Don’t touch that! Magical objects — a blessing or a curse

Horror Tree
7 min readApr 12, 2024

Don’t touch that! Magical objects — a blessing or a curse

By Sarah Elliott

How many times have you gazed at a mundane object in your environment and longed for it to do or be something magical? An iron that would press all your clothes, keeping them miraculously wrinkle-free? A self-filling coffee cup? Clothes that walked to the washing machine and then hung themselves up to dry. A vacuum cleaner that works without being pushed (wait we have that already!). Does that mean that the tech of our present would have been the magical objects of the past?

Maybe, you approach this with caution. After all, so many of us have watched Fantasia. Perhaps we should learn from the apprentice!

If magical objects aren’t part of our everyday lives, we can find them in stories. Fairy tales and folk tales are rife with them. Let’s flick through the pages of the magical object encyclopaedia and refamiliarise ourselves with some of the most popular.

It’s all about the bling baby!

One ring. If only! Magical rings hold so much power so it’s no wonder writers like to call on them.

  • Tolkien, of course — the one ring to rule them all!
  • In Norse mythology, Draupnir (they like to name magical items) is a gold ring owned by the god Odin which has the ability to multiply itself
  • King Solomon’s ring had the power to summon demons and rule over them
  • The Ring of Gyges renders the wearer invisible prompting all kinds of moral dilemmas!
  • The Green Lantern ring can do almost anything depending on the willpower and skill of the wearer

For more popular magic ring books, click below:

That’s just rings! We have other sparkling, spectacular jewellery like the Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski (1968). A raindrop added each birthday that confers a water-related power with the condition that the necklace is never removed. Many necklaces and bracelets offer protection, transformation, or entry to another world. The bracelet in Small Blue Thing by S.C. Ransom (2011) invites the promise of mystery, young love, and potential danger. What innocent-looking piece of jewellery lurking in the bottom of a jewellery box could spark your next story? A gold ring set with a carnelian crystal that confers the wearer with the power to ignite and control fire? An antique pearl necklace that enables the wearer to travel through time to the events where the necklace was worn? Maybe a turquoise bracelet gifted by a member of the Navajo Tribe to offer protection from those visiting from other dimensions?

Try here for further inspiration:

What’s in the wardrobe?

We have invisible cloaks (could it be light-reflecting technology though?) that have been featured in very popular books and would certainly be on the wish list for mischievous teens. How about a magical jumper made from ivy vines that grants the wearer the ability to bring plants back to life and always promises a bountiful harvest? But we need a catch or a loophole. Perhaps if the wearer disrespects nature, the jumper changes to thorny rose vines, scratching at the skin and drawing blood.

Consider the following when planning your story featuring a magical item of clothing (or any other magical item):

  • Where and when does your story take place? Does the magical item of clothing fit into that time? Did it come from another time and place?
  • How did the item come to be?
  • Who did it used to belong to?
  • Who made it?
  • Does it confer power or is it cursed?
  • Is its power limited?
  • Can anyone wear/use it?
  • Can it be destroyed? How?
  • Is someone in search of it and why?

These boots were made for walking, or…

Strutting along the catwalk maybe? Well, red-soled Louboutins might do, but if our budget can’t stretch to that then maybe a pair of red shoes. You know the kind that grants wishes and takes us home (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum). They may well put Uber out of business!

The Red Shoes in Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 story enchant a girl to dance continually. The story inspired a 1948 Powell and Pressburger film of the same name as well as a ballet by Matthew Bourne. In the original story, (SPOILER ALERT) the dancing girl ends up with amputated feet and yet the shoes keep dancing. The tale was supposedly inspired by Andersen’s father, a shoemaker who had an unfortunate experience with a wealthy customer.

You could put a twist on either of these well-known pieces of footwear. Change the colour. Change the magical power. Limit the use in some way: geography, number of uses, time frame or the age range of the wearer.

Perhaps the footwear in your story doesn’t necessarily have a magical power at first. Cinderella’s glass slipper doesn’t but it’s still integral to the story as are the shoes in the Elves and the Shoemaker. What if the glass slipper didn’t start life as a glass slipper? What if the shoes made by the elves had some nefarious plans underfoot? There are several starting points you could use if you’re feeling creatively blocked.

Before Marie Kondo arrived to tidy up

If we are to believe Disney, then our homes are abundant with magical items. We know Mickey’s fate in Fantasia: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I wonder if he would have got himself into quite so much trouble if he had access to a steam mop? Beauty and the Beast has so many talking objects. Do they actually serve the original purpose they were meant for? What is in your home that would prove useful if it had magical powers? Which world would your magic wardrobe take you to (C.S. Lewis)?

Some magical items in stories do not even exist today like the Magic Porridge Pot. Who cooks porridge in a pot when you can add boiling water to pre-mixed oats or add milk and zap in a microwave? Whilst fast fashion is losing its appeal, not many people have time to spin wool these days so Sleeping Beauty could have suffered insomnia like the rest of us. Sleeping Beauty is often associated with the Brothers Grimm (1812), but their version was an adaptation of The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood by Charles Perrault (1697) which details what happens following the kiss. There is an even earlier and far darker version of Sleeping Beauty published in 1634 (Giambattista Basile). See the resource list below for further details.

Moving on to more decorative items we have the famous mirror from Snow White. Mirrors are often used in stories as portals to other worlds or to reflect what cannot be seen by the human eye. They can be simply framed or ornate, hand-held or hung, but do they reflect us accurately or show us how we see ourselves in that cold, flat glass? An example of a magical (or cursed?) item that reflects the truth whilst the lie exists out there in the real world, is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The portrait in the attic ages and shows all of Dorian’s dastardly deeds, whilst Dorian himself remains untouched, youthful, and innocent-looking.

If we cast our gaze to the Middle East, we encounter One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) detailing tales of flying carpets, wish-granting lamps and flying mechanical horses. A quick hop to Ancient Greece and we familiarise ourselves with the assisted exploits of Perseus. In the 1981 film Clash of the Titans, Perseus was gifted from Zeus: a super shiny golden shield (which proved fatal to Medusa), a helmet that made him invisible and a sword able to cut through marble. I wonder if this sword could challenge Arthur’s Excalibur. I wonder if Mjollnir (Thor’s hammer) would be of use for a nail to hang a mystical portrait? And in the battle of the axes would Stormbreaker win, or that nifty little two-in-one weapon Buffy wielded?

So not all houses have an arsenal of secret weapons, but all houses do have somewhere to store food. Magical food can cause all kinds of problems. We’re back to Snow White again, this time with a tempting red apple. Not technically magic but poisonous and likely so through the use of magic. Stories that involve inanimate objects coming to life can provide both horror and amusement. What twist could we use to turn The Gingerbread Man into an adult-rated story? What if Jack’s magic beans led to somewhere else and the treasure wasn’t a golden egg or the antagonist on ogre? For more fantasy books with magical food, check out this list:

Do not read from the book!

You might want to feature a book as a magical object. We know books are magic. That is why we write and read them! Secret journals, grimoires and books of shadows feature in many speculative fiction stories. We see them on the screen — pages of a book flicking through and magically stopping at the right place. Perhaps it is an ancient book passed down through generations, kept safe by a lock with a missing key. A book of spells gathered from around the world that details how to use dark (cursed) objects or how to build protection from them.

Or maybe you favour creating a story inspired by a magical object in another book — Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials has plenty as does Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. You could also look to popular video games, Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or even songs for inspiration (what tune did the Pied Piper play?). Maybe simply take note of your everyday surroundings to create something that is not everyday. Whatever the source of your muse, be sure to give your magical item main character energy!

References and resources:'s%20head%3A%20After%20decapitating%20Medusa,weapon%20capable%20of%20killing%20Calibos.



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