The White Council: aka – the Devil you know

The White Council of The Dresden Files
aka – the Devil you know


white council, dresden files

The White Council – The Organization of Human Wizards.

There is an obscure Medieval Latin noun that is used by J.R.R. Tolkien Folks (big surprise there, I know) to describe his collection and usage of other people’s legends as his own, and that word is legendarium. It was a word that was originally used to describe the collective lives of the Christian Saints, but, like so many things misused this poor little word has been dug up from its grave, reanimated, and applied to refer to the council of elves and wizards in Middle Earth that contested the growing power of some castle fortress instigated by that singing elf chick (Galadriel) with more aliases than Shaun John Combs, alias “Diddy,” alias “P. Diddy,” alias “Puff Daddy,” alias “Puffy,” alias “Puff,” alias “Daddy.”

It annoys me because I wanted to use it when writing about the White Council in Jim Butcher’s books, The Dresden Files, but now I feel like I can’t, or shouldn’t. So instead I’ll just use a phrase from a living language that we all know and can speak-verse, as in “The Dresden-verse.”

In The Dresden-verse, the White Council, a.k.a. “the Devil you know” is the ruling body of wizards who oversee and dictate “the law” to practicing wizards. Their main function is to protect humans, especially those who are not in the magical know as it were, from magic, the effects of magic, as well as interaction, direct or indirect, from the supernatural being of the Nevernever, be they fae or vampire. Sounds simple, and it is, except that the Council is an ancient and large political machine, and not all members see eye to eye. Each member has their own political agenda. Some members are outright mean and so socially detached that they border on being a sociopath… well, as you can see, it’s complicated.

The White Council has a method to measure one’s magical ability and based on the outcome of that test a decision is made as to whether or not one’s ability falls above or below a pre-determined line. If you are tested and found wanting, you are denied entry into the Council. If you pass, you’re in. Butcher has never really gone into the details of what exactly the test consists of or if after a certain number of years a person could re-take the test. Personally, as inflexible as the Council is on just about every matter, I doubt that the test is ever re-administered. It just strikes me as a “pass/fail” type of system.

The goal of the Council is to unite wizards into an organized force. It makes and maintains treaties with other magical beings and organizations and has the power, ability, and especially the motivation to enforce their will should the treaties be broken. Because the council is so old and consists of individuals from all over the world, the language they speak when gathered together is Latin. The idea is that since it’s a dead and tedious language it favors no one. It has however been stated many times throughout the books that the younger wizards, especially Harry, have a hard time speaking it, let alone doing so eloquently during Council sessions. I imagine that when the older members of the Council hear younger members speaking in what must sound like baby talk to them, they give the content of their words little to no merit.

The White Council is headed up by seven wizards, referred to as The Senior Council. They are selected for the position out of the eldest members of the Council. Although they are old and thereby magically powerful they are not all necessarily the best persons for the job. Also of note, a person cannot campaign for a position on the Senior Council as there is no election process. The Senior Council rules by majority vote amongst themselves. Stagnation is not uncommon.

The head of these seven folks is referred to as the Merlin. This individual is supposed to be the single most powerful wizard in the world. This may not mean “most powerful” is the sense of boom-zap. It has been speculated that the Merlin may not be a title but in fact be the guy who hung with first Uther and then later Author Pendragon. The fan boards are filled with ideas and theories as to who he really is. Some of those speculations are sane and logical sounding while others were probably typed by some twit who was wearing an aluminum foil hat while hiding out in the safety of his mom’s basement. Fact of the matter is that the Merlin is Arthur Langtry, a wizard whose primary talent lies in defensive magic. He was born back in the days before the British Empire had a neat little colony overseas in America.

The Senior Council has at their disposal the Wardens, those combat ready individuals who are empowered to enforce the Seven Laws of Magic that Senior members created hundreds of years ago. The Wardens are a bit like Jedi Knights and a lot like Judge Dread. If they see one of the Laws of Magic being broken by a wizard they do not need to arrest the person and have them stand trial, rather, they can lop off his head right there on the spot. The capes of the Wardens magically repel blood, so there are no annoying blood stains to remove from their cloaks later on. If they are wrong, well, it’s not like ya can undo a beheading, best to forget the whole bit of ugliness, move along and try to get it right next time.

The Senior Council also has a position called the Blackstaff. This is the Council’s personal hit man, assassin and enforcer. It has been revealed in “Blood Rites” that Senior Council member, Ebenezer McCoy is the current Blackstaff. Fortunately for the world McCoy is not a heartless, bloodthirsty killer or a politically minded individual, as his position would allow him to kill with reckless abandon, without consequences or the need for proclamation, let alone permission. Or so we assume. We don’t know really, as the story of the “Dresden Files” is told from Harry Dresden’s point of view. Let’s be honest, I love the guy, but Harry can be a bit naïve.

Arthur Langtry is the current Merlin, centuries old, stern, inflexible, and a political guru. All indicators lead us to believe that he is an adequate leader and generally fair but like many old men he does not like to be proven wrong by someone younger, less powerful, knowledgeable, or capable than himself, which, sadly, is everyone in the world. Langtry does not like Harry, at all. In fact, he has developed and displays a nervous tic in his presence.

Ancient Mai, as the name would imply, is a Methuselain grey haired woman of Asian descent, foggy eyes and giving off a notable “creep” vibe. Usually when a person experiences that sort of feeling off another person it is our body’s way of alerting us to the fact that we are in the presence of a psychopath. Mai doesn’t hate Harry, per say, but she has been against him at every turn throughout the series, and albeit with timely-appropriate and sound reasons. She thinks in the here and now, preferring to cut her losses and rebuild than wait and see and take it from there. Definably not a fly by the seat of her pants type of gal, explaining in part why she and Harry agree to disagree. Lots of folks suspect that Mai and Langtry are members of the Black Council and have turned traitor…but that is a blog for another time.

Ebezener McCoy, the Blackstaff, was not only the person who took Hoss (a.k.a.Harry) in as a ‘tween and has been his biggest defender and supporter ever since. McCoy is a grizzled old Scottish mountain man living in the back woods of Missouri. Its speculated that he came to the States during the French and Indian War. He’s been the Blackstaff for a couple of hundred years and is accredited to have caused the eruption of Krakatau, among other such disasters. McCoy and the Merlin have been at odds over a disagreement that they had gotten into years ago, but it has never been stated what the disagreement was or for how long it has been ongoing. We do know that Mccoy and Merlin first met when McCoy was 16 if that sheds any light on the subject. But, how cool would be it be if they were not speaking because the Merlin had a Maury Povitch moment when some Scotts woman came up to him with her teenage son and said, “Arthur, ya atch de fadder!” Let it be known that there has been absolutely nothing in the books to even hint at such a thing. I am just projecting my own personal desire to go and see a taping of an episode of “Maury” after being so thoroughly disappointed with the “Jerry Springer” show I went and saw filmed last fall.

The Gatekeeper, Rashid, is tall, mysterious, Arab with a British accent. He can see the future through his metal eye and holds a grudge against Demonreach Island. Beyond that we don’t know anything else about him. He’s funny with a sense of humor when compared to other members of the council, but that is not saying a whole lot. I think he likes Harry on a personal level but will not interact with him because he is fearful that by doing so would he may alter the future and thereby break the Sixth Law of Magic (Thou shalt not swim against the Currents of Time) which would cause the swift removal of his head from his body, should a Warden have sand enough to try. With Morgan dead, I don’t know who’d step up to the plate on that one. Guess it would de facto fall to the acting Blackstaff.

Gregori Cristos is my favorite Senior Council member. He has never appeared in any of the books. He’s said to be a Greek who has lived in Asia for the last several hundred years. He was appointed to the Senior Council after (and because) LaFortier was murdered. Cristos was given the position not because he was next in line or God forbid worthy of such an honor but only because he threatened to leave the Council altogether if he was passed over. Everyone thinks that he’s a bad guy and a member of the alleged Black Council because he’s a manipulative jerk, but again, this comes from the point of view character, Harry. Truth be told, it’s hearsay at best, as Harry has never spoken with or interacted with Cristos in any way. Harry’s opinion is based purely on what was told to him. I think it would be neat-o keen if Cristos was a member of the Jade Court and hanging around Asia cause as soon as he came home he’s be kicked out of the Council. Again, this is just my projecting my desires, but tis time to see Butcher give us a taste of the often mentioned but never seen Jade Vampires.

Listens-to-Wind, also called Injun Joe by his friends no less, is a Native American healer. He excels in shape shifting and communicates with animals. Of all the Senior Council members he is the only one with a familiar, a raccoon named Little Brother. Although, it has occurred to me that the raccoon may not be a familiar at all but rather a good friend of his, as Listens-to-Wind would otherwise be the only character in all of the Dresden-verse that has a familiar. I can’t think of another, can you?

Last but not least, but certainly the most ho-hum, is Miss Martha Liberty an old (see a pattern here) grey haired black woman. She is a very minor character in the books, teeny-tiny some would say. She has maybe two walk on appearances in the series thus far, upwards to three paragraphs in 2,500 written pages of text. She hates being called “Matty,” as we can all assume Harry does, and lives with the descendants of her family. Other than knowing that she dreamily noted aloud in one of her few speaking parts that Harry has his mother’s eyes, I have nothing else to say about her. Nothing that is except I do wonder what Matty’s relationship was like with Mamma Dresden. Hmm…

So, there ya have it, the Senior Council of the Dresden-verse explained for you in simple, plain speak. Obviously if you have read this far into the blog you are a fan of Jim Butcher’s as well as a fan of Buzzy Multimedia, and dare I say, me too. But have you asked yourself the question: are you doing everything you can for us and America? Why not buy one of their audio books, gift it to a friend and stimulate the economy at the same time. All you have to do it click on the link here…come, on, ya know ya want to….just move the mouse and get the arrow pointed here, and then click. And then leave a response in the field below.

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Theresa Bane

Theresa Bane

QrT – Theresa Bane Vampirologist and one of Jim Butcher’s Asylum Inmates.
Theresa Bane