Magic in the land of Prydain was typically called enchantment. It was both 1) a supernatural power; and 2) the art of producing an effect through the use of incantation, ritual, or the evocation of enchanted items.
Those who used magic were usually called enchanters and enchantresses. Alternate titles include wizards, witches, sorcerers and sorceresses; however, these latter terms seem to have carried a negative or evil connotation, while enchanter/-tress seemed to be morally neutral.
Divisions of Magic
At least seven varieties of enchantment can be identified in Prydain. The divisions are never spelled out in the text of The Chronicles of Prydain, and it remains unknown whether these classifications were intended by the author, or whether they were all just different manifestations of the same power. Nonetheless the divisions are useful for studying the Chronicles.
- Protective -- Guards and wards.
- Prophetic -- Insight and foresight.
- Transforming -- Changing one thing into another.
- Bewitching -- Controlling a person's mind or spirit.
- Bonding -- Forming an unbreakable pact.
- Assistant -- Helpful and burden-lightening.
- Conjuring -- Summoning creatures or objects.
Protective MagicDallben used protective magic on Caer Dallben in the form of a wall of flames that would both deter intruders, and destroy an attacker if the enchanter were killed. Protective magic was also placed on The Book of Three to keep anyone from reading it, or even from touching it, with a similar effect as the wards placed on Caer Dallben (though it only blistered Taran's fingers).
Protective magic was also employed to hide the spells in the Book of Llyr from any eyes save those of a daughter of the House of Llyr. The scabbard and the sword Dyrnwyn, both forged by legendary ironsmith Govannion the Lame, were imbued with protective magic to keep the unworthy from drawing the blade. Lightning and fire would injure or destroy the ignoble who tried to unsheathe the flaming sword. The Iron Crown of Annuvin used a similar, if more ghoulish, enchantment.
Prophetic MagicHen Wen and the Letter Sticks which Dallben placed in front of her were both examples of prophecy, as were the contents of The Book of Three. So powerful was this talent that the Horned King himself sought Hen in order to benefit from her messages.
In a sense, Fflewddur's Harp was also prophetic, or at least clairvoyant, since it possessed knowledge of the truthfulness of a given statement, and communicated that knowledge through its (breaking) strings.
Transforming MagicFair Folk embedded in The Crescent Moon of Llyr, which Morda used to change even the Fair Folk into animals of the forest. The Fair Folk also had stones which would prevent their keepers from aging, along with any living thing around them from growing -- including crops, livestock and teething babies!
Gwydion employed transforming magic to change a net of woven grass into a huge, thick-stranded spider web which he cast against assailants -- a trick also attempted by Princess Eilonwy from the shaft of an arrow. Achren, too, knew this enchantment.
Transformation was a key power of Arawn Death-Lord, who took different guises to deceive the men of Prydain or to attack in the shape of another creature. Yet this potent skill was also his downfall, for when he took a guise he assumed its weaknesses as well. It is likely that the power of the Black Cauldron itself was transforming magic, since it changed the dead into the deathless warriors called Cauldron-Born. It may also account for the supernatural skills of the Huntsmen of Annuvin, who were fleeter of foot than normal men, and whose strength and skill increased for every member of their group who perished. Both the Cauldron-Born and the Huntsmen were linked to Arawn through bonding magic, as well (see below).
Achren may also have used transforming magic to shatter Gwydion's gold-pommeled sword.
Bewitching MagicCaer Colur. Though uncertain, this power may also have been used to ensure total, unquestioningly loyalty from Arawn's Cauldron-Born and Huntsmen.
On a lighter note, the magic of Fflewddur's Harp may have had a bewitching effect on some, including Llyan, who fell in love with Fflewddur after she fell under its spell.
Bonding magic had a more positive side as well; Taran's Battle Horn -- the last treasure of Caer Colur -- summoned the Fair Folk to service.
The jewel set in the Crescent Moon of Llyr was claimed by Angharad to "lighten burdens and ease harsh tasks". Morda employed it, after years of study and practice with the magical gemstone, to raise the wall of thorns encircling his abode, and to reduce timber to twigs. He also used it as a transformative device (see above). This indicates that perhaps the divisions of magic were mutable and fluid.
Conjuration was the act of summoning creatures or objects to serve the ends of the conjurer. Grimgower and Gildas both used this variety of magic to woo the Princess Angharad, though she remained unimpressed with either. Grimgower summoned hideous monsters from his own imagination, scaled and fire-breathing creatures which responded to his commands (possibly through the use of some Bonding spell). Gildas conjured inky darkness and, later, a blizzard, and offered to create a magnificent feast out of thin air. All of these enchantments the Princess eschewed as impractical, saying she much preferred the animals of the forest to Grimgower's snarling abominations; as to darkness she raised the point that one might simply wait for night to fall, and with it, moon and stars would come in all their natural splendor. Furthermore, she was quite happy with the household cook!
So Angharad questioned the practicality of magic itself, for to her its effects seemed a pale mockery of nature. In this way she prefigured the coming end of enchantment in Prydain, which, with the passing of the Sons of Don back to the Summer Country and the withdrawal of the Fair Folk into their cavernous kingdom, heralded the age of human endeavor which would begin with the reign of High King Taran and his Queen, Eilonwy.