Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 657

Illustration of PDF document

Download Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Study Guide

Subscribe Now

In Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, fairies and magic exist in the world. Magicians are respected, and none appear to be stronger than Gilbert Norrell. When asked whether fairies have left England completely, Mr. Norrell says:

"I do not know. There are many stories of Englishmen and women meeting with fairies in out-of-the-way places in the last three or four hundred years, but as none of these people were scholars or magicians their evidence cannot be said to be worth a great deal. When you and I summon fairies – I mean," he added hastily, "if we were so ill-advised as to do such a thing – then, providing we cast our spells correctly, the fairies will appear promptly. But where they come from or by what paths they travel is uncertain. In John Uskglass's day very plain roads were built that led out of England into Faerie – wide green roads between high green hedges or stone walls. Those roads still exist, but I do not think fairies use them nowadays any more than Christians. The roads are all overgrown and ruined. They have a lonely look and I am told that people avoid them."

John Uskglass is an important figure also known as the Raven King. It's said that the man was raised in Fairie before he returned to the human realm, took a human name, and ruled with his extremely strong magic over Northern England. His disappearance is seen as one of the reasons for magic's decline. Despite Mr. Norrell's anger at the Raven King, he still summons and binds a fairie to do his work for him. The mischevious gentleman decides he wants to put a servant on the throne of England. Susanna Clark writes:

"But I am a servant, sir."

"Or the King of England! Yes, that is an excellent plan! Let you and I go immediately to the King of England. Then you can put him to death and be King in his place! Do you have the orb, crown and sceptre that I gave you?"

"But the laws of Great Britain do not allow . . ." began Stephen.

"The laws of Great Britain! Pish tush! What nonsense! I thought you would have understood by now that the laws of Great Britain are nothing but a flimsy testament to the idle wishes and dreams of mankind. According to the ancient laws by which my race conducts itself, a king is most commonly succeeded by the person who killed him."

Ultimately, however, they don't replace the king, and the fairie gentleman is defeated by the very man he hoped to make. The difference between fairies and humans is that fairies have stronger magic, but humans are better able to reason. Ultimately, however, it's John Uskglass who makes things right, but he doesn't solve the problem for Strange and Norrell:

Mr Norrell sat down at the silver dish and began to work. After five minutes or so of patient labour, he said, "Mr Strange! There is no sign of John Uskglass – nothing at all. But I have looked for Lady Pole and Mrs Strange. Lady Pole is in Yorkshire and Mrs Strange is in Italy. There is no shadow of their presence in Faerie. Both are completely disenchanted!"

There was a silence. Strange turned away abruptly.

"It is more than a little odd," continued Mr Norrell in a tone of wonder. "We have done everything we set out to do, but how we did it, I do not pretend to understand. I can only suppose that John Uskglass simply saw what was amiss and stretched out his hand to put it right! Unfortunately, his obligingness did not extend to freeing us from the Darkness. That remains."

Ultimately the two men have to work together to approach a solution. Even when it's done, though, Strange says they don't want to go back to their human lives (or his own wife). Rather, they want to travel to other worlds together.