A tribute to great wizards (and witches)

Wizards and witches have long appeared in popular fiction and on screen. The appeal is obvious: Who hasn't wanted to be able to simply wave a wand, recite a spell and effect a magical change on some person, object or situation?

Harry Potter and the other denizens of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world repopularized the genre with a clear-cut story of good versus evil.

To mark the seventh film in the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1," we pay tribute to sorcerers who have enchanted us.

Merlin and Morgan

Since Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his "Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain)" in the 1130s, the wizard Merlin and King Arthur's magical half-sister Morgan le Fay have been seen as the supernatural powers behind Arthur's throne, contending on many levels. Merlin's legend has had far more staying power than Morgan's; perhaps the idea of a strong, beautiful enchantress was just too threatening.

Nicholas Flamel

In the world of Harry Potter and other fantasies (including Michael Scott's six-book fantasy series "The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel"), he invented the philosopher's stone, which changes lead into gold. In real life, from the early 1330s to about 1418, he was a scrivener and alchemist, and a devout churchgoer.


Gandalf and colleagues from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" - Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White and Radagast the Brown - have oversight duties in Middle Earth. Gandalf is (unaccountably, from Saruman's perspective) fond of hobbits, and he and Saruman both move large chunks of plot, with and without the use of magic. Gandalf, rather like Tolkien himself, enjoys a pint and a pipe, and exhibits a puckish sense of humor.

Potter wizards

Harry Potter, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape et al are some of the liveliest and most distinctive ever penned. Lots of mystery surrounds most wizards, but not Harry and the other students at Hogwarts: talent isn't worth much if you don't work to develop it. Over the course of seven novels Harry comes to grips with his parents' deaths and their failings, faces down enormous evil and embraces amazing good, while growing up and finding his way in a world that's unusually fraught.

Wizard of Oz

The man behind the curtain has superior technology and great PR, but he's not magical at all - he's from Kansas. His enemy, the Wicked Witch of the West, really is magical, but a kid with a bucket of water brings her down.

The Sorcerer

First came Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's poem "Der Zauberlehrling," written in 1797; then came Paul Dukas' 1987 tone poem "L'apprenti sorcier." Then, in 1940, came "Fantasia," with the star power of Mickey Mouse as "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" to make the music and story popular around the world.

Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which

The characters from Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" are witches or angels or what? The ways in which they work and help Meg, her little brother Charles Wallace and Calvin are clearly magical - in a good way.

Don Herbert

Mr. Wizard, Don Herbert, host of the early TV show "Watch Mr. Wizard," wasn't a magician, but he performed science experiments that looked like wizardry and entertained a generation.

The Wizards of Waverly Place

The Disney Channel show explores the lives of a wizard family with three children who live not in a remote hinterland but in New York City.