Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

In Greek mythology, a matriarchal race of warrior women who worship the Moon. The right breasts of Amazon girls are removed at puberty, according to some accounts, so they can continue to draw bowstrings. They usually reside in the south of Turkey, as in The Green Scamander (1933) by Maude Meagher (?1895-?1977), or in South America, though they have been granted more romantic homelands like Atlantis in novels like Ivor Bannet's The Amazons (1948). They figure in Homer's Iliad (circa 800BC), and their ultimately tragic role in the Trojan War has inspired various works, including The Green Scamander and at least one Opera, Penthesilea (performed 1927) by Othmar Schoek (1878-1957). In the 19th and early 20th centuries they are sometimes discovered in lost-world venues (see Lost Lands and Continents), as in The Amazonian Republic: Recently Discovered in the Interior of Peru (1842) by Timothy Savage, A Parisian Sultana (coll trans H Mainwaring Dunstan 1879 UK) by Adolphe Belot (1829-1890), An Amazonian Queen, or Nick Carter Becomes a Gladiator (1907 chap) by Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey (1865-1922) writing as Chickering Carter, Harold Mercer's Amazon Island (1933), where the lost race of women is engaging in a Utopian experiment, and Tarzan and the Amazons (1945) (see Tarzan Movies). The most famous 20th-century use of the image is of course Wonder Woman, created in 1941.

More recently, the figure of the Amazon has become common in Sword and Sorcery as an icon of female autonomy, appearing in series like Sharon Green's Amazon Warrior sequence (1982-1986) and in singletons like Megan Lindholm's Harpy's Flight (1983) and Evangeline Walton's The Sword Is Forged (1983), the latter presenting, through the figure of Theseus, a patriarchal challenge to the Amazon in terms which allow some inspired debate. Anthologies include Marion Zimmer Bradley's Free Amazons of Darkover (anth 1985) and Jessica Amanda Salmonson's Amazons! (anth 1979) and Amazons II (anth 1982); Salmonson's guide to the subject, The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era (1991), is extremely thorough. The Amazon continues to be used as a model for feminist speculations (see Feminism), one of the more recent examples of the subgenre being Amazon (1992) by Barbara G Walker (1930-    ), a Timeslip fantasy in which an ancient Amazon is befriended by a contemporary women named Diana, and they write a book together which is critical of the patriarchal USA. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.