Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jewish Deryni Wizard


Fantasy author Katherine Kurtz set her "Deryni" tales in about the year 1300, in what used to be called the "High Middle Ages," the time of the great cathedrals, courtly love, knights in shining armor, and magic and witchcraft. Magic in this fantasy world is really psychic powers, magic done as medieval science. The people of the world are two different groups who can intermarry and have hybrid children: the empowered Deryni and the ordinary folk without powers. 

In Kurtz's medieval lands, most of the people were white, as Europeans and Celtic folk would be. Her Deryni were even more Nordic in their pale coloration and blonde or red hair. The question arose, was there a diversity of races and ethnicities on the Earth of Deryni? Katherine introduced some Black and Arabic characters in her later books, some of whom had magic powers, possibly because they were hybrids from Deryni travelers or warriors. But another very important question was, were there Jews in the Deryni medieval world. Katherine wrote about prejudice and atrocities perpetrated against the Deryni folk but at least in her "mainstream" books she didn't mention any Jews. So fan writers took up the challenge and wrote some stories in that world which had Jewish characters. As a fan illustrator I was asked to create an image for one of these stories. A Jewish wizard is using Kabbalistic magic to create a sacred circle with a 6 pointed Jewish star. He is wearing the peculiar pointed hat that was imposed on medieval Jews as an ethnic sign. Then the question is, did the Deryni interbreed with Jews and produce empowered Jewish hybrids, or did the Jews of Deryniworld have their own powers. Katherine has never explained where the Deryni came from, although I think of them as Tolkien-ish elves who have forgotten their heritage. Jewish elves? No one has done this, and perhaps they shouldn't.

Black ink on illustration board, 8" x 11", May 1993.

1 comment:

Regina Krause said...

Would Jews look different from the rank-and-file population?