Q&A

Do the Mages in My Story Count as Oppressed Mages?

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Hey, Mythcreants, I’m planning a new story, and I’d like to know if it falls into the “oppressed mages” trope or not.

Here’s the situation. A powerful empire has recently conquered a small tribe on its border. Both groups practice necromancy as their main form of magic, but they have different rules and taboos. For the empire, animating dead flesh is totally acceptable, but summoning a dead person’s spirit is forbidden in most circumstances. For the tribe, calling on a dead person’s spirit is normal and an important part of their rituals, but animating dead flesh is a big no-no.

I’m imagining that the empire persecutes the tribe, particularly the tribes mages, because they practice what the empire considers to be forbidden magic. This is also at least partly a religious matter, as the magic of both groups is strongly tied to their beliefs, and the imperial religion would very much like to convert the tribe.

Does this count as oppressed mages, and is there anything else I should be careful of?

-Anon

Hey Anon, great to hear from you!

From what you told me, this does not at all sound like an oppressed mages premise. The defining feature of oppressed mages is that people are persecuted specifically for having magic, usually by those without magic.

That doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here. Instead, you have a political conflict where a powerful empire has conquered a less powerful group and is now forcing their beliefs on that group. The imperials go after the conquered leaders not because they hate magic, but because they know the leaders have the greatest capacity to resist.   

This sort of thing is all too common in history. Christian missionaries would often target non-Christian priests not because Christians hated religious leaders, but because it was easier to convert people if their leaders were taken out of the picture.

Also, can I just say this sounds like a super cool premise for a story? I am really into this dynamic between one group that animates the flesh while shunning the spirit and another group that does the opposite. Fantastic theming there.

One thing to consider, if you haven’t already: what underlying conflict is driving this fight over magical beliefs? Since religion is the clear parallel, this is good to keep in mind. Historically, religion was almost always a cover for conflicts over more tangible resources, even if the people involved were totally sincere in their faith.

For example, most soldiers in the First Crusade absolutely believed they were reclaiming the Holy Land for Christ. When they said “deus vult,” they meant it. However, the crusade was only launched in the first place because powerful people saw something to gain. The Byzantine Empire saw a chance to retake lost territory. The Pope saw a chance to reduce conflict between Christian states (by reducing the supply of armed men) and to legitimize himself. European lords, especially the Normans, saw a chance to carve out new kingdoms for themselves.

In your story, the conflict could be a lot simpler. The empire might just want the land of this other group, for economic or strategic value, and assimilating them into the imperial religion is an important step in that process. That’s just one possibility, but it’s good to have in the back of your mind, whatever you come up with.

As for other problematic content, nothing you’ve told me is bringing up any red flags. One thing to keep in mind is that readers are very likely to think that summoning a person’s spirit or consciousness should require consent, while opinions will be split over the use of a person’s body after death. The spirit is clearly “alive” for lack of a better term, forcing it to do things would be a major jerk move. Meanwhile, whether a person retains rights to their corpse after death is a lot more divisive.

However, it sounds like the persecuted group does get consent when they work with spirits, or at least they’re supposed to, so that’s probably not going to be a problem.

Good luck with your story, it sounds awesome!

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Comments

  1. Matt

    That does sound like an awesome idea, and it doesn’t seem like an oppressed mages situation to me. I hope this gets published so I can check it out.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Me too! I am way into it.

      • trinidar

        in my story, there is a solar system with 64 stars, 2,304 earth sized planets, 320 gas giants full of helium 3, a Asteroid filled Oort cloud outside the system. as well as 72 planets in the center orbiting an intermediate black hole with several suns to keep them warm adding up to 2,376 planets in this system. The system looks like a giant circle with 4 circles in the edges equally spaced, with each circle having 16 stars and adding up to 64 with a black hole in the center of the giant one. In the edge(the 2,304 planets) they are ruled by 96 NON-HUMAN empires who each control 24 planets as the humans dominate the 144 planets in the center. When mankind came to the system after an artilect(artificial intelligence) war wiped out their planet, they went to this strangely designed star system), they uplifted the native alien animal population as cheap labor and put them in a state of indentured servitude in their vast terraforming projects. But these non humans rebelled and drove mankind to the central planets where the human race became angry and bitter at their lost empire despite still being the most powerful faction in the system thanks to control of 144 planets. As human politicians use the fear of those non humans in the rim as pretext to take votes from anxious humans. The new empires formed in the rim are tense as trading between humanity and non humans are unfair and neo-colonial. And some are suffering from regime change attacks from the asteroid filled Oort cloud, where a new superpower in the form of the Ringworld guild(O’Neill colonies who are populated by cyborgs) needs helium 3 to build their vast empire as the new superpower in the block. The setting is complex and vast as 7 self contained complex stories are interwoven into one epic novel that looks like a phone book.

        thoughts on the setting?

        https://planetplanet.net/2016/04/13/building-the-ultimate-solar-system-part-6-multiple-star-systems/

        what do you think of my setting, About human colonialism and indentured servitude of the non humans they created?

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