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7 Wizards... or are they all the same guy?

May 13, 2008
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We like our wizards to fit a certain mold. They seem to have the same characteristics in many of our classic adventure tales. A wizard trains or mentors the young protagonist (to whom he is not related), has knowledge unavailable to the general public which was passed down from long ago, uses supernatural powers, sports a white beard (mainly to show his advanced age), and despite his age, he's still good in a fight.

Merlin

Merlin the Magician is the oldest of the archetype. The character dates back centuries, from the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth. The version we know best was taken from T.H. White's book The Once and Future King, which was the source material for Camelot and The Sword in the Stone. The other wizards follow in Merlin's footsteps.
Mentors: Arthur, who became King of Britain.
Knowledge: More educated than anyone around him.
Supernatural powers: Engineered Arthur's conception by sorcery, can see remotely, prophesied the outcome of various battles and Arthur's actions.
White beard: Yes.
Fights: Usually by magic only, although in some movie versions he can swing a sword with the best of them.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

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Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) was a Jedi Master who became a hermit on the planet Tattooine in order to hide from the Empire and keep an eye on Luke Skywalker. He trained the young hero in the use of The Force when they were brought together by the droid R2D2. His role in training Luke was passed to the much older Yoda upon Obi-Wan's death.
Mentors: Anakin and Luke Skywalker. He was more successful the second time around, which goes to show that older wizards are better.
Knowledge: Jedi training.
Supernatural powers: Skillful use of The Force ("These are not the droids you're looking for.")
White beard: Yes, in episode four.
Fights: He was a master with the lightsaber, but could not bring himself to kill Darth Vader.

Gandalf

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Gandalf the Gray (Sir Ian McKellen) made it his life's mission to rid Middle Earth of the evil influence of Sauron and the Rings of Power. Along the way, he advised various entities and brought them together to reclaim their lands.
Mentors: Frodo, Aragorn, and their comrades.
Knowledge: The entire history of Middle Earth, plus a limited ability to see the future.
Supernatural powers: Plenty, including returning from the dead.
White beard: Yes, although it was gray early in the saga.
Fights: Fearlessly, on horseback or on foot.

Dumbledore

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Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Mentors: Harry Potter and other students at Hogwarts School.
Knowledge: Was educated at Hogwarts himself.
Supernatural powers: Producing fire, invisibility, various spells.
White beard: Yes.
Fights: He spent years battling Grindelwald and Voldemort by various magical means, most often with conjured fire.

Miyagi

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Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) trained The Karate Kid by getting his household chores done ("Wax on; wax off"). He's a master at what he knows, and bluffs his way convincingly through anything he doesn't know.
Mentors: Daniel Larusso.
Knowledge: Ancient martial arts techniques, zen philosophy, and a trained poker face.
Supernatural powers: Only a magical healing touch, which was enough to save the day.
White beard: Just the minimum requirement.
Fights: Whipped five teenage black belts in 30 seconds.

Rafiki

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You don't have to be human to be a wizard. Rafiki the monkey shaman kept an eye on the pride in The Lion King.
Mentors: He wasn't a long-term teacher, but he set Simba straight on how to live his life. Afterward, he became an advisor to the lion king.
Knowledge: He is the philosopher of the animal kingdom.
Supernatural powers: Could see remotely by gazing at feathers.
White beard: Yes.
Fights: The hyenas with his staff.

Santa Claus

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The word wizard isn't normally applied to Santa, but he fits the profile, with the exception of mentoring the protagonist. No one upstages Santa Claus!
Mentors: Nobody in particular, but he won't bring you toys unless you are a good girl or boy. That's a powerful incentive to behave.
Knowledge: He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you're awake.
Supernatural powers: Drives flying reindeer, packs amazing amounts of gifts, rises up chimneys, and eats tons of cookies.
White beard: In abundance.
Fights: He prefers not to, but was arrested for assault in Miracle on 34th Street, and saved the day in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Curiously, the character who actually uses the title Wizard (in The Wizard of Oz) doesn't display any of these characteristics! There are no doubt other characters who do fit this same profile. Can you add more to the list?

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This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
April 30, 2017
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As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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ISSIKI JAPAN Professional 8 Inch Chef's Knife, High Carbon Stainless Steel, Sharp Cutlery, Ergonomic Handlefor $29.99 (list price $125.00)

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Oster TSSTTRJBG1 Jelly Bean 2-Slice Toaster, Grey for $29.99 (list price $34.99)

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Stainless Steel Kitchen Funnel with Removable Strainer/Filter for Essential/Cooking Oils, Flask Funnel for Transferring of Liquid, Fluid, Dry Ingredients & Powder, 5- Inch,Silver - HOXHA for $9.98 (list price $23.68)

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Arabica Coffee Scrub 15 oz, Anjou Body Scrub with Honey, Sea Salt, VB, VE for $8.99 (list price $35.99)

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Gillette Series 3X Action Shave Gel, Sensitive, 7 Ounce (Pack of 6) for $12.48 (list price $23.94)

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Tweezerman LTD Stainless Steel Mini Slant Tweezer (Colors May Vary) for $9.19 (list price $14.00)

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When the FBI Went After Mad Magazine
April 29, 2017
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Warner Bros., IStock

In a memo dated November 30, 1957, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified as “A. Jones” raised an issue of critical importance: "Several complaints to the Bureau have been made concerning the 'Mad' comic book [sic], which at one time presented the horror of war to readers."

Attached to the document were pages taken from a recent issue of Mad that featured a tongue-in-cheek game about draft dodging. Players who earned such status were advised to write to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and request a membership card certifying themselves as a “full-fledged draft dodger.” At least three readers, the agent reported, did exactly that.

Mad, of course, was the wildly popular satirical magazine that was reaching upwards of a million readers every other month. Published by William Gaines, who had already gotten into some trouble with Congress when he was called to testify about his gruesome horror comics in 1954, Mad lampooned everyone and everything. But in name-checking the notoriously humorless Hoover, Gaines had invited the wrong kind of attention.

The memo got several facts incorrect: Mad had switched from a comic book to a magazine format in 1955, and it was Gaines’ E.C. Comics that had “presented the horror of war” in other titles. Despite getting these crucial pieces of information wrong, Jones didn’t hesitate to editorialize: "It is also of interest to note that…it is rather unfunny.”

The agent recommended the Bureau’s New York offices “make contact” with Mad’s headquarters to “advise them of our displeasure” and to make sure “that there be no repetition of such misuse of the Director’s name.”

Less than a week later, the Feds entered the hallowed hallways patrolled by Alfred E. Neuman. Their New York office would later report to Hoover directly that they had met with John Putnam, the magazine’s art director. (Conveniently, Gaines was not in that day.) Putnam told the agents he regretted the magazine using Hoover’s name and that nothing malicious was intended:

Putnam said that the use of the membership card and the name and address of the Director at the end of the game was referred to in their business as a 'gag' or 'kicker' in the same way that a comedian like Bob Hope or Milton Berle might use it.

Putnam swore that Mad would never again take Hoover’s name in vain; Gaines sent off a letter of sincere apology to the Director.

The Smoking Gun

Just two years later, in January 1960, Agent A. Jones was forced to file a second notice about the shenanigans at Mad. A recent issue had made not one, but two derogatory mentions of Hoover, including one in which he is blatantly and disrespectfully portrayed as being associated with a vacuum cleaner, “The Honorable J. Edgar Electrolux”:  

Obviously, Gaines was insincere in this promise…and has again placed the Director in a position of ridicule…it is felt we should contact Gaines…and firmly and severely admonish them concerning our displeasure…

It was by now clear Mad was not only polluting young minds, but that Gaines had absolutely no regard for the honorable Hoover’s position.

In June 1961, the FBI’s worst fears had been realized. Detailing an investigation into a Seattle-area extortion attempt led to the following:

Investigation … resulted in gaining admissions from the victim’s 12-year-old son and an 11-year-old companion that they had gotten the idea of preparing an extortion letter after reading the June issue of 'Mad' magazine.   

Working in concert with the Buffalo field office, the FBI determined another letter had been sent by a young boy demanding money in the style of a recent issue’s extortion advice. And there was a third under review that was sent to the agent of some professional wrestlers.

Mad was quickly becoming the scourge of the federal government. The FBI suggested the magazine be brought to the attention of the Attorney General for “instructing [readers] to deliberately violate the Federal Law.” They tried reaching out to Gaines, who was on vacation. (Time and again, Gaines simply not being in the office when called upon seemed to confound the FBI.)

Agent A. Jones, having exhausted all attempts to reason with these irresponsible anarchists, filed one last memo:

Despite assurances, they have continued to publish slurring remarks about the Bureau. In view of this situation, it was deemed useless to protest all such irresponsible remarks to a magazine of this poor judgment and capriciousness … we will have to wait and see if our action will result in increased discretion by this publication.

Poor A. Jones was unable to put an end to Mad’s reign of terror. But the magazine redeemed itself somewhat. In the 1970s, when the Bureau was trying to suppress the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, an agent suggested they copy and distribute a sticker from the magazine that read, “Support Mental Illness—Join the Klan!”

Hoover said no.

Additional Sources:
The Smoking Gun.

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