Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A name from the Hebrew, meaning "lion of God", and hence an Angel name in various texts, including John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667). Much the best-known appearance of Ariel is as the Shapeshifter spirit of the air in Shakespeare's The Tempest (performed circa 1611; 1623) who was imprisoned by the Witch Sycorax in a Tree (for which he has become an emblem of the kind of metamorphic Bondage characteristic of fantasy) and subsequently enslaved by Caliban. He is released by Prospero on condition that he serve until no longer needed. At the end of the play he is freed to the elements. As an important figure in a central Taproot Text, Ariel can be detected as an Underlier figure in many tales. [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.