Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The gap between the animate and the inanimate is, in fantasy, charged. The most famous example of the transition is the story of Pygmalion. His tale appears early in the history of Western literature. As Ovid tells the story in Metamorphoses (written circa AD1-8), Pygmalion is a king of Cyprus who is also an artist, and who falls in love with the Statue of Aphrodite he has carved. He prays to the Goddess that he may have a wife as beautiful as this work of art, and She gives life to the statue, which/ whom Pygmalion then marries. Artists have for centuries portrayed the cusp or Trompe-L'oeil moment of Metamorphosis, when inanimate stone becomes animate human flesh, doing so in a manner that makes it impossible to tell whether what is seen is animate or inanimate, or magically both. [JC]

see also: Frankenstein; Golem; Real Boy; Toys.

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.