Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Avatar

Term used in the Vedic myths incorporated into Hindu religion to denote the various incarnations of the gods, particularly Brahma and Vishnu. It is sometimes generalized by commentators to refer to any temporary incarnation of a deity, particularly in the context of syncretizing theories which regard all similar myth-figures as aspects of the same root-image. Such theories underlie a good deal of fantasy, resulting in such "avatar stories" as Edgar Jepson's The Horned Shepherd (1904). The term's use in "Avatar" (1856) by Théophile Gautier and The Avatars: A Futurist Fantasy (1933) by A.E. is more obviously metaphorical. [BS]

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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.