Most of the Magicians in the Xanth novels I've read to date are pretty decent folk. However, the only one called a "Good" Magician (as opposed to just "Magician") is Humphrey, who of the lot is the most ornery and cranky of all of them. So why is he called "Good Magician", instead of just "Magician"? Is it similar to giving someone a nickname that is somehow opposite of who they are?

I'm looking for an in-story explanation, or barring that a comment by the author.

  • One of the books talked about the difference between being "evil" and being "bad", with regards to Trent. The concept of what constitutes a "good" magician might have come up in that same conversation. It was one of the early books, like "A Spell for Chameleon" or "The Source of Magic". – JohnWinkelman Apr 8 '11 at 17:01
  • Yeah that was Spell for Chameleon, I think. But I don't recall any comparison to Humphrey. – morganpdx Apr 8 '11 at 17:16
  • 1
    He has a VERY good PR guy? – Jeff May 5 '11 at 19:53

I've been looking for a 'And that's when they started calling me 'The Good Magician', with no luck, but there's this from 'Question Quest"; one of his wives, 'Rose' had to wait for him... And he was named by title:

"Of a sort, dear. You will be excellently cared for, for you derive from the blood of the last legitimate King, as I do not. But you will be alone, until a good Magician comes to claim you and make you his queen of Xanth. That may be some time, unfortunately."

"Time? How long?" Rose was continuing to brighten, faintly. Good care? A good Magician to marry? That should be worth waiting for.

Earlier, he had another title, and the two tend to overlap:

Folk were calling me the Magician of Information, and both MareAnn and King Ebnez prevailed on me to hurt no feelings by disabusing them of this status.

Not the most conclusive, but, then, it's would be a simply way to give him the title, retroactively, since it's been in use since the first book. (Someone calling someone by a name or title, and it in effect BECOMING their name and/or title isn't exactly unusual for Piers Anthony, or a lot of authors, for that matter.)

EDIT -- Bah! Now I'm in for a long spate of reading; thinking back, I want to say he started being called that in response to another magician (like Trent, at the time) being called 'The Evil Magician. Oh, this is going to be a lot of reading...

  • I do remember the 'Evil Magician Trent' thing, that was back the very first book. Might be a good one to review! – morganpdx Jul 20 '12 at 19:06

The good magician title probably comes from the fact that everyone wants answers to their questions, and he'll usually provide the answers. He is good, in part, because he helps people find our the answers to their quests.

It's also probably related to the contrast of future kings. According to the History of Xanth, the next king after Humphrey was the Storm King, perhaps the worst in Xanth history. Therefore, people would remember the days when there was a good king, the Good Magician Humphrey.


I always thought that he was called that because, despite the fact that his ability to find the answers that people had questions for, of simple irony. He was a meanish little man who made it difficult for people to even ask their questions of him.

However, it would make sense from his point to develop a filtering mechanism to prevent everyone from simply relying on him for all answers. People need to make sure they have tried to determine the answers the best they can and exhaust other resources first.
Just my $.02

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