[Editorial Tuesday] The Real World Mythology Behind Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus' Bride)

Chise Hatori is special. She is what magical circles call a Sleigh Beggy, a special human that has the ability to generate and absorb large quantities of magical energies. The cost of that ability is that their life spans are considerably shorter than an average human. Chise grew up alone; her father abandoned her and her mother committed suicide. She could also often see the frightening magical world that normal people couldn’t see. Chise felt alone and hunted most of her childhood. She decides at the age of 15 to sell herself into slavery at an underground magical auction, only caring that whoever buys her gives her a place to call home. A mysterious man in a black cloak with a demonic face made of bone purchases her and transports her away. He doesn’t take her to some dark castle, but to a picturesque cottage in the English countryside. She finds her new owner to be a mage by the name of Elias Ainsworth, and she is to be his apprentice and his bride. We watch the ins and outs of their daily lives and adventures as Elias and Chise both find their humanity. The story is filled with drama, adventure, intrigue and the not-always-good consequences of magic.

The Origin Story

The ancient world was filled with dark places we couldn’t see into so we used our imagination to fill those voids and create a rationale for the things that go bump in the night. England and Wales have a deep tradition of folklore (mythology) as old and rich as the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. The tradition holds that a nature-centric pantheon of creatures and spirits wandered and ruled over the groves, forests, and meadows of pastoral England. The dominant people in this mythos are the Fay Folk or Fairies, a group of mythological creatures that are often considered to originate in the spirit, metaphysical, or supernatural worlds. The creator of Ancient Magus Bride, Kore Yamazaki Sensei, leaned heavily on these established English and Welsh myths to create his tale of the supernatural, love, and mystery. We now take a look at some of the characters and their myths of origin.

Ruth the Black Dog

Chise, as any self-respecting magus, has a familiar. A familiar is a spirit or magical creature bound to a wizard, witch, or magus. Her familiar is Ruth, a Black Dog that looks like an Irish Wolfhound. He once was the pet of a young girl. The young girl died, leaving the loyal dog to haunt the cemetery and eventually becoming a fay. He spent the following centuries as a guardian spirit in the graveyard chasing away grave robbers and evil spirits. He noticed similarities between Chise and his long-dead master and decided to become the young magus’ familiar. He views her as his sister and will defend her to the death. The two share a bond that allows them to sense each other and you will seldom see one without the other.

The mythical truth about the Black Dog isn’t always as kind as Ruth. A Black Dog is often a demonic entity seen as an apparition or shapeshifter. The black dogs are often described as dark in color, larger than average, and to have glowing eyes. Dogs in mythology are often associated with death, like the three-headed dog Cerberus that guards the gate to Hades in Greek lore, the God Anubis, god of the dead in Egyptian mythos, to name two non-Celtic examples. The tales of Black Dogs may often seem sinister or malevolent, yet there are stories of them serving as familiar spirits for witches and warlocks, just like Ruth does. You also hear tales of the Gurt Dog of Somerset in the south of England who is said to have been a guardian of children as they played in the meadows. Black Dogs are also reported to have guided travelers along dark roads to safety. So, a Black Dog can be malevolent or altruistic like Chise’s faithful friend and servant Ruth.

Silky the Banshee

Silky was once known as Silver, a banshee. The family she served died out as well as her supernatural clan, leaving her alone. She wandered aimlessly across the countryside often depressed and without purpose. A forest fay who serves the queen of the fay comes across her one day and takes pity on the banshee. He guides her to a remote cottage among the rolling hills. The home is that of Elias the magus. She is taken in and becomes the housekeeper, quietly tending to her duties day in and day out seemingly just happy to have a place she belongs.

In modern lore, banshees tend to be evil apparitions that bring death to those who see them. The more traditional treatment of these spirits are that they are merely the heralds of death and do not cause it directly. A banshee is known for mourning the loss of their beloved family members with their high-pitched cries that sound like the wind blowing through the eaves of a home during a tempest. We suspect that her banshee’s voice is the reason that you seldom hear Silky speak. The Scots have a similar spirit known as nigheachain, or the little washerwoman; they would wash the armor and blood-stained clothes of those who died in battle. Silky, like her mythical origin, is very attached to her family and gets very nervous, depressed and concerned when members of the family are sick or gone for extended periods of time.

Cartaphilus the Immortal

The character of Cartaphilus is the main villain in the story. The 2000-year-old immortal is constantly causing trouble for Chise and Elias. He looks like a young man with white hair and wields significant supernatural power. Cartaphilus is obsessed with Chise and her abilities as a sleigh beggy. He attempts to kidnap her more than once. We find out that one of his goals is to find a way to rid himself of the curse of immortality.

The mythological origin of Cartaphilus is from the Christian legend of the Wandering Jew. He was cursed to live until the end of the world because he taunted Jesus on way to his crucifixion. You can find a biblical reference in the Christian Bible (John 18:20-22) that refers to an officer that struck Jesus at his arraignment before Pontius Pilate. The apparent curse was when Jesus replied “I go, and you will wait until I return.” The differences between Cartaphilus in the legend and in the Ancient Magus Bride are pretty drastic. The pitiful immortal looks for redemption by living a pious life in the lore and we find an uber-powerful supernatural being in the manga and anime version.

Redcurrant the Leanan Sidhe

We meet Redcurrant in one of the side stories involving the people of the town. Redcurrant is a Leanan Sidhe, referred to as a vampire, living at the home of a man named Joel. She spends her days with Joel as he writes and tends his garden. She is completely in love with him. The sad part is that he has seen her only once, as a young man while tending the garden. She explains to Chise that if she were to admit she loves him she could give him great creative power and he could see her, but the exchange would shorten his life. Joel falls ill and begins to die and Redcurrant begs Chise to save him. She cannot save his life but creates a potion that allows him to see Redcurrant. He had apparently believed the girl he saw was a figment of his imagination, though always felt like someone was watching over him. The two are able to spend his final moments together and admit their feelings for each other. Redcurrant decides she will tend his garden until the world turns to dust.

The mythological origins of Redcurrant are in the stories of the Leanan Sidhe of Celtic folklore. A Leanan Sidhe is often reported as a beautiful muse that offers creativity and inspiration to artists, craftsman, and writers. The muse, in return, is offered the eternal devotion by the artist who often goes mad due to the strength of the feelings of love for the muse. You also find that this typically leads to a premature death. We have the poet Yeats to blame for them being confused with vampires. He writes about them being a malignant phantom exchanging creativity for life. We think regardless of her character’s origins the bittersweet love story of this muse and the man she loves is possibly an even sweeter story than Chise and Elias.

Oberon & Titania, King and Queen of Fairies

The mischievous faerie king resembles a faun or satyr–half-man, half-goat–though in this incarnation he seems to be half-man, half-deer, including antlers. He is often considered a bit of a womanizer and wants to whisk Chise away to the faerie world. He has moments where he shows his eternal age and imparts wisdom on both Chise and Elias. He even refers to Elias, the ancient magus, as young. Titania, queen of the fairies, is the polar opposite of her husband in personality. She is a tall, cool beauty that carries an aura of power, wisdom and grace about her. Titania also seems to have maternal instinct when it comes to all of the fay, even someone that is half fay and half something else like Elias. She seems to tolerate her husband’s wondering eye and habit of causing mischief.

The royal couple of myth is a little difficult to clarify. Oberon may refer to Opstatus, the king of the fairies from Merovingian legends. The Merovingians were a dynasty that ruled most of France and southwestern Germany in the 5th century. The queen of the fairies in traditional folklore doesn’t have a name that everyone can agree on. Titania is the name Shakespeare gave to the queen of the fairies in “A Midsomer’s Night’s Dream,” a name he lifted from Ovid, the ancient Roman poet, and his work, “Metamorphoses.” Titania is the perfect example of how much of an influence Shakespeare has on English folklore. The entire persona we have for the queen of the fairies comes from the quill of a 16th century playwright. So, if you really want to get an idea of who these characters are, we suggest getting a little cultured and taking in a play.

Merituuli the Selkie

Lindel is Elias’ mentor. He is a mage far older than Elias and was the one to take in the small, strange creature that was Elias and teach him the ways of the world. Lindel, like all mages, has a familiar and his name is Merituuli. The small Selkie serves mainly as a messenger between the land of dragons, where they live, and the rest of the world. Merituuli has a rather cheerful and congenial personality, and like most fay, has great affection for Chise. When Merituuli is on land in human form he is short and has fair skin and rosy cheeks. He wears his grey hair up in a ponytail on the top of his head.

Selkies come from Scottish folklore and the name simply means seal people. A selkie has the ability to shapeshift to human form. A selkie in human form is said to be beautiful and active to humans. Male selkies are said to have seductive powers and have clandestine relations with the wives of fisherman while they spend days at sea fishing. Merittuuli may not be that seductive but he sure is adorable.

Jade Ariel the Classic Fairy

Jade is a fairy in a more traditional sense. She is small and pixy-like yet looks a bit more like a miniature version of a harpy. When we first meet Jade she behaves like her more terrifying Greek cousin, too. Jade becomes obsessed with Chise and gets her fellow ariel-type fairies to lure Chise away from Elias and abduct her to the fairy realm. Chise seems to be like catnip to Jade and the small fay can’t resist her. She is also shown to be very helpful to Chise and has been willing to offer Chise her power when it is needed.

Jade’s mythological counterpart is what one typically considers a fairy: a small, winged creature that helps itself and others with its magic. A fairy of that sort is also known to be jealous and possessive. Fairies like her in the Cornwall region in western England are also known to throw parties across the countryside. Ariel’s mythological brethren play pranks on travelers. The name Ariel is probably borrowed from Ariel, not the mermaid, but the fairy in Shakespeare’s “Tempest.” Ariel is freed from being trapped in a tree by Prospero and becomes his spy throughout the play.

Final Thoughts

We’d like to think mythological descriptions are fixed; a fairy is a fairy and a ghost is a ghost and that’s it. The reality is much different. We are constantly adding to the description of characters from myth to make them more relevant to our time. Shakespeare did that so successfully in his time we have trouble separating the original characteristics of much of British and Celtic folklore from his interpretations. Anime and Kore Yamazaki Sensei’s Ancient Magus Bride aside, the most influential author redefining mythology is probably Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson series. We still have problems not imagining Poseidon wearing a Hawaiian shirt to this day. Are there differences between Kore Yamazaki Sensei’s universe and the historical interpretation of the myths? Yes. Is that a problem? No. We may find in 20 years that the art and style of Ancient Magus Bride truly cements itself into mythos and interpretation of Celtic lore as this series continues to gain more and more viewers and readers.

mahoutsukai-no-yome-wallpaper-500x500 [Editorial Tuesday] The Real World Mythology Behind Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus' Bride)


Author: Zeke Changuris

I’m a journalist, writer, photographer, video producer, social media manager and above all a storyteller. I’m located on the east coast of the United States but travel the world with the love of my life. I’ve been a nerd since birth with a love of history and science. I fell in love with anime, watching ROBOTECH and Venus Wars in the 80s when our only source was secondhand VHS dubs. A crazy new thing called the internet changed that, giving me access to new and amazing anime every day. I love to write for work and pleasure. I’m living the dream of every kid, getting paid to watch anime and loving every subtitled line.

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