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In most fantasy series, if the resident spellcaster isn't a long-white bearded Merlin type, or a Vain Sorceress, then they're probably reminiscent of a non-European culture. Part of this is Positive Discrimination. After all, if magic is that world's equivalent of science, somebody particularly adept at it is The Smart Guy. Also, many African and Asian cultures were already advanced while Europe was just getting out of the hunter-gatherer phase. On the other hand, it becomes something of a cultural Flanderization, reinforces stereotypes of non-whites having some mystical nature, and may evoke a sense of the hero being full of valor and vigor, while the darker skinned spellcaster is a distant Squishy Wizard.

Common in sword and sorcery settings, though in Westerns, Native Americans will fill the mystic slot. Japanese works often use white people or Chinese for this role, but the principle is the same.

Not to be confused with Magical Negro, which normally doesn't involve actual sorcery. Often results in Religion Is Magic.

Examples of Ethnic Magician include:


Anime and Manga

  • Mohammed Avdol from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure, an appropriately dressed Egyptian fortune teller who introduces the main cast to the concept of a Stand. His own stand, appropriately enough, is named Magician's Red and gives him power over flame.
  • May and Ling from Fullmetal Alchemist are from Xing, the setting's equivalent of China.
  • Mahajarama from Rockman EXE practices "yoga magic", is a master of disguise, and operates the Merlin-esque Magicman.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima features Western, Hermetic Magic-using magi interacting with Eastern, Onmyodo-using ones, thus managing to fulfill this trope from two cultural perspectives.
  • When Ranma from Ranma One Half needs esoteric lore, he goes to Cologne, an unspeakably ancient Chinese wisewoman.
  • Another manga by Rumiko Takahashi: Urusei Yatsura features Tsubame Ozono, Sakura's boyfriend, who is a practitioner of Western black magic. He is involved in a fight with Sakura's uncle Cherry, and while Cherry uses Obake to do his work, Tsubame summons Western creatures, including a Gorgon and Frankenstein's Monster.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, Clow Reed is famous for merging Eastern and Western magic styles, because his father was British and his mother was Chinese.
  • In the Genzo extra, the Big Bad Genzaemon mentions the use of sorcery "from the western lands".


Comic Books

  • Nico of Runaways is a Japanese Perky Goth witch.
    • Nico's parents as well, but although they're all ethnically Japanese, they're still markedly "normal" middle class Americans.
    • Arguably a subversion. Nico's family's powers have nothing to do with Japanese culture at all and are in fact closer to European styled magic in form and function.
  • Marvel Comics has Jericho Drumm, a Haitian who trained as a psychologist in America and returned to Haiti to become a houngan called Brother Voodoo. He succeeded Doctor Strange as Sorcerer Supreme.
    • Strange's own tutor in magic was a Tibetan Chinese man called the Ancient One.


Film


Literature

  • Older Than Print: In the Norse sagas -- for example, Heimskringla -- if a character was a Finn (note that this word usually referred to those who later would be called Lapps or Sami, not Finnish/Suomi people), it was implied they were inherently magical. This tradition went on for a long time. The last person to have the reputation of a Lapland Witch died in early 20th century.
  • In the original, Arabian Nights version of Aladdin, the main characters were Chinese while the Evil Sorcerer was from North Africa. The Disney version settled for making the Evil Sorcerer more of a stereotypical Arab than the heroes, and a villainously-upgraded historical character as well.
  • Earthsea was created simply to avert many heroic fantasy tropes, with the aforementioned pale barbarians and darker skinned advanced races, but in doing so helped cement this trope.
    • The heavily-disavowed miniseries made this worse, with almost all the main characters being a shade of white... save for Ged's mentor, played by Danny Glover. So the only black actor was the (quite literally) Magical Negro who helped the white hero with his magical talents.
  • The Lord of the Rings mentions that the less Europeanish corners of Middle-earth have sorcerers and magical cults. Although you have to bear in mind that this doesn't say anything about if they are actual 'magic sorcerers' or just believed to be, as the typical generic fantasy spellcasting kind of wizards doesn't exist in Middle-earth. And "wizards" like Gandalf & co. are another thing entirely.
    • And there are also sorcerers who come from Numenorean descent as well, though according to Faramir this generally does not happen in Gondor. The Witch-King himself was one prior to his, ah... alteration. "Sorcery" (as opposed to the wizard or elven magic) is generally presented as the province of Sauron and his minions, regardless of what culture they hail from.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Magitek novel, Magic, Inc., Archie Fraser is surprised to find the English accented magic expert on the phone turns out to be a black African "witch smeller" in person.
  • In Rick Cook's Wiz Biz series, the leader of the Wizard Council is Bal-Simba, a towering black man who has his teeth filed to points and wears a lionskin loincloth. It's practically a lampshade...
  • Most of the Evil Sorcerers that Conan fought came from Stygia, the Howard universe's analogue of Ancient Egypt.
  • Aces with magical powers in Wild Cards are almost exclusively this. Justified in that the powers manifest from subconscious, so western people usually get super-strength, flight, telekinesis and other stuff, while people of less advanced cultures get whatever powers are known in their native cultures. Likewise, western jokers are almost exclusively half-animal hybrids, while in other countries they tend to be mythical beasts: among infected Mayans there were literally hundreds of Quetzalcohuatli.
    • The most straightforward example of this trope is Fortunato, a tantric magician ace who is a twofer minority: black/Japanese, his powers have nothing to do with his nationality but root in the fact that he is a pimp, thus gets sex-based powers. His counterpart, Astronomer, whose powers use rape and violence as a power source, is very Caucasian, though.


Live Action TV


Tabletop Games

  • In the Dungeons and Dragons Birthright setting, the Khinasi culture (the setting's generic Middle Eastern Turkish/Persian/Arabic mishmash) is particularly renowned for its wizards, who are held in even greater esteem than magic-users of the other human cultures, and this is reinforced by the Khinasi getting a cultural bonus to Intelligence.
    • In the Ravenloft setting, the Vistani are a race of magical gypsies, based off of the stereotyped gypsy fortune teller.
    • 'Ethnic' wizards also show up in the Oriental Adventures setting (for the Far East) and in Arabian Nights-flavored Al-Qadim. The Sha'ir in particular is a wizard who doesn't so much memorize and cast spells in the classic Vancian fashion as send out his or her genie familiar across the planes to fetch what spell he or she might need next.


Video Games

  • Ever Quest: The Erudites. Their skin was changed to gray for the sequel.
  • Shadowbane: One of the "seven races of man" is the Indyu: "dark as the Northmen are fair", and "magic runs in their veins".
  • The original Diablo game has a black sorcerer and two white warrior types as player characters.
    • Diablo II mixes it up a bit -- the two distinctly non-white heroes are the Sorceress (a Squishy Wizard type with a haughty intellectual personality) and the Paladin (a decidedly non-squishy fighting priest type, complete with lots of analogies to real-world monotheistic religions). The Barbarian class is the only one that doesn't use magic of any kind, as his culture forbids it, and he is white.
    • The upcoming Diablo III has announced, so far, a white Barbarian, a black Witch Doctor, and a Wizard who could pass for white or Asian.
      • The Barbarian is Asian, not white. You can get a much more clear view of his face in the D&D material, where he is shown clearly to be Mongoloid, the Paladin as Amer-Indian, etc. Racially the Barbarians are like the Huns, who were made up of Mongols and white Turks, and interbred with one another freely. The Wizard is Asian, and the newly announced Monk may be either white or Asian.
  • In Age of Conan, most of the magic classes are Stygian (an Egyptian/Middle Eastern Fantasy Counterpart Culture) or Khitan (Chinese/Korean based Fantasy Counterpart Culture).
    • And in the Conan universe, Stygians are indeed the most common sorcerers of the world (and Conan's most frequent villains as a result) along with certain sorcerers of Khitai.
    • There are also sorcerers from Hyperborea, which is somewhere around the real-world Greenland - these ones are white.
  • In the most recent versions of Gauntlet (1985 video game), the wizard is a black Egyptian and the Sorceress is black as well.
    • By default. All the other colour variations of the classes are white. In fact, every class can be black if the yellow variant (default for spellcasters) is used.
  • In Fable II, two of the three legendary heroes are white, as is the hero (if he/she isn't blue), but the Hero of Will is dark skinned with cornrows, scholarly, and voiced by Book.


Web Comics


Western Animation

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