Saturday, June 15, 2019

StorySpotting: A girl, a desert, a lizard (The Magicians)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

I am doubling down on The Magicians this week, since I have been binge-watching season 4. As far as plotting and character development goes, this season has probably been the best.

Where was the story spotted?

The Magicians, season 4, episode 10 (All that hard, glossy armor)

What happens?

Margo is (self-)exiled from her kingdom, and sets out into the desert on a quest to find a magic weapon. In her satchel she carries her very own Lizard of Destiny, which is supposed to reveal her future, except it is stubbornly quiet. Lost in the desert, Margo licks the lizard out of thirst and starts hallucinating (this is a musical episode). Eventually, she ends up in a village plagued by demons, solves the mystery of where they come from and what they want, and restores the women of the village to their deserved place of power.

What's the story?

There is an Algerian folktale called Aicha's tasks on earth - although I usually tell it with the more exciting title of Aicha the Demonhunter. It is about a strong and capable young woman who defeats a man-eating ghoul, rejects the advances of a cowardly prince, and learns the secrets of geomancy (reading the future from sand). While killing he ghoul, a splinter of the monster's bone embeds itself in Aicha's skin, and with it comes a curse: she has to leave her home and keep wandering. Aicha turns the curse to her advantage: she travels from city to city, defeating monsters as she goes along.
In one version of the story, she is accompanied by a lizard-like creature that represents the curse and clings to her shoulder. Eventually, Aicha ends up in a dense forest, and keeps riding through it until the lizard is scraped off of her, and the curse is broken. Then she returns to the kingdoms she saved, and becomes a powerful queen.

(I included this story in my folktale collection, Tales of Superhuman Powers, under Future Sight)


This was probably just a merry coincidence, rather than a conscious folktale reference, but the imagery of the magician queen, the magical lizard, and the demon-hunting desert quest were still delightfully familiar.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds quite a close fit. Except for licking that lizard. That is always a bad idea.