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In role-playing video games, a magic satchel is a character's inventory in the game. The magic satchel can often contain more (or larger) items than should be physically possible for the character to carry.
The term hammerspace describes the seemingly invisible place from which fictional characters, such as cartoon characters, pull out very large objects, such as mallets. Technically the term hammerspace is not used to refer to a magic satchel itself, but rather the area or pocket of space that a magic satchel occupies; a magic satchel is like a door to hammerspace.
The concept of a magic satchel was alluded to many years before role-playing or computer and video games. For instance, in the medieval Welsh epic Y Mabinogi, Pwyll is given a magic satchel by the goddess Rhiannon; this satchel can never be filled except by a man putting his body into it. This trick is used to save Rhiannon from an unwanted Otherworld suitor.
Characteristics in video games
Typically, a magic satchel can carry almost any number of different items or money. Many computer games have either a limit of 255 units, 65,535 units, or 4,294,967,295 units, the maximum values for an unsigned integer represented by one byte, two bytes, or four bytes, respectively.
In many games, none of the objects in the satchel have any weight: One can carry an armory's worth of swords, several dozen suits of armor, scores of healing items, a small fortune in the local currency, and even a vehicle without any strain. The PC game Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge makes a joke about this phenomenon involving the main character picking up and storing a large sleeping hound dog in his pants. A similar situation can be found in Dust: An Elysian Tail, in which the protagonist stores a sheep in his pocket and his companion comments about it.
This rule is not universal: a few games enforce weight or size restrictions, and many require a certain minimum level of strength.
Innumerable cases can be found in books, comics, films and TV shows, as exemplified below.
Magic satchels are too numerous to mention in comics and manga. Similarly, they are widespread in fantasy and science fiction novels and stories. Their presence in other fiction is less common. Examples include:
- In most retellings of the myth, the Greek mythological hero Perseus is given a magic satchel from the goddess Athena, in which he keeps the head of the slain Medusa, among other items.
- In Robert Heinlein's fantasy Glory Road book, a fold box is a little black box 'about the size and shape of a portable typewriter', that can be opened again and again 'unfolding its sides and letting them down until it is the size of a small moving van'.
- In the Scott Pilgrim series, Ramona Flowers has a round purse (referred to as a Subspace Suitcase) that is larger on the inside. The purse can store many large items, like a giant hammer, and even the protagonist at one point.
- In the comic strip Peanuts, the doghouse owned by the Beagle, Snoopy, is described as being much larger on the inside (where it has a pool table and cedar closet) than it appears on the outside.
- In the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling there are many examples of things larger on the inside than the outside but the most obvious example is a literal magic satchel that Hermione uses in the final book. The "beaded handbag" carries, among other things, changes of clothes, a library of books, spell ingredients, a full-sized wall portrait, and a tent (which, when assembled, is also larger on the inside than out) but is also small enough to hide in the sock she is wearing.
- A running gag in the Marx Brothers films was for Harpo Marx's character to be carrying any given item at any given time, and to produce it at will. In the 1932 film Horse Feathers, for example, he produces a candle burning at both ends, as well as a cup of hot coffee for a passing bum, and in Duck Soup, he manages to pull out a functioning blowtorch from his pocket. This gag precedes the creation of the term hammerspace. In the 1992 film Brain Donors, a remake of the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera, the character Jacques (an analogue of Harpo) wears a magic-satchel-like raincoat that seems to contain anything.
- In the 1934 Three Stooges film Men in Black, the Stooges go to the storage closet to acquire modes of transportation to get them to their patients. They are seen riding a three-man bicycle, a horse, and then individual go-carts out of the closet.
- In the 1964 film Mary Poppins, Mary has a magic bag that can store any number of items regardless of shape. This also appears in the stage musical of the same name and in the 1983 Soviet interpretation "Mery Poppins, Do Svidania!" (Mary Poppins, Goodbye).
- In the 1991 John Landis film Oscar, Connie is ordered to give up his "gat" and other weapons. Through a few scenes he is systematically disarmed of a large pile of weapons that include things such as guns, knives, clubs, brass knuckles and a dynamite bomb.
- In the 1994 Jim Carrey film The Mask, the main character uses cartoon-like applications of hammerspace.
- In the 1995 film Mallrats, the character Silent Bob pulls items from his coat that should not fit, such as a fully inflated sex doll.
- In the 1999 film Inspector Gadget, the main character contains many items larger than his body parts.
Many animation shows have magic satchel-like objects or characters. Many examples exist in cartoons, but are not listed here for reasons of brevity. They are rare in live-action programs, and usually produced for comic effect. Examples of magic satchels that regularly appear in live-action shows include:
- Bill Smith from The Red Green Show can produce anything he needs from his overalls. This has included chainsaws, poles, pellet guns, ladders and a loaded crossbow.
- The character of Jerry on the 1990s sitcom Parker Lewis Can't Lose wears a trenchcoat from which he can get any needed item, always with the sound of a velcro attachment ripping free.
- In the Doctor Who TV series, Time Lords are capable of engineering objects bigger on the inside than out, known as cross-dimensional engineering.
- On Sesame Street, Oscar the Grouch's regularly sized trash can houses elephants, a swimming pool and a tennis court. The movie The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland shows a doorway full of swirling color which leads to Grouchland.
- In the futuristic French-Canadian sitcom Dans une galaxie près de chez vous, the character of Brad Spitfire has been shown to be able to pull virtually any weapon out of nowhere (usually right out of the screen).
- In the children's television show The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Rose Moseby has a medium-sized purse from which she pulls out a baseball bat, a vacuum, a medium-sized anchor used as a key ring, a picture, and another purse.
- In Highlander: The Series, the characters frequently produce large swords out of their loose long clothing from a hidden sheath that appears to completely conceal the blade yet allow for quick drawing.
- All That had a character named Baggin' Saggin' Barry who wore oversized pants from which he could produce any item, including, former president Abraham Lincoln.
In computer and video games
Since the earliest Infocom text adventures such as Zork and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, many video games have made extensive use of magic satchels or similar devices to hold the player's inventory. Items can be stored in containers, clothing, with companions, or nowhere in particular. Some games allow unlimited storage, others allow a limited inventory that may require players to discard certain items in order to make room for others. Occasionally the unlimited inventory is used as the basis for a joke, for example when a particularly large or awkward item is placed in it.
A large number of First-person shooter games allow the player to carry an enormous amount of weaponry with no negative effects (such as reduced speed); often without explanation, though Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force contanied mention of a "transporter buffer" for example. RPGs are especially known to have players carrying around outrageous numbers of items and/or extremely large items, such as a house, bicycle, or even other party members (e.g. Final Fantasy, Paper Mario, The Legend of Zelda). On occasion, the gameplay is changed so that players can become encumbered, being able to only carry a set amount of weight and possibly move slower as more items are carried. If a limit, which may depend on certain attributes, is reached, they can no longer carry any more and may be unable to move (e.g. Elder Scrolls, Demon's Souls).
- In the music video "Under the Kilt" by Dr. MacDoo (Jonny Jakobsen), Jakobsen is seen producing various items from under his kilt, such as a pair of roller blades and a large brick.
- In a 1994 video for Coolio's song "Fantastic Voyage", Coolio's car trunk is opened at the beach and several dozen people step out.
- In the music video "Good-by Routine" by Donots, the band is packing everything in the room, including the furniture, into a small bag.
- In the music video "The King Is Half-Undressed" by Jellyfish, lead singer Andy Sturmer wears a top hat which produces various objects, including fruit, animals, flowers, and Sturmer's own hands playing a tambourine.
- Tommy Cooper had a famous act in which he produced many large items from beneath a gown, which was clearly shown to be the result of someone backstage passing the items through the curtain behind him. He famously died on British television performing this act.