Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The greatest muggle of all.

These days, it's easy to feel like quite the muggle.

"Muggle" for the three people out there who've never heard the word, is the unkindly term for a non-magical human in the Harry Potter books. (In England . . . apparently, as we've recently learned via the movies, in America the common term is "no-maj.")

Perhaps the most memorable line from all of the Harry Potter's books is the pronouncement: "You're a wizard, Harry!" by the semi-giant Hagrid. Curiously, there's a parallel line in the tales of Sherlock Holmes. Actually, more than one.

"I believe that you are a wizard, Mr. Holmes."

"Mr. Holmes, you are a wizard, a sorceror!"

"Mr. Holmes, you are a wizard."

"Holmes, you are a wizard."

Ironically, unlike Harry Potter, who only had to be told once, Sherlock Holmes is told that multiple times for one very simple reason: He was not actually a wizard.

Sherlock Holmes was the muggliest muggle of them all. He didn't believe in ghosts. ("The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.") And while he doesn't come out and disagree with anyone's belief in the devil, he flatly states he has no influence over the devil's realm. ("I fear that if the matter is beyond humanity it is certainly beyond me.")

Yes, the powers that Sherlock Holmes possessed were completely and entirely those of a regular old human being. We forget that sometimes, which is easy to do. A lot of Harry Potter fans have wound up as Sherlock Holmes fans of late, partly due to the charm of a certain television show, but also, surely, due to Holmes's wizard-like talents. Yet in the end, if you're looking for the fictional wizard whom Holmes is most like, you have to turn not to Harry Potter, but Tavi of the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. Tavi is the one person born without ties to the elemental magic of his world and must work his way through life faking that ability through sheer cleverness. (Things change for him, of course, but his muggle-ish days are certainly his best.)

Sherlock Holmes isn't a wizard. He isn't even a Scotland Yard detective. He isn't a doctor. He isn't a priest. He holds no government post. Sherlock Holmes isn't anyone's boss. He has no powers whatsoever, actually, other than the ability to think outside the box, to pay attention to connections other people miss, and use skills that are commonplace in one arena for purposes that aren't normally seen used for.

Sherlock Holmes is, perhaps, the greatest muggle of all time. The outsider who manages to master any realm, be it criminal, political, or household, by wit and vision. No magical powers at all. At this point, Sherlock Holmes has been around so long that we often forget that. At this point, he's an accepted part of of lexicon, a name you can shorthand with, going "Oh, you're a Sherlock Holmes!" and not think any further about the matter, which is pretty much the same to most as going, "Oh, you're just magic!" And that is definitely making a mistake.

Because even though Sherlock Holmes might have been the greatest muggle of them all, he was, to be very sure, a muggle. Just like the rest of us. That is the best thing about him. That is a goodly part of why he stays with us, iconic and wonderful. And it is why he stands as an inspiration to those who discover him to this day.

Wizards can be very cool. Very fun to watch. But at the end of the day, I always come back to that great muggle, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Because he's one of us. And there's hope in that.

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