The Top 10: Wizards

Gandalf (Ian McKellen) in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (New Line Cinema)
Gandalf (Ian McKellen) in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (New Line Cinema)

This one was stolen from Chris Sams on Twitter who mentioned his “argument with the kids about who the greatest wizard of all time was”: they said Dumbledore, Voldemort and Harry Potter; he said Gandalf. Richard Morris invited further suggestions.

1. Albus Dumbledore. “I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”

2. Gandalf. Re-reading the book, it takes him an awful long time to work out what the Ring is.

3. Merlin, the original. Wizard is Late Middle English meaning wise person, sage, philosopher (“wise” with an “–ard” noun ending, as in bollard, pollard, drunkard). Merlin was revived somewhat by The Sword in the Stone, Disney’s version of the Arthurian legend. Nominated by Matt Hoffman, Fraser Southey and Elliot Kane. Paul T Horgan nominated Rick Wakeman, the keyboard wizard: “He’s even got the cloak, playing Merlin the Magician from his King Arthur album.”

4. Getafix the druid. Panoramix in the original French.

5. Roy Wood, creator of Wizzard, glam rock band, 1972-75. Biggest feats of magic: “See My Baby Jive” and “I Wish It Could be Christmas Every Day”. Thanks to Lynda Bearne, David Sutherland and Robert Boston.

6. Rincewind from Discworld. “Luck is my middle name. Mind you, my first name is Bad.” Nominated by Jen Pattenden.

7. Yen Sid. The sorcerer in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of Fantasia is never named in the film (or the Goethe poem on which it was based), but was nicknamed Yen Sid (Disney backwards) by the animators in tribute to Walt on whom his appearance is apparently modelled. Thanks to Stewart Slater.

8. Kamo no Yasunori and Abe no Seimei: the two most famous onmyoji, a class of civil servant in feudal Japan, who were employed to practise onmyodo, a Japanese system of magic and divination. Another from Stewart Slater.

9. David Lloyd George, the Welsh wizard. Nominated by David Sutherland and John Peters, who added contemporary Welsh wizards Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale. Other sporting nominations include John Higgins, snooker player, the Wizard of Wishaw. Thanks to John Fuchs.

10. That deaf, dumb, and blind kid, the “Pinball Wizard”, The Who.

Honourable mentions for Elliot Kane, who supplied a list of more characters from fantasy fiction: Raistlin Majere (Dragonlance), Belgarath (The Belgariad), Sheelba of the Eyeless face and Ningauble of the Seven Eyes (Lankhmar), and Elric of Melnibone (Elric series); and for Steven Fogel, who nominated Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web: “If that isn’t wizardry then I don’t know what is.”

Next week: Countries now in a different place, such as Bulgaria, which used to be where Ukraine is, and Benin, which used to be in what is now Nigeria.

Coming soon: Historical figures undeservedly rescued by fiction, such as Thomas More, hardly the principled paragon depicted in A Man for All Seasons.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to

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