Witch World Themes
by Andre Norton

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Witch World Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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Power in all its aspects is a major theme of the Witch World novels. There is the power wielded by the scientific strength of the evil Kolders, but there is also the power of magic that is handled by the witches of Estcarp. Simon, the outlander, is much more familiar with the former, while even the thought of magic makes him uneasy. Yet the author hints that he has his own share of the old magic, due to his Celtic background. And during his most threatening encounter with the head of the Kolder he instinctively employs a magic symbol that he has seen the witches use and is saved by it. There is plenty of evidence that power corrupts in the insidious rot that enters any country that is touched by the Kolder, and Simon uneasily wonders about the effect that even simple inventions such as the light globes of Sulcarkeep might have on their ancient way of life. Seeking power for its own sake is evil, whether it is power of magic or of science, and the temptation to abuse it is always close. After their victory over the Kolder, Koris is impressed by their modern innovations such as an elevator. Thinking on how his people might profit from some of them, he is warned by Simon and by the witch Jaelithe: "Yes, we in Estcarp shall be tempted [by the knowledge]; that is why I am here. There are two edges to this blade, and we may cut ourselves on either if we do not take care."

There is another aspect to the problem of modern technology. Simon explains it when he is asked by the witch Jaelithe whether knowledge of scientific power would be dangerous to Estcarp. "Lady," he replies, "no matter what decision is made, I do not think that Estcarp shall remain the same. She must come fully into the mainstream of active life, or she must be content to withdraw wholly from it into stagnation, which is a form of death."

A secondary theme that is related to the first one is harmony between man and other creatures. The Falconers are closely allied with their birds, and there is mutual assistance and understanding between them. The Kolders, on the other hand, are frequently referred to as "unnatural," and in their battle with the Falconers, they introduce mechanical birds to destroy the real birds and camouflage their zombie warriors. Only those who are not abusing power can be in a harmonious relationship with the natural world. Abuse and efforts to impose power in order to enslave other creatures leads to a loss of equality and balance.