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In many works, magic is something to blast things with and generally make stuff explode.

But not in this universe. In this universe, Mundane Utility isn't a secondary effect of all those awesome spells, but the primary one. The magic essentially has to do with things on the more mundane scale of the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality, like Cleaning Magic, or Gardening Magic, or Paper-Filing Magic. Why modify that fireball spell to cook your hotdog, when you can just have a spell that does exactly that in the first place, and to your perfect specifications?

This can get as crazy as worlds where everything is done with a spell, from cooking to transportation to brushing your teeth. Another manifestation of this trope is where everyday things or tasks seem to be imbued with magic. It might be so subtly done that it leaves one wondering Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, especially in a Low Fantasy or Magic Realism work.

Either way, this kind of magic is somewhat prone to the What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? question, especially in works where the more ordinary (less ordinary?) way we view magic is also used. It happens pretty often though that this kind of magic can turn out to be Lethal Harmless Powers, when the user is pushed into a corner, implying that Heart Is an Awesome Power. If the ability is a personal power rather than a general spell the user might be recruited to the Hero's group for some particular task, or the character will improvise the uses of their power to match the situation using cleverness.

It should be noted that in worlds where there is some kind of Equivalent Exchange for performing magic, this kind of power appears much less often because the mundane nature of it can be performed without magic, and often times a mage, witch or wizard would rather just wash those dishes by hand then pay out the cost, whatever it might be.

Compare Mundane Utility and Martial Arts and Crafts, for the martial arts version. If the magic is incorporated into or used in conjunction with some kind of mechanical aspect, it might be Magitek.

Examples of Utility Magic include:


Anime and Manga

  • In the world of Fairy Tail, magic is a part of everyday life and "is bought and sold there everyday. It is an integral part of people's lives, and there are people who use magic as their occupation". In other words, it's used instead of technology.
  • Alchemy in Fullmetal Alchemist. Granted, we see a lot of alchemy being used for fighting and blowing stuff up in the series, but that's primarily because we're following characters in the military. Alchemy has a ton of uses ranging from fixing broken appliances, to building things very quickly, to healing people... the list goes on and on.


Film

  • In the Film version of Practical Magic, Sally Owens can be seen using a minor spell to make a spoon stir her coffee.
  • Most of the magic seen in Miyazaki's Howls Moving Castle is used to keep the house together and moving. There is a magic war raging on, but most of it happens off screen. Howl and Markl also run a kind of magic "shop" out of the castle, selling useful spells and potions to customers for profit.
  • Disney movies (The Sword in the Stone comes to mind).
    • Disney's Mary Poppins. In the "Spoonful of Sugar" segment Mary and the children snap their fingers to clean up a room.
    • In Enchanted there is a scene where Giselle magically convinces the bugs in her apartment to help her clean.
    • The picture for the trope page is from Fantasia, and feature's Mickey as The Wizard's apprentice, using magic to do his chores. We're not really sure what the original intent of the spell is (is it an actual 'cleaning' spell or does it just make objects sentient?) so it might also be Mundane Utility. Ends pretty disastrously, either way.
    • The film The Sorcerers Apprentice, which is loosely based on the Fantasia example, and also contains a mops-gone-wild scene.
  • Cast a Deadly Spell. Everyone can use magic, usually for completely normal activities.


Literature

  • In the Circle of Magic series, the main characters have 'Ambient magic' which is magic from everyday things, including thread magic, metal working magic, gardening magic and carpentry magic.
  • Robin McKinley loves this trope.
    • In Rose Daughter, the main heroine has a supernatural talent for growing roses, which seem to have some magic of their own.
    • In Chalice, the primary vehicle of the heroine's magic is honey - she was a beekeeper prior to becoming a member of her demesne's Fisher Court. The most obvious effect of her magic for much of the story is that it makes her bees remarkably docile and productive, and her tiny farm supernaturally fruitful.
    • In Sunshine there is a minor character who has a very specialized minor magical talent: coffee that she pours is always hot.
  • Averted in Discworld with the witches: they use magic as little as possible, even for chores, preferring to use trickery and/or other people to do it. It shows how far Granny's gone when she magics the wheels of a cart, requiring a Bright Slap from Nanny. Played straight with the wizards, who indulge in Mundane Utility with it as well.
  • Robert Heinlein's short story "Magic Inc." has magic being used on a regular basis for mundane purposes, such as construction work.
  • In the Harry Potter books, wizards have roughly the same standards of living as muggles did in the 50's (radio but no TV or internet). Except they use magic for everything beyond medieval technology.
  • The entire Magical Land of Xanth runs off of this. And puns. Often at the same time.
  • Labyrinths of Echo by Max Frei describe mostly the magically-strongest region of a fairly magic-rich world. Not only mages used to hang out where they are more powerful, but all locals use low-grade magic for everything and has a very vague idea of living without telepathic communication and kitchen spells. Away from Heart Of The World it's not easy. So a lady from the capitol who can't afford servants will not live in a remote province simply because she "used to have fat never spluttering from the pan and to crack nuts by poking them with a finger".
    • Most clever characters, no matter how strong mages themselves, remember that everyone in Uguland is spoiled rotten with "kitchen magic", and that there are more complex yet efficient ways to do things, starting from alchemy developed on the next continent far beyond basic drugs and spell components. Those aware of Max's youth in a magic-poor world sometimes called him to think of something when magical solutions are unavailable, or just to get a fresh point of view when they run into dead-end.
  • In Sherwood Smith's Inda series, the protagonists' culture primarily uses magic for waste-disposal, Fantasy Contraception, and similarly mundane tasks.
  • This is how magic is used in the Lord Darcy books. It many cases, magical devices will take the place of some sort of mundane technology in our world, e.g. the magical preservation chest that acts like a refrigerator.
  • Furycrafting in the Codex Alera has several military and commercial uses. This is due largely to it being used in place of just about any kind of technology.
  • This is also the case in Jim Butcher's other series, The Dresden Files. Harry comments frequently that most wizards specialize in mundane spells that are more useful in everyday life, and that evocation magic (AKA magic that goes boom) is not only of incredibly limited use outside of combat, but is extraordinarily difficult to use. Even White Council wizards typically don't specialize in combat magic (aside from the Wardens, since it's their job to kick ass). For instance, Harry, one of the strongest wizards in the world in terms of raw magic power, states that his true specialty is not evocation magic, but thaumaturgic magic, such as tracking spells that let him find lost items (which is of great help in his work as a PI).
    • Probably the most frequent example of utility magic is Harry's invocation to light candles; "Flickum Bicus."
  • In the Wheel of Time series, the Aes Sedai have a rule that their pupils may not use magic for chores, partly to build character and also because magic is highly addictive; however, full sisters do it from time to time. The Ashaman, on the other hand, are focused on becoming as magically competent as possible before it drives them mad, and so are required to use it for absolutely everything.
  • Incarnations of Immortality has an Earth where magic was always used publicily (and never went away); technology was eventually invented, resulting in such odd things as car salesmen competing with Flying Carpet salesmen.
  • Rhymes with Witches has a high school coven of witches who use their power to become the most popular girls in school.

Live Action TV

  • When Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer began using magic this way, it was a clear sign that she'd become overreliant on her magic powers and that they were starting to corrupt her.


Tabletop RPG

  • GURPS Technomancer. Magic is used for mass market consumer products, such as electronics.
  • Dungeons and Dragons. For the most part, (A)D&D tends to avert this. Dungeon Masters are repeatedly advised not to let magic be treated as if it were technology. This is usually justified as being intended to preserve the mystique of magic from the perspective of the general public, as well as maintain a Medieval style setting. While "general-purpose" utility spells and magic items can be found in the books in each edition, the focus is always decidedly on combat and (sometimes highly specialized) adventuring applications. Cantrips are the lowest level of mage spells, useful for lighting a candle, cleaning items or sorting out a group of objects. Aside of cantrips, back from the Basic version it had spells like Read Languages, Magic Mouth and Floating Disc, later adding spells such as Unseen Servant and Mending.
    • The Greyhawk setting had spells such as Bigby's Dextrous Digits (magical hands for performing tasks requiring fine touch) and Drawmij's Beast of Burden (lightens the load on the back of a pack animal). Forgotten Realms added more spells like Quimby's Enchanting Gourmet (Unseen Servant improved so that it cooks on its own) and Nchaser's Glowing Globe (controlled permanent glow-lamp).
    • However, the Eberron setting uses Utility Magic on a society-wide scale. Use of Magitek is widespread and "working class" spellcasters such as magewrights earn their livings by providing everyday spellcasting services. There is even a spell called Magecraft, whose sole function is to improve the quality of products being created by ordinary craftsmen. The dragonmarked houses are basically corporations whose role in society is to provide magic-based services up to and including the mass-production of consumer goods using magical methods. Thus the market prices for many goods (such as swords) is fixed because House Cannith, with controls magical manufacturing, has imposed standardized pricing.


Video Games

  • One of the first uses of Psynergy in Golden Sun? "Catch", a power for grabbing stuff in hard-to-reach places. Dora uses it to get Isaac's cloak for him in the prologue, Isaac uses it in the intro to patch holes in the roof, and when you have it, its primary use is picking fruit and nuts from trees. (Dark Dawn revised this into Grip, a power mainly used for Le Parkour but which retains Mundane Utility.)
    • The Lost Age gives us Parch (dries out waterlogged areas), Blaze (lights torches), and Scoop (dig holes). (Parch and Blaze were replaced in Dark Dawn by powers which retain their use as Mundane Utility)
    • There are also a wide variety of Psynergy powers in the series whose purpose is basically to get debris out of a traveler's way (Move, Lift, Carry, Whirlwind[1], Pound, Grind, Burst), or to bridge gaps (Move, Carry, Force, Frost[2], Lash, Growth[3].


Web Comic

  • Magic World from the webcomic City of Reality is full of this. It looks just like modern-day Earth, in fact, they just use magic instead of electricity. So the beautician uses magic to make your hair color change, or they use magic to make cars float an inch off the ground to drive around, and so on.
  • El Goonish Shive has a lot of utility magic. Such as cosmetic Shapeshifting.
  • A lot of the trappings of "The Dragon Doctors" resembles modern-day Earth, and magic is often used as a more-advanced equivalent of modern technology. Voluntary Shapeshifting is a faster, more-complete form of plastic surgery, Instant Sedation is due to magic sedatives, the Akashic Records are like a shamanism-internet, and so on.


Western Animation

  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Rarity's magic is mostly useful for things like sewing, and Twilight Sparkle, although she can do more impressive magic, mostly uses hers for things like turning pages and writing. In fact, it's implied that most unicorn magic works for things like this.
    • Unicorn magic seems to be divided into basic telekinesis and actual spells. The former is mostly used when a human would use their hands, which is obviously mostly for everyday stuff. As for the latter, it has been said outright that most unicorns only learn a few spells directly connected to their cutiemark (i.e. destiny/special talent). Most ponies' cutiemarks aren't connected to violence. The single example of combat magic we have seen comes from Shining Armor, Twilight Sparkle's brother, but he is a Magic Knight by profession and his cutie mark is a shield, so him casting massive defensive spells large enough to protect the whole capital from an invading army is only in line with the above rules.

Notes

  1. a power which actually has combat utility
  2. another with combat utility
  3. another with combat utility
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