Study Guide

Alanna: The First Adventure The Supernatural

By Tamora Pierce

The Supernatural

"I don't want to be a knight! I want to be a great sorcerer! I want to slay demons and walk with the gods—" (1.4)

It sounds like Thom has been reading too much Tolkien, or maybe just playing too much Magic: The Gathering. Anyway, the kid is definitely a magic enthusiast. He probably would've hated being at the palace (where the boys have all physical and intellectual and no magical training), so good thing Alanna thought of the place switching shenanigans.

The flames turned green from Maude's sorcery and purple for the twins'. The woman drew a deep breath and grabbed the twins' left hands, thrusting them into the fire. Power shot up their arms. (1.31)

Yeah, putting your hand in a fire definitely requires supernatural forces. The spell Maude casts is to request guidance regarding the twins' life paths, so we're also counting divination as something supernatural.

"Coram, I'm being nice. Thom wouldn't be this nice. D'you want to see things that aren't there for the next ten years? I can work that, you know." (1.89)

Using magic to emotionally manipulate people…awesome. That sounds totally chivalrous. Okay, to be fair, Alanna doesn't actually want to follow through with her threat, but she knows that Coram fears magic, so she presses her advantage. It must be hard to fear magic in a world where magic actually exists. Just saying.

"But I've the Gift. It helps me see more clearly than most. I knew I must meet Master Alan…I don't ignore my Gift when it calls me." (2.194)

George has a nice, sensible approach to magic: he pays attention to his Gift when it sends him an intuition or forewarning. That seems much better than Alanna's attitude, which is to pretty much ignore her Gift until she super-needs it or until it bites her on the butt. (Not literally, of course. We think.)

Alanna found that she couldn't sleep because she couldn't forget Maude's warning to use her Gift for healing. She knew the gods punished people for ignoring magical abilities. Yet the thought of using sorcery gave her the shakes. (4.16)

Poor Alanna, not wanting to use the magic that the gods gave her at birth. Own it, girl! She quits feeling emo about it when one of her friends dies from the Sweating Fever, though. Nothing like death to make you buck up and realize that it's selfish not to use your abilities to help others.

"My mother died having Thom and me. She had the Gift too. Father was angry—he thought their magics should've saved her. So he said he wouldn't ever use his Gift again, and we weren't to use ours. We weren't even to be taught how to use it; but Maude, the village healer, taught us in secret." (4.120)

Some of Alanna's aversion to using her Gift comes from her family history (which, incidentally, helps explain why her father is so distant). It just goes to show that people will blame anything for their misfortunes: magic didn't save Alanna's mom, just like modern technology and medicine won't save any number of people in our world. But that doesn't mean we should all hate technology, right?

Now raw energy rammed through Alanna's arms, into her body. She choked back a gasp as her flesh turned into purple fire contained only by her skin. She glowed; she shimmered; she burned with raw magic. It hurt. (4.149)

Well, no wonder Alanna's not into magic. This sounds like a nightmarish hallucination from a really bad case of food poisoning or sustained sleep deprivation. Using magic sounds like Serious Business, and since Alanna's barely trained in it, she's taking on a massive risk by attempting to use magic to save Jonathan from the Sweating Fever. Hm. Maybe she should get some training, you think?

"Poor lass." There was pity in the woman's face. "The Goddess has Her hand on you. You've been given a hard path to walk." She tried to smile. "Luck to you, Alanna of Trebond. You'll need it." (6.82)

George's mother seems like a calm and capable woman, so the fact that she's unsettled by the magical mark the Goddess left on Alanna is more than a little disturbing. It's almost as if Alanna has the supernatural equivalent of the cooties.

"When the gods brush my life—the brush everyone's life at some point—I get nervous. There's no accounting for what the gods want." (6.143)

Myles like his books and his booze, so he's understandably caught off guard when the gods decide to start sending him dreams about how he should take Alanna to explore some ruins. He's just a simple man, yo. Why do the gods have to come knocking on his door? It seems that Alanna feels the same way, and she's got a magical Gift to manage on top of it.

She turned all her attention to the swords, letting Jonathan control their sorcery. Ylon, suddenly wary of her, lanced at her in a series of rapid thrusts. Alanna stopped each of them, feeling her confidence grow each time she stopped the Ysandir. Immortal he might be—swordsman he was not. (7.179)

In combining sorcery with swordsmanship, Alanna and Jonathan manage to defeat the Ysandir. Alanna is still not thrilled about working magic, but here she realizes that it saves her life—as well as Jonathan's. She's beginning to see magic as just another tool in her toolbox of "Stuff Knights Do." We're guessing she'd take a sword over a spell any day, but you have to start somewhere.

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