Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ancestral Memories

In Supernatural Fiction AMs – which may speak through a Revenant or a Picture or a Bad Place or an object which has been infected – are almost certainly invasive, and represent an infliction of Bondage upon the protagonist; they are attempts to ingest the present. Examples are very numerous; most confirm a sense that the AM in supernatural stories is likely to be inimical, properly resisted by the healthy protagonist, and – if the ending is to be happy – properly laid to rest.

In Timeslip fantasies, the AM will quite possibly represent the call of the earlier self to the current self (see Shadow); and it is likely that – rather than ingest the present self – the caller invokes that present self's need to inhabit the earlier version. E Nesbit's The House of Arden (1908), its sequel Harding's Luck (1909) and Lucy Boston's Green Knowe books (from 1954) all combine elements of the timeslip with an evocation of the AM as a form of the genius loci, the genius of place.

In most fantasies set in Secondary Worlds, the AM serves as a reminder of the central Story which is being revealed to the protagonists, who may well be Avatars of a founding God or monarch. AMs, in this context, are messages and adjurations: they remind the protagonist of the purity of being which may have been lost through Thinning, of the restorative task that is therefore laid upon the protagonist, and of the story that must be continued to the end; and they often convey specific instructions. Where in supernatural fictions the AM is an enemy, in fantasy it is a gift. [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.