Worldbuilding Wednesday 7/21/21: Coriakin’s Magic Book (Narnia XXIII)


It was written, not printed; written in a clear, even hand, with thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes, very large, easier than print, and so beautiful that Lucy stared at it for a whole minute and forgot about reading it. The paper was crisp and smooth and a nice smell came from it; and in the margins, and round the big coloured capital letters at the beginning of each spell, there were pictures… the picture of the man with toothache was so lifelike that it would have set your own teeth aching if you looked at it too long, and the golden bees which were dotted all round the fourth spell looked for a moment as if they were really flying.

— from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This was another of my favorite parts from the Chronicles of Narnia: Lucy paging through the magician’s spellbook on the Island of the Dufflepuds. I love the way Lewis describes an illuminated manuscript here for the benefit of young readers who wouldn’t have seen one before, and a fresh, newly made illuminated manuscript at that. The pic above, from the Book of Hours, shows a bit of Medieval humor in having a clearly annoyed peasant woman sweeping all the leftover letters and putting them in a basket. It’s like a Monty Python Holy Grail animated sequence, but centuries before.

Lucy reads several spells in the book before finding the one she wants: one to capture a swarm of bees, one to relieve toothache and one to eradicate warts. All are vividly illustrated. These are harmless for the most part, and beneficial; but then there’s one which promises to make her beautiful “beyond the lot of mortals” that tempts her with pictures put into her mind where she outshines older sister Susan and causes wars between the countries of Narnia who are vying for her hand. This is the place in the Chronicles where the sisters’ rivalty is most made clear.

What other sorts of spells might Coriakin have had in his book? I’d say they were helpful, not very powerful, and kind of quirky. Where did these come from? My Twitter feed of course!


Spells from Coriakin’s Magic Book

Cockatrice Cushions:  These cursed pillows look comfy and inviting, but when someone flops down on them, they become hard as rock.

Collar Bull:  Stops a raging bull of any type and brings it under the control of the caster.

Collect Chimera Sadness:  Chimera tears are one of the most potent of magic items, and this spell enables them to be teleported directly from the monster’s eyes into the caster’s vial.

Dazzle Wasp(s):  Creates bright, dancing lights to confuse  wasp, or nest of wasps, from attacking.

Enhanced Whispering:  Enables the caster’s whisper to be heard by another up to 200’ away.

Fingers of the Minstrel:  Lets any amateur musician play as well as an experienced one.

Foxfeather:  Enables the caster to travel as lightly as a feather and silently as a fox in any forested terrain.

Herbscry:  A druid spell that lets the caster identify the useful medical properties of any herb unfamiliar to them.

Hilwartha’s Horned Whale:  Grows a narwhal-like ivory horn on the head of a whale, dolphin, or porpoise that ordinarily wouldn’t have one. The spell can be doubled or even tripled to grow multiple horns.

Isno’s Entertaining Breath:  Cast in cold weather, this enables the caster to sculpt their cold exhalations into amusing animated forms.

Marvelous Attractor:  The duration of this spell is very short, but anything the caster thinks of in that time will be attracted to them, within reason (it won’t pull the moon down from the sky, for example.)

Moonloose:  Releases a were-creature from the influence of the full moon for a few hours.

Muddy Glass:  Smears a thin layer of mud on glass windows so no one can see in or out.

Multiply Livestock:  Makes a group of farm animals appear up to ten times as numerous as it actually is.

Mutable Hound:  Cast only on dogs. It lets the mage change their breed, as many times as the caster wants, for the length of the spell.

Oceanic Messenger:  Commands any form of marine life to carry a brief message to the recipient, who must be in the same body of water.

Quick Digression:  Changes the direction of a conversation without any of the participants realizing.

Quicken Bean:  Makes beans sprout in a few seconds and start to grow.

Replicate Parakeet:  Creates a clone of any small parrot.

Sincard’s Sneezing Freedom:  Prevents a creature from sneezing for a set time.

Squeaker Exhaustion:  Anything that squeaks can be silenced with this spell: hinges, mice, dog toys, etc.

Starry Rain:  Gives raindrops the illusion of tiny falling stars in the region of the caster.

Sunshine’s Color-Changing Plum:  This useless spell makes a ripe plum cycle through purple to red to yellow to green.

Sweeten Mud:  Lets the caster derive as much refreshment from drinking mud as they would from sweet, pure water.

Veiled Willow:  Hides (makes invisible and undetectable) a willow tree of any size for the duration of the spell. Also any item made of willow wood.

Viral Hunger:  Always cast on a group of creatures. When one of them becomes hungry, all the others will follow. Variants include Viral Slumber and Viral Thirst.

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  1. […] Going back to Coriakin’s magic book, if you’d like to know what else was in it, I speculate here. […]

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