dark Age Mage players can benefit.

Next time: We celebrate Walpurgis Night!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Enchanted World: Fairies and Elves

Time LIFE The Enchanted World: Fairies and Elves
Today is the Spring Equinox, an in-between time of light and dark, winter and summer—the perfect time to talk about Fairies and Elves. My reading of this has already been fruitful, with two more monsters added to my Basic Bestiary: the Trollkönig and Rübezahl. I am sure there are more to come. Many of the Faerie Lords you will find in my Basic Bestiary can also be found here, in one form or another. So let's get into it.

Fairies and Elves

by Editors of Time-LIFE Books, 1984 (144 pages) 
ISBN 080945212X, 0809452138 (US Editions)

There is a certain Euro-centrism to this book and that is to be expected, though there are plenty of creatures that are similar to Elves and Fairies around the world. This gets better with other books and we saw this in the Wizards and Witches and the Lore of Love books.

Like all the books, this one is hardcover with canvas-like covering (this time green) illustrated by John Atkinson Grimshaw.  This volume has four chapters. Also like all the books this one is lavishly illustrated with both new and classical pieces. 

Chapter One: Lands Behind Enchantment's Veil

We are introduced to the worlds of the faeries and their myriad of names; the Daoine Side, the Tylwth Teg, and the Tuatha Dé Danann. Sometimes, they are also divided into camps of light and dark, like the Seelie and Unseelie or Liosálfar and Döckálfar. And all have multiple spellings. But all are immortal, or nearly so, and are members of a world long since gone by the time humans, or at least Christian humans, enter their lands.  But for a time, a brief time the Fair Folk and humans could live side by side and these tales would enter into the legends of a later time. 

Chapter One: Lands Behind Enchantment's Veil

Here, the fairies were more similar to humankind, with an air of regalness and otherworldliness, and of course, there were tales of their magic. One how the mere touch of the Queen of the Seelie court cured a young knight of his curse. Other tales on how trees would spring magical fruit or fountains of ale and wine. 

Some lived on the land, but many lived under it or even under the sea like the chieftan O'Donoghue. These lands, regardless of where they were had the same otherworldliness about them. 

A World in Miniature 

The great peoples of the fairies reduced in nature and size, so when the lands they had lived in were settled, it was believed that they had shrunk and were living, somewhat literally, under our noses. 

Chapter Two: Guardians of Field and Forest 

Here, many different types of fairies are discussed, and we move further afield than just Northern Europe. We meet the changeable Leshy, who could grow from diminutive size to that of a giant. Sylphs, some as small as mice, would flit about in the air. Hobgoblins like Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, were tricksters, but others like Churn-milk Peg were malicious. Willow fairies from Czech legends were as common as German wood nymphs and the mountains of Rübezahl.  Nearly every type of natural setting had a multitude of faeries of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions. 

Chapter Two: Guardians of Field and Forest

And that was the problem. Wander too far off into a fairies' home territory and one ran the risk of becoming lost and not finding their way home for years, if ever.

Not all faeries were human in appearance, either. The Kelpie was an underwater horse that drank the blood of swimmers, for example. 

Others fit a theme. Russia's Father Frost was the lord of Winter, except in Denmark where that role was taken by the Snow Queen, and in Scotland it was the dreaded one-eyed hag, the Cailleac Bheur that ruled over winter and the cold. 

All faeires were considered to be part of and guardian of their locales or area. From the dread three Faerie Lords and Ladies of Winter mentioned above to the tine Brown Man, who was content just to protect one small house.

The Myrtle Tree's Sweet Tenant

This is the tale of a dryad of the Myrtle tree and her love of a human prince, and the women who were jealous of her and the extent they would go. To match with the theme the tree from which the dryad came from was in the prince's palace courtyard. She would come to the young prince at night for lovemaking and disappear before sunrise.  This infuriated the women he had been pledged too and must choose among them a wife. They stripped the leaves from her tree and broke of branches.  Out came the dryad and the women turned on her, stabbing her and breaking her bones. The prince distraught, gathered the bark, the leaves, and the bones and tried to fix the myrtle tree, but could not. He stayed in his chambers, distraught. The rains came and new tree grew and when it had bloomed, the dryad stepped out again. The Prince married her and cast his former mistresses into his dungeons.

Chapter Three: Of Fairy Raids and Mortal Missteps

The last chapter had a happy ending, but that was not always the case when it came to fairy and human interaction. Princesses were abducted by fairy kings. Faerie maidens seduced otherwise virtuous knights, and faeries of all sorts made sport with the poor wives and daughters of locals. Sometimes though the mortals were the ones looking for trouble, stepping into faerie rings to become lost or seeking out their feasts, or, as in the case of the infamous Goblin Market, find their wares. 

Chapter Three: Of Fairy Raids and Mortal Missteps

Faeries were notorious for stealing children, leaving ugly, mal-formed changelings in their place. Sometimes the babes could be found and rescued, other times, most times, they could not.  

Tam Lin 

It wasn't always the maidens that had to fear from the intentions of faeries, often mortal men were the target. Such was the case of Tam Lin the son of the Earl of Roxburgh. He had caught the eye of the Fairy Queen. He would have been lost forever had it not been for the courage, strength, and love of a mortal woman named Janet, who was able to turn Tam Lin away from the Fairy Queen. 

Chapter Four: The Heart's Far-Carrying Call 

Love between a mortal and faerie was never an easy path to take. Swan maidens could love a mortal, but only if the mortal hid their feather cloaks from them. Lamias craved the love mortal men, but equal craved the flesh of their children. Tales abound that if a mortal man ever struck his fairy bride she would leave him forever; maybe good advice for mortal brides as well!

Chapter Four: The Heart's Far-Carrying Call

Though not all tales ended bad, but all had a common theme; the road to true love is a hard one. We saw that in Lore of Love as well. Such is the next tale.

Trials of a Charmed Passion 

Sir Launfal was a knight in King Arthur's court. By chance, one night, he spied a fairy lady of such beauty that all thoughts of mortal women left him. She also saw him and would visit him whenever he wished for her by name, Tryamour. The Queen, though, became jealous and asked him who it was that had given him so much happiness. He then insulted his Queen by saying she was not as beautiful as the fairy lady's lowest handmaiden. An insult, of course, and one that nearly got him burnt at the stake. But Tryamour comes to the court, and all agree that there is no way that Sir Launfal is lying or insulting. They ride off together, leaving the mortal world.

Again, like Wizards and Witches, the theme here is that once there was magic in the old world, but now it is gone. Though that theme is less overt here and more of a given. Faeries, creatures of magic, were once part of this world and now they are not.

Again the stories tend to bleed into each other and there is the feeling of half being told a story and half reading a factual account of things that had happened. The effect is an engrossing one. 

It reflects what I have felt games like D&D have been missing. While yes, there is a Feywilde and lands of Faerie in many versions of the game, there is no real magic to them, if you know what I mean. There is nothing about them that brings them to life. There are few, if any, Faerie Lords and Ladies, and no reasons for them to do what they do. This is a book I'll come back to for more ideas and certainly more names and ways to use them.

Next time: Here there be Dragons! (for real this time)

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Enchanted World: The Lore of Love

The Enchanted World: The Lore of Love
 I saw an online conversation in an old-school RPG group a bit ago. This guy was boasting that his games never had romance, sexuality, or anything at all like that. My first thought was, "How sad," and my next immediate thought was, "How boring his games must be!"

Without the stories and contributions of love and romance or just plain good old-fashioned sex, we would loose most of the works of Shakespeare, many of the Greek myths, and practically all of modern music. Ancient Greeks to Motzart's Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte, to "Silly love songs" by Paul McCartney to most of Taylor Swift's catalog. Love just might make the world go 'round.

That is the topic of today's The Enchanted World. I mentioned before that I am not going in publication order, save for the first, and instead going to post the titles that have some connection with when I post them. Today is February 14th, Valentine's Day, so let's look at Love...Enchanted World style. 

Lore of Love 

by Editors of Time-LIFE Books, 1987 (144 pages)
ISBN 0809452812, 0809452820 (US Editions)

This is a later one and does not have a single author. Tony Allen is listed as "text editor" and Ellen Dupont is listed as "staff writer." Of note, in the US, the cover is purple. In the UK, this book had a green cloth cover. 

Like the others in this series the art is a mix of newer pieces with a lot of classical ones. There are for example a lot of John William Waterhouse. The bibliography for this one is also rather impressive. I imagine that as they went on there were a lot more texts collected that they could reference.

Like Wizards and Witches, this one is divided into three larger sections. These can be roughly described as "Finding Love," "Love Gone Wrong" and "Keeping Love."   That's not a perfect match, but it will do.

Chapter One: Destiny's Playthings

Chapter One: Destiny's Playthings

This covers love as a shaper of destiny. The six stories here involve the gods getting involved with the love lives of mortals to some degree.  "A Groom for the Sea-Lord's Daughter," for example, tells about the fairest sea nymph of all, Thetis, and how she spurred the lust of both Poseidon and then Zeus, only to be given to a mortal Peleus because it was prophesized that her son would defeat his father. As an aside I noticed that Thetis' requests of Peleus are very much the same as we see in later mermaid and selkie tales of Northern Europe. 

Maiden's Visions

Tales of the problems when mortals try to avoid their fate abound as in "The God of Marriages" a Chinese tale of a man who sees his bride to be as a toddler and tries everything to avoid his fate, and just playing into it. Or the Indian tale of "A Love Forgotten" of two lovers reunited at last. 

Sometimes, love, though meant to be, is also tragic. Such is the tale of a German knight in "The Cursed Embrace" whose betrothed is already dead.

Chapter Two: Blighted Passions

Chapter Two: Blighted Passions

The story of love is not always about happy endings. Romeo and Juliet aside, there was Popocatepetl and his love Princess Iztaccíhuatl. When an army could not stop Popocatepetl the Jaguar Knight, his own spread lies about his death so they could possibly claim his bride. When she heard her love had died she died herself. When the Jaguar Knight returned and learned of her death and why, he killed all his men.

Across the ocean in Spain we are treated to the story of Don Juan and his ill-fated affairs. Of the tragedies of Narcissus, Daphne, and Thisbe of Ancient Greece. 

The Warlock's Comeuppance

Though not was all tragedy. There were times when love went wrong and it was comical. Such is the tale of the Warlock's Comeuppance. A warlock found a young women he wished to put a spell on, so he convinced his young Latin pupil to get three hairs from her head. The girl caught her brother trying to steal the hairs and instead gave him three hairs from their young heffer. The warlock performed his dark arts spell and soon had a lovesick cow following all over the town!

Chapter Three: True Love Triumphant

Chapter Three: True Love Triumphant

Of course the best tales are the ones where true love wins out over all odds. Tales like Aucassin and Nicolette the Saracen Maid. They were separated by wars, pirates, and separation of years. Or of Hiku, the Polynesian hero who was so brave he went to the underworld itself to find his lost love Kawelu.  Can your characters claim that? (Yeah. Mine can.)

I am a little surprised that the tale of Cupid and Psyche is not here, but maybe that one is so well known they dropped it in favor of these other stories.

Like all the ones I have read through so far, this one is wonderfully illustrated and amazingly researched. Combining the bibliography for all of these would provide a lifetime's worth of reading.  

This one might have fewer "game-related" details than others, but there is undoubtedly a treasure trove of ideas here. 

Next time: There is a land beyond the veil

Thursday, February 1, 2024

The Enchanted World: Wizards and Witches

The Enchanted World: Wizards and Witches
 Let's start this series with the book that has the most meaning to me and the first one in the series: Wizards and Witches. Fitting for Imbolc on Thursday really.

Overview of the Series

The Enchanted World books from Time-LIFE were a series of high-quality, hardcover books sent to you via mail from Time-LIFE subscription. The first one you got for free was Wizards and Witches. This also makes it the most common one and the one you can find in most secondary markets. Fortunately for me, it was also my favorite.  

Imagine, if you can, a time when one of the world's largest publishers decided to invest in a series of books (21 in total) filled with full-color art, cloth-bound covers, and access to some of the world's greatest libraries and scholars. Libraries like the Bodleian Library at Oxford, Cambridge Library, and the London Library. Scholars like Prof. Tristram Potter Coffin (Chief Series Consultant),  Ellen Phillips (Series Director and Editor), and Prog. Brendan Lehane (author of this volume).

Well, that time was 40 years ago, and the Enchanted World series sought to capitalize on the growing fascination with all things fantasy, not in a small part due to the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of collections of other folks' RPG books. It is no surprise when you see one or more of these books stuck in their mix of FRPGs.

Many of the books follow a similar pattern. Usually, 3-4 chapters of the book detail different aspects of the myths and folklore being covered. These are usually interspersed with some of the stories themselves or excerpts, as well as art. The art is often from classical sources or paintings depicting the stories or characters involved. There are also new pieces of art throughout. There are margin notes or marginalia with some other related tidbit of information. Each chapter ends with a longer story.

There is a bibliography, art credits, and some publication notes in the back.

These books were published around the world. Some of the European publications also had dust covers.

Wizards and Witches

by Brendan Lehane, 1984 (144 pages)
ISBN 0809452049, 0809452057 (US Editions)

This book is divided into three sections covering ancient wizards, wizards of the Middle Ages, and witches. There is quite a lot of art from Arthur Rackham here. 

Chapter One: Singers at the World's Dawn

Here, we begin with a tale of the old Finish wizard Väinämöinen and the young upstart Joukahainen in what could be considered a magical sing-off. The line between Bard and Wizard was very thin in ancient Finland. Thus it was when the world was young and youth could aspire to wizardry. We learn of other powerful names like Volga Vseslavich, Cathbad, Manannan Mac Lir, Taliesin, and, most well-known of all, Merlin. Not all were old men. Ceridwen, Circe, and Louhi were there too.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

The thesis here is that in those olden days magic was something people could aspire too, but few could truly master. We get snippets of stories of all these wizards and sorceresses, each playing into the next. It is somewhere between a bedtime story and an undergraduate survey of various wizards. In between we get longer stories, like the "Wizard of Kiev" and "The Welsh Enchanter's Fosterling."  All cover magic in a semi-forgotten age that seems to have one foot in history and another in mythology.

Chapter Two: Masters of Forbidden Arts

If the last chapter dealt with magical using men and women as heroes as often as villains, then this chapter leaves no ambiguity on where it sees (or rather history sees) the wizard of the Middle Ages. Here the singing battles of Bard-Wizards are given way to the academic study of magic in dusty tomes of forgotten lore and those who sell their very soul for power. We encounter the likes of Roger Bacon (1219-1292), Oxford Scholar, Empirical Philosopher, Franciscan friar, and dabbler in magic. There is even a bit on Michel de Nostredame (1503-1566) aka Nostradamus. But for the most part we see magic going from a force of nature in a world where the rules are not yet set in stone, to men (for the most part) partaking in deals with demonic or devilish figures for power. All it takes is their soul.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

We spend quite a bit of time on the legend of Faust and his deal with Mephistopheles. In fact, this one is so set into our vernacular that a "Faustian Deal" hardly needs any explanations. 

Given the time period, there is also a wonderful overview of the Tarot and its origins with some rather fantastic art. 

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

But most of all I loved the "Legions of the Night" section with its coverage of Demons. The descriptions of just the few here and the art by Louis Le Breton from the Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy were enough to make me want even more strange demons in my game. More so since it featured Astaroth. A demon that already fascinated me from when I first saw him in Best of Dragon II.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

Harry Clarke's illustrations of Mephistopheles should be how the devil appears all the time. 

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

Along with the Tarot, there is some coverage on astrology. This predates the Middle Ages by, well, thousands of years really, but there was new keen importance on it at this time. 

Chapter Three: The Shadowy Sisterhood

Ah. Here are my witches. We get some cover on what could be called Folk Magic or Hedge Witchery, on how these natural healers were initially an important part of everyday life. The magic was simpler and more in tune with nature.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

Throughout this chapter, the "helpers" of witches are mentioned. We call them Familiars. Up first is the hare, which they claim (and back up) was closer to the witch than the black cat we associate with today. This reminds me that rabbits and hares should really feature more in my games. The others include spiders, ravens and crows, cats, snakes, and toads, which they claim as one of the first animals to be associated with witches. I have read that before as well.

As the chapter professes the old Black Magic vs. White Magic trope appears. While less in favor today among Real WitchesTM (remember the ads with Litney Burns?) it is an important distinction of the time. It is almost the same divide as the "Natural" vs. "Academic" wizards of the first two chapters, really. 

There are various stories, mostly about how someone was suspected of witchcraft and what happened. But also the machinations of witches in general. 

There is a section flight and witches and how brooms were not used at first, but rather things like butter churns and distaffs. I even added distaffs to my games in part because of this connection. 

Our story at the end of this chapter is a classic tale of Baba Yaga and Vasilsa the Fair. Again featuring amazing artwork, this time right from Vasilisa the Beautiful by Ivan Bilibin.

Use in FRPGs

With so many books out there, there is no end to the ideas they can generate. Upfront, it should be noted there is nothing "new" here. The stories, the folklore, and even a lot of the art are things we have all seen before. The stories of wizards like Väinämöinen, Merlin, Faust, and Circe should all be known to anyone who has a passing interest in fantasy and, indeed, to anyone who has played FRPGs. But that is not where their value lies. These books do have tidbits that the causal pursuer of these tales would not know, and maybe even some for the more advanced students.

To be sure, while there is academic rigor here, these are not textbooks. But they are educational.

Reading these tales one could use them as the basis for other characters. There is more than just a little bit of Taliesin in my own Phygora, for example. These tales, often set right on top of each other, can give the reader and player plenty of means of comparison. 

This book also makes good arguments for the separation between, say, Wizards, Warlocks, and Witches (as represented by the three chapters) but less of an argument on where bards fit in. Are Taliesin and Väinämöinen wizards or bards, for example? It is not up to this book to decide but rather the reader.

If you are playing a game like D&D that lives in a different world, then ideas abound. I mean we know Gygax, Arneson and the early designers of the game were very much into folklore and mythology. Those elements are the hook for more of these, beyond the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths we were all raised on.  Like any good synthesis, it should make you want to check out the primary stories these are all from.  If you are playing a Medieval game, say Chivalry & Sorcery or Pendragon, then this is practically a sourcebook for you. I would even say it is a must-have for a Mage: Dark Ages or Mage: Sorcerers Crusade game.

Wizards & Witches


I can't let it go unsaid, even if it is obvious, but this book profoundly affected me when it was out. While I did not own my own copy until much later on, I had friends that had it. Since this was the first of the series, many people had it. The art in this book set the feel for how I wanted my Witch class books to look. I have since included the art of Arthur Rackham and the Pre-Raphelites in many of my books. This was one of the books that made me want a witch book for D&D. When none showed in the stores I took it on myself to make it. I do know that my first encounter with the "Black School" of the Scholomance was from this book.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

While I can't say with any certainty other than the timeline, this book was likely a contributing factor to one of my favorite themes in games; Pagans vs. Christians and how magic would later be demonized by the Church.

This series is lovely, and each book, while filled with things I already knew, also has many things I did not. 

My only real complaint? At 12.25" x 9", they just don't fit nicely into a standard bookcase.

Next Time: What is love?

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

2024 The Enchanted World

 2024 is not just the 50th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, it is the 40th Anniversary of the Time-Life series The Enchanted World.  A series that really owes its own existence to D&D and the rise of Fantasy in the 1980s.

Time-Life The Enchanted World

I spent a few years acquiring a full set of these wonderful books, and I will spend the year covering them. I am not going to go in order because really, there is no order required to read them. I will likely choose relevant ones for the day or week I post them (Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas).

Here are all the books I am covering. This is the publication order. 

  • Wizards and Witches (1984, ISBN 0809452049, 0809452057)  
  • Dragons (1984, ISBN 0809452081, 080945209X)  
  • Fairies and Elves (1984, ISBN 080945212X, 0809452138) 
  • Ghosts (1984, ISBN 0809452162, 0809452170)  
  • Legends of Valor (1984, ISBN 0809452200, 0809452219)  
  • Night Creatures (1985, ISBN 0809452332, 0809452340)
  • Water Spirits (1985, ISBN 0809452456, 0809452464)
  • Magical Beasts (1985, ISBN 0809452294, 0809452308)
  • Dwarfs (1985, ISBN 0809452243, 0809452251) 
  • Spells and Bindings (1985, ISBN 0809452413, 0809452421)
  • Giants and Ogres (1985, ISBN 0809452375, 0809452383)
  • Seekers and Saviors (1986, ISBN 0809452499, 0809452502)
  • Fabled Lands (1986, ISBN 0809452537, 0809452545)
  • Book of Christmas (1986, ISBN 0809452618, 0809452626)
  • Fall of Camelot (1986, ISBN 080945257X, 0809452588)
  • Magical Justice (1986, ISBN 0809452693, 0809452707)
  • Lore of Love (1987, ISBN 0809452812, 0809452820)
  • The Book of Beginnings (1986, ISBN 0809452650, 0809452669)
  • Tales of Terror (1987, ISBN 0809452774, 0809452782)
  • The Secret Arts (1987, ISBN 0809452855, 0809452863)
  • Gods and Goddesses (1987, ISBN 0809452731, 080945274X)

I will talk about the books, some of their background, and the stories they have. I'll also talk about how to use these in your Fantasy RPG games, whether that game is D&D, Castles & Crusades, Chivalry & Sorcery, or Wasted Lands.

So, just like 1984, here are some ads to get you excited for these books!

A lot of us remember these best from the ads in Dragon Magazine.

Time-Life Books The Enchanted World ad

Time-Life Books The Enchanted World ad

Time-Life Books The Enchanted World ad

And the TV ads!

Litney Burns, the clairvoyant from ads is still around!

There were also some great TV spots with horror icon Vincent Price.

Really looking forward to this series. Hope you are too.