Warlock, Wizard, Witch

“You can’t be a witch. You’re a boy. Boys become warlocks.”

“Is that a boy witch?”

They said, “yes,” but it wasn’t exactly true. Witches lived in the forest and had cauldrons and cats and toads. Witches could walk the edge of a field and learn from the wind why your cows were dry. A witch could find water with a willow branch. And witches were, if not in the village, near your village.

Warlocks had to go off and live in towers filled with alchemical equipment. Warlocks learned to turn the tides of battles and how to control the weather. Warlocks worked and lived alone. You heard stories about a man discovering his wife was a witch. You never heard stories of a woman discovering her husband was a warlock.

He was a warlock for many years and mostly hated it. But one thing he noticed is that no one came by to check. They didn’t make sure that he was a boy. At first, he’d assumed they’d had some magical means of sorting and of keeping things sorted—girls became witches, boys became warlocks, and there was just nothing to be done about it; they’d know if you tried to be the other and they’d stop you.

But now he knew enough magic to know that wasn’t the case.

And so the man came down from his tower, wandered through the woods until he found a suitable spot and he built himself a fine sturdy house, with a thatched roof and a large fire place with room for a substantial cauldron. He befriended his neighborhood toads. A cat came to live with him. He learned the languages of the forests and the fields. He could make a cow go dry as well as bring its milk back. He married a local girl.

He was what he was and he was happy.

And yet, still, whenever someone would make her way down his forest path and bravely knock upon his door, she would call out “Oh, great wizard, help me,” because, even if people had to admit he wasn’t a warlock, they could not accept that he was a witch.

Same Story, Different Books

Things went a little strange here this weekend, thus freeing me up a lot of time to read while waiting for people to arrive and leave and arrive again. So, I read Sarah Water’s Affinity and John Searles’ Help for the Haunted.

In order to talk about what I want to talk about–that these are the same story in different books–spoilers abound.

So, to be clear, I’m not making any kind of accusation of plagiarism. It’s not the same writing. I don’t think Searles ripped off Waters. The plots are really different. But both books are about what happens when people pretending to have supernatural powers come into contact with women who aren’t allowed to be lesbians and what goes wrong because of that. In fact, I’m pretty sure I guessed that Rose in Help for the Haunted was gay precisely because of Affinity.

Anyway, I really enjoyed them both. I think Affinity is slightly better. But it’s so terrible. I would say, about 2/3 of the way through, I figured out what was going on–though not exactly the particulars–and I spent the last half of the book really hoping I was wrong or that, at the least, Margaret would have some kind of happy ending. But no!

Help for the Haunted has some things it’s probably best to not think too hard about–like why a troubled girl is made the guardian of her younger sister instead of dumping the sister into the foster system, or why the younger sister would be able to kill a person without any kind of real fall-out. But it was still entertaining.

Just weird that two books, kind of picket at random, just for the Spiritualism tie in, would be so similar in other ways.