Stories/settings where magic is toxic?


Are there any books/movies/games/etc. where the use of magic is dangerous to your health or toxic? For instance, maybe magic use causes cancer?


I guess Bilbo & Frodo’s use of the One Ring counts.


In the world created by Robin Hobbs (The Farseer Trilogy) use of the Wit (which is an ability to connect on a pretty base level with animals) can lead to the user becoming more and more like the animal he has connected to.

But actual bad effects from magic, I can’t really think of any.


The Wheel of Time - users of “saidin” magic will inevitably go insane… (saidin being the male half of magic), described as oily and tainted.


That is one of the major plot points of Robert Jordan’s/ Brandon Sanderson’s The Wheel of Time. The Male half of the Source has been tainted; all males who can channel go insane and will harm/kill those closest around them – assuming the rot in their bodies does not kill them first.

The male Aes Sedai almost destroyed the world in their madness.


Charles Stross’s The Laundry Files has very dangerous magic for humans to try to perform (magic attracts brain eating dimensional parasites).


How about anything related to Darksun? The use of defiler magic kills life.

Also, the Warlocks Wheel, magic isn’t toxic, it’s finite. I think it’s produced by the sun, but something is blocking it.


Pretty much anything Warhammer (WHFB, WH40K, etc.).


The Star Wars guys that use the evil midichlorian half of the Jedi Force, like the Darthlords and Shiths and stuff. Use it enough and you end up all mutated like Vader’s boss.


Use of the Skill in that world saps the user’s strength, and is also addictive. It has dangers too.

I’d say GRRM’s ASoIaF is another series where magic is capricious and dangerous and seems to only rarely work out the way that a user intends it to.

In the Magicians series by Lev Grossman, magic is addictive and dangerous. Overuse of magic in that world can turn a magic user into a kind of soul-less demon. And even when used properly, the effects can be horrifying.


Yeah, magic in the Magicians tends to turn everyone into elitist self-centered assholes at best, including the gods.

With a much more casual effect, in Dragonlance magic drains the caster physically and has one of the main characters overcome great sickness through force of will and a lot of manipulation of his companions.


Magic in Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series involves making pacts with extradimensional predators which invariably causes major problems inherently and the more of it that happens the more this world gets their attention overall with eventually apocalyptic ramifications. The series is as a result about tracking down and killing magic users and recovering the magic books they learned from.


Isn’t magic in the Elric books always a matter of making some kind of pact with demons?


Hard to think of examples on the spot even though variations on this are pretty common (though sometimes it’s blood magic only or whatever.) Random things that come to mind:

  1. Robin Hobb’s Wit magic
  2. The Curse of Chalion
  3. The GRRM universe does kind of fit
  4. Maybe Pact, from what I’ve heard:
  5. The Magic or Madness trilogy
  6. Magic is drug-like to many in The Magicians.

Googling turns up stuff like:


So many fantasy nerds in here! As the resident horror nerd, here’s a not terribly good horror movie that happens to have a couple of very good actors, Kate Dickie and James Nesbitt:

One of the striking things about it is how it portrays magic as something painful and brutal. Not toxic, though, so maybe not what you’re looking for. Also, here’s a really cool representation of magic as a grueling learning process, not unlike medical school:

Again, probably not what you’re looking for, but at least they’re not silly fantasy storybooks about elfs!



Geralt’s use of potions in The Witcher raises his toxicity, which infers some kind of negative effects. I’m not sure how the books handle it.


Magic isn’t necessarily inherently bad for you in Pact, I don’t think. But becoming a practitioner exposes you to the supernatural world which is very very dangerous, and it makes it important how you behave. Blake and his family specifically practice a form of magic that uses demons and is thus corrupting, but it’s called out as uniquely dangerous.


Well, there’s a movie based on a Jack Chick tract about the evils of D&D…


The magic of Xanth can turn you into a misogynistic asshole after lengthy exposure.


In The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs, magic - or more precisely, summoned demons and imps - are the basis of steam age technology, and each use of a demon-powered device leeches off a bit of one’s soul.


Is that what Trump used to get elected?