So this is a new feature where I make a list of books (with photos of course) based on a particular theme. The themes will range from very broad to very specific depending on where my little heart takes me. It could be a wild ride (probably not though. Reading lists of books is actually a rather sedate activity, now isnt it?). The books may also be either books I’ve read, am currently reading, or books on my TBR. I may also take requests for list themes. We’ll see if you’re very good little daffodils who eat all their vegetables.
So, up this week is magical universities. As an almost permanent university student (I should be finishing my PhD this year though and then no more uni unless I decide to do medicine) I have a serious love for all things academic.
Hogwarts from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I figured I should get the obvious out of the way. Hogwarts where student’s study so they can grow up to be the best witches and wizards they can be!
“I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even put a stopper on death.”
Hogwarts is old castle, reachable only by steam train. It is ruled over by a rather eccentric professor with a long white beard (aren’t they always?). As well as being both heavily haunted and often booby-trapped, the corridors are lined with moving stairs and semi-alive paintings. The Hogwarts grounds are beautiful with lush forests and a pretty lake – although I wouldn’t recommend swimming in it.
“The narrow path had opened up suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.”
While I’m sure they provide a top rate education, students’ safety isn’t exactly at the top of their list of priorities. They have a murderous tree, a giant spider-infested forest, which students must not enter at any point, unless they are in trouble, in which case they will be sent in at night by themselves as some messed up form of punishment.
“As always, I should like to remind you all that the Forbidden Forest has, in the past year, devoured eight-and-a-half of our graduating students, as well as several underclassmen, and is strictly off-limits. Hence the name Forbidden Forest. Believe me, if it were completely safe we would have long ago changed the name to the Come-And-Go-As-You-Damned-Well-Please Forest.” – Not actual quote. It’s from a a fanfiction, but I thought it was funny.
There’s also the giant student/cat-murdering snake living in a secret chamber hidden by a magical sink in the girls’ lavatory. And I can’t imagine the uproar when the OH&S department of the Ministry of Magic take a look at those stairs!
And while they did forgo the use of the old hanging-kids-by-their-thumbs-in-the-dungeons trick as a form of punishment some years ago, it’s still a pretty brutal place. And that’s before the Death Eaters have their run of the place. But for all the times when torture wasn’t common place, it was a pretty great school albeit dangerous… and perhaps made a bit more dangerous by the teenage drinking they appear to encourage… but still, super fun place.
Brakebills from The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman
Often toted as Hogwarts, but with sex and drugs, but in my opinion is actually nothing like it at all. It is an extremely brutal place where students really are pushed to their limits.
“The entire time he’d been at Brakebills, through First Year, the exams, the whole disaster with Penny, right up until the night he joined the Physical Kids, Quentin had been holding his breath without knowing it. He realized only now that he’d been waiting for Brakebills to vanish around him like a daydream. Even aside from the many and varied laws of thermodynamics that were violated there on a regular basis, it was just too good to be true.”
This magical university is filled with borderline alcoholic, disillusioned young adults who are studying magic despite there really being nothing to do with it after they graduate (I have to say, I know the feeling). There is no ministry of magic, there is no evil to vanquish. The best they can really hope for is using it to get a cushy corporate job where they have to actually do very little. This is the story of these youngens trying desperately to find just a bit of adventure and childhood magic.
The Unseen University from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series
Located in the great city of Ank Morpork, the Unseen University is where wizards from across the Discworld go to learn magic from inept old wizards, usually with hilarious results.
“Firstly,” said Ponder, “Mr Pessimal wants to know what we do here.”
“Do? We are the premier college of magic!” said Ridcully.
“But do we teach?”
“Only if no alternative presents itself,” said the Dean. “We show ‘em where the library is, give ‘em a few little chats, and graduate the survivors. If they run into any problems, my door is always metaphorically open.”
“Metaphorically, sir?” said Ponder.
“Yes. But technically, of course, it’s locked.”
“Explain to him that we don’t do things, Stibbons,” said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. “We are academics.”
Sir Terry Pratchett (may he rest in peace) has probably created one of the most vastly explored fantasy realms in literature. Definitely the world with the most puns.
At the Unseen University you can learn from the greats like Rincewind, the professor of cruel and unusual geography, spend some time on the resident computer, Hex, with its hard drive filled with bees and ants, or be helped out in the library by the resident orangutan librarian.
The Academy in Trudi Canavan’s Millenium’s Rule series is on the surface a school where students can learn anything from history to sorcery, as long as those students have a penis. Females are admitted, but only to certain courses (but definitely not sorcery) and must be accompanied by a matron at all times. And well, that’s actually the nicer side of this university. Underneath its studious exterior it is an extremely powerful entity that will stop at nothing to ensure its control over the empire of Leratia. But despite being filled with particularly uncaring staff who really only teach their students to further their own ends, the students actually seem quite happy there until the professors try to kill them, but that doesn’t happen that often.
The University from The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
The prestigious University attended by this series protagonist, Kvothe, is a rather unusual one. If you manage to survive the admissions interview, you can choose to learn anything from languages to unlikely mathematics to naming (and I don’t mean naming like learning to name Dulux samples – although wouldn’t that be an awesome job? – but learning how to discern the true names of things, and therefore control them.
“Elodin proved a difficult man to find. He had an office in Hollows, but never seemed to use it. When I visited Ledgers and Lists, I discovered he only taught one class: Unlikely Maths. However, this was less than helpful in tracking him down, as according to the ledger, the time of the class was ‘now’ and the location was ‘everywhere.”
Like most institutions of magical learning on this list, it is unfortunatley teeming with professors of questionably sanity and the magical world equivalent of rich white frat boys, both of whom tend make everyone’s lives miserable. But if you want to become a Master Arcanist, The University really is your only option.
Are your favourite magical schools on this list or did I miss them?