15
$\begingroup$

My magic requires that the wielder performs the spell by reciting out loud. What if the tongue of a wizard was cut off?

$\endgroup$

closed as primarily opinion-based by sphennings, Vincent, SPavel, Vylix, James K Mar 18 '18 at 19:24

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So there are a few possibilities in the vagueness. Does this magic work by a auditory action or a communication of a message? Also is the language specific to magic or can I say the same invocation in any language and still have it work (i.e. Do you need to say it in Latin Gregorian Chants or can I say it in Southern American English and get the same results)? My loophole requires knowledge of why the verbal component is important $\endgroup$ – hszmv Mar 15 '18 at 21:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's entirely up to you. As hszmv says we don't know why verbal components are important so we can't comment on whether the removal of the tongue will affect the casting of spells. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Mar 15 '18 at 21:18
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Do we have to be so pedantic with the magic tag? Any sufficiently overanalyzed magic becomes indistinguishable from science. $\endgroup$ – Renan Mar 15 '18 at 22:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You should read the Locke Lamora series by Scott Lynch. $\endgroup$ – Tin Man Mar 16 '18 at 0:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Does your fantasy world have an equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act? If so, magic can't discriminate against tongueless wizards, and must provide an alternate way to cast. $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 16 '18 at 14:51

17 Answers 17

41
$\begingroup$

Yes - if you let another Wizard create a magical tongue for him

Basically you established a requirement for magic: "say something out loud"

And then you want to know what happens if someone can't fulfill this requirement: "he can't say anything out loud (at least if it's important what kind of sounds come out of his mouth)"

The only way to go around this is to find some loophole, such as using magic to create the sounds, using magic to restore the lost body part that is necessary through restorative magic, using mechanical devices or magic as a prothesis or for example by defining that the sounds are not the important part, but the way the wizard breathes in and out - it just so happens that people found a spell formula that perfectly simulates the pattern of breathing. But in the state of "not having a tongue" and "requiring a tongue" the wizard won't be able to cast any magic.

$\endgroup$
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I like this answer - as it opens the possibility that this magical tongue could be made specifically to cast spells, thus making it more effective than the original flab of meat the wizard started with. The anti-mage association thought their job was done... mwhahaha... $\endgroup$ – Shadow Mar 15 '18 at 22:51
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ As an engineer, I propose a world with "smart" scripted magic, so if you try a spell but it doesn't work correctly because is missing a part (or dependency), it could "fallback" to a default "check & self-repair spell" that tries to fix whatever's wrong with the magic user (like missing a tongue) and then recast itself. Note: Unwanted secondary effects on edge cases are practically guaranteed. $\endgroup$ – xDaizu Mar 16 '18 at 8:57
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Another fun idea might be a symbiotic relationship with a creature similar to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymothoa_exigua $\endgroup$ – Btuman Mar 16 '18 at 14:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Be careful that you add some sort of limit to what a Magic Mouth spell can accomplish, unless you want a specific type of wizard to pop up and start asking uncomfortable questions like "Can I make a Magic Mouth that can cast Magic Mouth?" At some point most software developers will experiment with quines, there is no reason to think mages won't have the same urges. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quine_(computing) $\endgroup$ – D.Spetz Mar 16 '18 at 18:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @xDaizu I'll start the first draft later tonight. I can share a link to my OneDrive folder, if you want to take a look while I work on it. We can always share ideas to make it better, and I would be happy to have someone to discuss them with! $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Mar 19 '18 at 12:11
25
$\begingroup$

A person with no tongue can still make a lot of sounds with their mouth. Just for fun, trying speaking some words without moving your tongue. It will sound almost like a tongueless person.

For example. If the incantation for each spell is the spell's very name, a tongueless wizard would not be able to use a fireball, chain lightning, or Evan's Spiked Tentacles of Forced Intrusion. But they would probably still be able to cast heal, harm and summon (with an accent).

Also notice that in some RPG's, wizards have abilities other than casting spells. For example, they usually can identify magical items.

Haley using Varsuuvius as a divining rod

$\endgroup$
15
$\begingroup$

Yes:

While the wizard may not be able to use the spells by himself he may as well become a teacher to other scholars of the magic arts, having aquired lots of knowledge over the past years.

And:

If magic in your world requires any kind of (internal) power/mana your wizard may be tapped by other sorcerers to supply them (or their spells).

He would probably also make an good sacrifice... But that's up to you...

$\endgroup$
11
$\begingroup$

You have answered your own question. You say the magic REQUIRES them to say the spell out loud. Unless they can speak magically or have some other way of making sounds recognizable as words, then no.

There are certainly individuals in our world that don't have the ability speak but CAN communicate. Those folks use sign language.

So it's really going to depend on if the sound has to come directly from them and their mouth (if there's tech, I'd use a recording to form the words, which you would not have if it's not a modern magical world) or if it just has to be a form of communication.

The other way I'd do it is written on paper...you can write down most of the word, leave off a couple of letters, scribble them on when you need to release it. Or you can place the spell inside a folded paper, written down, and the activation is opening it up.

That being said in magic systems such as D&D and in stories, there are always exceptions to the rule. In Harry Potter for example, saying the spell word out loud was a component to the spell, but as they got more advanced, they began talking about the ability to cast without speech. In D&D there's a feat for this.

The upshot is that while most wizards might have to use words, this one might have learned not to. And most people would think of this person as harmless, except for advanced wizards who know it's possible.

If this rule is absolute in your world, none of that will fly of course.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 'if there's tech, I'd use a recording[...]The other way I'd do it is written on paper'. I thought of recording too but your thought made me think further: if a recording works does it have to be the caster themselves or can it be just he/she playing a recording of the incantations along with some other act (whether wand, thinking about it, focusing, whatever)? If a recording works and it doesn't have to be him/her specifically and they haven't set it up in advance then could they have a non-magical being speak the words into a recorder and then they play it and being magical it works? $\endgroup$ – Pryftan Mar 18 '18 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Pryftan It doesn't even have to be a person--it can be computer generated sounds, and they just press buttons to get those to form into speech. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Mar 19 '18 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ Good point! But as you say it depends on the parameters/rules/system in the world of the question. $\endgroup$ – Pryftan Mar 19 '18 at 20:58
7
$\begingroup$

You can still make sounds without a tongue. The wizard may have developed his own set of spells (or even clones of existing spells) with what essentially comes down to spell aliases.

Trying the alphabet right now, all vowels, as well as the sounds that are made just using the lips (B, F, H, M, P, V, W) are relatively easy to make without a tongue, especially if the wizard has trained on them. So maybe instead of saying "Fireball", He says Wooboom or something like that.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Maybe some sort of ventriloquism would help? I am not an expert in the subject but it seems ventriloquists still use their tongue but also pronounce some sounds with their throat muscles. Your wizard will have a bit greater freedom - he will be able to move cheek, jaw and lips.

And another thing A trick ventriloquists do is that they substitute sounds that are hard to pronounce with ones that are not. You don't need your tongue for some sounds, so maybe there is still some magic you can do?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ And another thing A trick ventriloquists do is that they substitute sounds that are hard to pronounce with ones that are not. I did not know that; that's a very interesting thing! Clever idea you have too although I don't know enough about vocalising/speech in general (how the sounds are made etc. or even the terminology) to picture it in my head it's still something to consider - and if magic was required for their survival you can bet they'd think of all sorts of things. $\endgroup$ – Pryftan Mar 18 '18 at 15:59
5
$\begingroup$

What about using a non-verbal spell to produce the sound required to cast another spell? Magic bootstrapping!

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Kafein! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Mar 16 '18 at 9:11
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! This is a good answer, but it's currently in the low-quality queue because it's a bit short. Would you be able to flesh it out a little? $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Mar 16 '18 at 9:38
3
$\begingroup$

Yes the wizard would have use.
Even if he cant use the spells he can still teach through scrolls and books and depending on how common magic is in your world (and whether it can be learned or it is pre-determined) an expert could come in handy.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Maybe if the wizard was powerful enough he could adapt the spells to be suitable for him. He could use sign language to cast spells and people would be like, "that's never happened before!"

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How would he get around the "reciting out loud" part, and how could he adapt it by using sign language instead? $\endgroup$ – Carlo Mar 17 '18 at 22:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is a world of fantasy, if need be the creator can adapt the world to be beneficial to them, why wouldn't you anyway? Even though the spells need to be recited aloud to work, they would still need magic within them for anything to even happen. Maybe the wizard could adapt his magic, take months or years of meditation (of sorts) to a point where he could feel his magic within him at all times. Like chakra. He could take time to master it, bring it out of his being, weave it through his fingers to cast it. $\endgroup$ – Gallanger Mar 18 '18 at 22:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Some serious meditation and some kind of 'chakra balancing' could do it. Seems possible in a world with wizards. :) $\endgroup$ – Carlo Mar 18 '18 at 22:59
3
$\begingroup$

He can have magic scrolls that read themselves or a grimoire.

I see a nice story where the wizard has lost his powers by not being able to recite spells but somehow he finds a way and becomes a renown wizard, Merlin Tongueless or something.

The gods see his struggles and offers him this grimoire that connects to his mind. He doesn't even have to open and search for the spell, the book is floating around him and casts whatever spells he thought of.

He could write new spells in it and become even more powerful eventually finding a way to make more grimoires like his own and becomes a legend.

You can do whatever you like with your wizard though.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

"Is it possible a wizard with no tongue be of some use if the magic requires to say the spell out loud?"

I, and I suspect a few others, first read this as "can ehe still cast the spell?".

As it stands, can be be of some use? Asolutely:

  • At the very worst, he still knows the gestures, the ingredients & props necessary, the correct time & weather conditions for the spell, and a ton of other stuff, so he would make an excellent assistant.
  • Or a tutor.
  • Does it require a magic enabled person to say the words, or can he write them down & have someone else speak them?
  • Or have someone says them and record them & play them back later?
  • and, of course, he can be of use in non-wizardly ways :-)
$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

This story: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/dec/01/born-without-tongue-congenital-aglossia-experience

Seems to suggest that you could still cast spells, speak, eat, and other ordinary things. But then again, it's a fantasy-world so it's more about story, dramatic tension, challenges, etc. I would imagine that it would take some time, months or years even, to adapt to speaking without a tongue.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Great, great answer. I didn't know about that condition and yet it seems to me that if this woman - and others with it - can talk then this is the right answer: it would take time but they could have more success than some of the other techniques (or maybe in addition?). Looking briefly at the article it seems that it depends on what the patient has and does not have wrt their tongue so the question could be extended here: what of the OP's story would match this? $\endgroup$ – Pryftan Mar 18 '18 at 16:03
3
$\begingroup$

The answer to your question depends on details you haven't specified. So rather than answer the question directly, I'll ask a series of very leading questions instead. Some of these are raised by other answers.

  • Must the words by spoken by the caster's natural mouth? Would an artificially created additional mouth suffice? (Beware oral fixations. BTW: This has been nonmagically done with ears.)
  • Could the caster's tongue be replaced by another creature? (Warning: some people think the linked article is squicky.)
  • Could the caster's tongue be replaced by a prosthesis? (In a world with magic, how good can the prosthesis be? In a world with economics, what is the trade-off between affordable and more/interesting spells? In our world, these already exist.)
  • Must the words be spoken by the caster, or could the apprentice do the speaking? (Cue weird power dynamics a la Laputian clappers.)
  • Must the words be spoken by a human, or could the caster's familiar be enchanted to do the speaking? (Can the familiar be set up to cast more than one spell? Can the familiar be controlled telepathically to cast any spell the caster knows? What weird limits due to different oral structure do we have here?)
  • Must the words be spoken by a natural creature? Could we enslave an ethereal creature (ghost/devil/demon/angel/et c..., as your world and its metaphysics permit)?
  • Must the words be spoken physically? Would a magical mouth suffice? (Does a magical mouth have to speak as slowly as a real person? How many spells per second can a magical mouth cast? How many magic mouths can one person control at once? Can we have magic mouth fork bombs?)
  • Must the words be spoken or is there some minimal subset of the produced vibrations in the air that are required to induce the magical effect? How small is that subset? Can those be made by other mechanical/biological/ethereal/magical means? (Now I have a picture of a magical one man band in my head. Argh.)
  • Must the words be spoken, or must the sequence of mental states produced in the caster be the states of one speaking the spell? (Note that this could allow petrified, sleeping, or comatose casting. This can be extended all the way to "can a brain in a vat cast real world spells"?)

It could help you to think in depth about how little one would have to add to a brain in a vat to get a working spellcaster.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Questions (even good ones) are not answers. That gets answers flagged for deletion. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 17 '18 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn : I see you propose employing the common misperception that there are no rhetorical questions. Or. Haven't you heard of rhetorical questions? $\endgroup$ – Eric Towers Mar 18 '18 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ Rhetorical questions are -- by definition -- formatted as questions designed to make the student think. SE, OTOH, is for answers. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 18 '18 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn : So, the position you are taking is that the text in my Answer does not answer OP's question, "What if the tongue of a wizard was cut off?" I'm forced to disagree with you. It provides several answers, depending on details left unspecified by the OP. $\endgroup$ – Eric Towers Mar 18 '18 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ There's nothing to stop you from rewording your rhetorical questions into answers. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 18 '18 at 2:14
2
$\begingroup$

Yes. Just look at how the (now) late, great Stephen Hawking "spoke". It isn't rocket science, or indeed magic.

*edit (from comment below) Given technology as it is now it would be possible to achieve in many ways. I would possibly go down the route of a Google Glass style set of glasses, with an overlay and eye tracking to select letters, words, sentences, to be read outloud by a small loudspeaker. It probably doesn't fit with the magic theme, but I imagine that could be done right now in the real world.. :)

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! This looks like simply a much shorter version of the answer Secespitus already provided. Would you be able to expand it a bit? $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Mar 16 '18 at 13:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hi, sorry, indeed. I guess I jumped too soon. But at least SH got a mention. Expand it. Hmm Well, given technology as it is now it would be possible to achieve in many ways. I would possibly go down the route of a Google Glass style set of glasses, with an overlay and eye tracking to select letters, words, sentences, to be read outloud by a small loudspeaker. It probably doesn't fit with the magic theme, but I imagine that could be done right now in the real world.. :) $\endgroup$ – gorf Mar 16 '18 at 13:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It would be better if you edited that information into your answer, as comments aren't guaranteed to be permanent. Looks like a good addition, though. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Mar 16 '18 at 13:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Done... :) (I only came here as I was looking for advice on MySQL and saw an interesting link by the way! :) $\endgroup$ – gorf Mar 16 '18 at 14:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So did I! We did a lot of people coming in from the Hot Network Questions bar. If you feel like sticking around, make sure to take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Mar 16 '18 at 14:13
2
$\begingroup$

It all depends on why the spell needs to be spoken, and if it really does.

What I mean by this is there must be some sort of magical reason for the spoken language. If the reason is that the spoken form is merely a way to concentrate the mage's will and imagination, then it might be possible he could learn to do the spoken part purely internally.

This is how I usually do magic when I am world-building for a game or story. The only time I really require a spoken part is if there is somebody actually listening for these words. For example, I had one pen-and-paper role-playing game set (unknown to the characters) inside a computer simulation. Many of the restrictions on magic were just because the programmers of the simulation wrote it that way.

Another possible listener could be a god or the universe or just the world. One very depressing trilogy I read had somebody from our world brought to a world with magic. This person actually deciphered the "sacred language" and figured out what it was for. The god for that universe (as opposed to ours) had created this language and made it so that when it was spoken the universe heard and obeyed.

However it might offend my sensibilities, many games do have the requirement of some form of spoken part to a spell. This seems to be a common trope.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Assuming he can do nothing to heal himself or work around the problem. It would depend on how many spells he can pronounce without his tongue. He would have a limited set of spells and any wizard that hears him speak will know his weaknesses, but he can still have a use.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

It depends on why the wizard needs to speak the spell!

  • Is it to be understood by whatever spirit the wizard is supplicating to? In that case, the wizard may use sign language or hum in Morse code.

  • Are spells some kind of reaction to a word or phrase? (just as rusting is a reaction to oxygen)? Then the word or phrase must be present for the spell to happen. So in that case the wizard could have a recording or any of the other suggestions.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.