Even Magic Has Limits

When Simon hears about the Arcane Seal of Mordenkainen protecting the vault he and his fellow thieves are trying to break into, the wizard is about to hang up his magic robe. “Oh, pity. If the vault has Mordenkainen’s Seal, we’re not getting in. It’s impenetrable.”

“Can’t you just open it with magic?” his comrades ask him. “Okay, here we go. I hate how everyone thinks that you can solve any problem with magic. There are limits. This isn’t some bedtime story. This is the real world.”

The irony, of course, is that this is very much a bedtime story — because the above scene comes straight out of Dungeons & Dragons. But even in bedtime stories, magic has limits. Actually, why? Why can’t magic solve everything? Why can’t Harry just make Voldemort disappear? Why can’t Gandalf defeat Sauron with a single spell? And why can’t Simon open that vault without whining about it? Well, for one because then there wouldn’t be a tale to tell, but for another because, in magic as in life, nothing can solve everything. There is no universal remedy.

If you give a beggar ten million dollars, he’ll have to change a lot more than just his appearance. His mind is still his mind, and if he doesn’t adjust it to his new circumstances, he’ll soon be a beggar once more. In order for magic to truly capture us, it needs to have that same quality. It must leave some part of the challenge to us — and that’s why Simon must also adjust. To the Helm of Disjunction, that is. The one magical tool that can kind of, sort of get him into that vault — but only if the gang manages to find it. And he masters it. Which of course requires mastering himself.

In life as in magic, nothing can solve everything, but something can solve anything. There’s always another way, another tool, another detour one can take. Perhaps not to reach the same outcome. But to reach a satisfying, similar, sometimes entirely different but even better one? Somewhere out there, that path exists for any situation, and it almost always starts with changing something inside ourselves. Choosing to look for that path, to continue when all spells are at their end, that is real magic — and thankfully, that’s a kind of wizardry available even to mere mortals like us.