Magic Wand is a fairly common SFF trope, made ever-so-more popular by Harry Potter.

What was the earliest published SFF work where the trope was used?


  • Wands are listed as a nearly-universal requirement for magic users to channel/focus their magic (e.g. doing magic without a wand may be possible but nobody or very few people are able to do so well). Specifically, this is about casting SPELLS (e.g. not potions, magic mushrooms or any other magical items/material that emit magic independently of the caster's effort at the time).
  • There's more than a small handful of magic users to use them. (E.g. most Merlin-lore wouldn't usually count since Merlin is typically the only human mage there, even if he does have a wand). Let's say 6+ or 10+, although I'd strongly prefer hundreds or more.
  • Ideally, this rule is explicitly specified in the work, by stating as an explicit rule, OR simply showing example of non-wanded mage not being able to cast spells which is explained as "because of a lack of a wand".
  • A wand is a small stick-like object, possibly but not exclusively made of wood
  • Clarke-esqie "Advanced technology is magic" is outside of scope - e.g., phasers or tricoders or sonic screwdrivers don't count.
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    @MacCooper - they would (e.g. Brothers Grimm) as long as they are subject to the criteria above. Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 17:32
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    @dvk - Bavmorda performs some pretty hefty magic with no need for a wand; youtu.be/AB6vUegT6Oc?t=32m45s
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 20:58
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    @DVK: I object to your response to @ Loong which caused him to delete. It's not off topic because: Obviously his answer doesn't fit the criteria of 'an SFF work', but this was a remarkably good -- and I consider to be correct -- answer! You can reasonably conclude that the notion of using a wand (rod) is so ancient that the OP's question doesn't really make sense. Nice job! Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 21:59
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    Too many criteria for me to bother writing an answer, but Faust
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 22:58
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    @WadCheber - I only read the tranlsation and that was back before USSR fell... but IIRC Faust didn't involve "There's more than a small handful of magic users to use them" part? Commented May 12, 2016 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


A famous early example would be Homer's The Odyssey. It was a wand that Circe used to turn Odysseus' men into pigs. I suspect this is the source of the trope since the story was published over 2,500 years ago and has been widely read throughout the history of western civilization.

There's convergence here with magic potions as well. An excerpt from book 10:

So he spoke, and they cried aloud, and called to her. And she straightway came forth and opened the bright doors, and bade them in; and all went with her in their folly. Only Eurylochus remained behind, for he suspected that there was a snare. She brought them in and made them sit on chairs and seats, and made for them a potion of cheese and barley meal and yellow honey with Pramnian wine; but in the food she mixed baneful drugs, that they might utterly forget their native land. Now when she had given them the potion, and they had drunk it off, then she presently smote them with her wand, and penned them in the sties. And they had the heads, and voice, and bristles, and shape of swine, but their minds remained unchanged even as before. So they were penned there weeping, and before them Circe flung mast and acorns, and the fruit of the cornel tree, to eat, such things as wallowing swine are wont to feed upon.

  • Sorry, this answer doesn't fit the question at all. It fails both criteria #1 ("Wands are listed as a nearly-universal requirement for magic users to channel/focus their magic") and criteria #2 *"There's more than a small handful of magic users to use them") Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 20:50

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