Tolkien is usually cited as the father of fantasy, but when you read his books the magic used in both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, isn't really what most of us today think of when we say magic and fantasy.

We mostly think of it along the lines of D&D; casting fireballs, summoning creatures from another plane, etc.

Even Harry Potter, if you read it closely, has more in common with the D&D style of magic than what we see in Tolkien's work.

I don't know if Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson could be the answer for while Dungeons and Dragons is popular, I don't know if it was popular enough to effect culture, to start using magic in the way we often see it used and displayed in modern day literature and pop-culture

So my question is who would you say is the father/fathers of our modern day perception and use of magic in modern day literature and pop-culture?

Was it Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson or was it some other work of fiction mainly responsible for the whole casting fireballs, summoning lightning or demons and other stuff?

1 Answer 1


Many sources

Gary Gygax lists a number of literary influences in an appendix to AD&D's Dungeon Master's Manual, including The Hobbit (he didn't like Lord of the Rings). Some of the more influencial titles are:

Jack Vance: The Dying Earth. Source of fire-and-forget spells, a lot of named spells including Prismatic Spray and Entombment, and weird magic items like Ioun Stones.

Poul Anderson: The Broken Sword. Source of armored clerics who can only use blunt weapons (as was the case in early D&D).

Various books by L. Sprague de Camp, including The Fallible Fiend, which has summoned demons (though that idea goes back to 1001 Tales of Arabian Nights).

The works of Lord Dunsany, source of a lot of the gods in D&D as well as Elven kingdoms.

Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser books, source of the Thieves Guild and various monsters, gods and other weirdness.

Michael Moorcock's multiverse of Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon, and more. Source of Law/Chaos dichotomy, a multiverse of similar worlds, sentient magic swords and other powerful magic items, strange monsters, and more.

Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, source of the barbarian class, evil sorcerers and all sorts of monsters.

Other influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Roger Zelazny, Leigh Brackett and Andre Norton.

In other words, D&D is a hodge-podge of inspiration from multiple sources. I can't say for certain from which source precisely the Fireball spell comes from.

  • AE. Mogensen "Various books by L. Sprague de Camp, including The Fallible Fiend, which has summoned demons (though that idea goes back to 1001 Tales of Arabian Nights)". Summoned demons or devils goes back at least as far as modern and medieval grimoires - spellbooks, popularized by James Blish in Black Easter (1968) a few years before dungeons and dragons.. -- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grimoire -- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Easter Apr 20, 2021 at 15:31
  • @M.A.Golding: 1001 Tales of Arabian Nights can be traced back to at least the early 8th century, when the central were first translated into Arabic from Indian and Persian tales, and hence may predate medieval grimoires. Also, Gygax mentions The Fallible Fiend (1973) as an influence, but has no mention of Black Easter. Apr 22, 2021 at 7:33

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