Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

With the exception of Gender Disguise, disguise is less significant in fantasy than the more interesting possibilities of Transformation, Metamorphosis or Spells of Illusion and Glamour. Fairytale characters often go in disguise as pedlars or mendicants, like the Queen in Snow White, the Magician in "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp" (see Arabian Fantasy) and the Caliph Haroun al Raschid. The versatile Master of Disguise character is a borrowing from the detective/thriller genre; e.g., Eugène François Vidocq (1775-1857) in his own highly fictionalized Memoirs (1828) and von Gerolstein in Eugene Sue's The Mysteries of Paris (1844); the original 1973 version of the Comics superheroine "Black Orchid" (see also Neil Gaiman) was a modern Mistress of Disguise. The shrunken but still human-shaped Gray Mouser in Fritz Leiber's The Swords of Lankhmar (1968) is sufficiently resourceful with disguise to impersonate a specific rat; Tanith Lee's Sword-and-Sorcery detective Cyrion (1982) uses constant disguises as a way of confusing people into revealing truth. When Puzzle the donkey in C S Lewis's The Last Battle (1956) is persuaded to wear a lion-skin as Aslan, the success of this disguise, despite its unconvincing crudity, is a measure of Narnia's Thinning; Severian in Gene Wolfe's The Sword of the Lictor (1982) attends a costume party in his normal cloak and mask as torturer, which is thus assumed to be a disguise (see also Trompe-L'oeil); the pallid, undead rival heroines of Death Becomes Her (1992) must disguise themselves as their living selves. Magical disguises include: Gwydion's placing of "another semblance" on himself and Llew to deceive Arianrhod in the Mabinogion; Merlin's similar disguise of Uther Pendragon as the lady Igraine's already dead husband, leading to Sex and the birth of Arthur; Shea's monstrously tusked disguise as a Djann (see Genies) in The Castle of Iron (1950) by L Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt; two useful cloaks in Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle (1986), whose wearers respectively seem a red-bearded man and a horse; and the Witch Ursula's disguise of herself as a rival to the heroine of The Little Mermaid (1989). [DRL]

see also: Invisibility; Masks; Plot Devices.

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.