Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Dumas, Alexandre père

(1802-1870) French dramatist and writer who composed – on his own, and with the aid of anonymous collaborators – hundreds of works, many enormously long and enormously popular. The central corpus makes up a romantic fictional history of France; within this corpus, which eschews supernatural elements, best-known is the Musqueteers sequence, beginning with Les Trois mousquetaires (1844; trans anon as The Three Musqueteers 1846 UK) with Auguste Maquet (anon). His most famous singleton, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (1844-1845 Journal des Débats; 1846; trans anon as The Count of Monte-Cristo 1846 UK) with Maquet (anon), is likewise not a supernatural fiction, but the Château d'Îf, where Edmond Dantès is unjustly imprisoned, has many characteristics of the fantasy Edifice; the escaped Dantès's transformation into the infinitely rich, revengeful but justice-seeking count underlies dozens of Superheroes; his exploits are no less remarkable than those of Batman, and the several long-delayed Recognition scenes which end the text transform his story into a revelatory legend, while he himself goes to continue his attempts at Healing a troubled world.

Children's Fantasies aside, AD began writing Supernatural Fiction with tales like "Un Bal Masqué" (1833 Le Centaur; trans as "The Masked Ball" in Peter Cushing's Tales of a Monster Hunter anth 1977 ed Peter Haining). His first novel of fantastic interest is probably Le Château d'Eppstein (1844; trans Alfred Allinson as The Castle of Eppstein 1903 UK; new trans Norma Lorre Goodrich 1989 US), a Ghost Story. In Les Frères Corse (1844; trans anon as The Corsican Brothers 1845 US; new trans in The She-Wolves of Machecoul and The Corsican Brothers coll 1895 UK) Siamese Twins, separated at birth, maintain a psychic knowledge of each other's dire fates. Isaac Laquedem (1853; trans as Isaak Lakadam 1853 UK; cut trans vt "Tarry Till I Come!" 1897) is a Wandering-Jew tale. AD's most famous supernatural fiction, Le Meneur de Loups (1857; trans Alfred Allinson as The Wolf-Leader 1904 UK; cut trans L Sprague de Camp vt The Wolf Leader 1950 US), follows the complex life of a young man who agrees a Pact with the Devil, which backfires; but, just when his damnation is nigh, he is given the chance to become a Werewolf, though the dice are loaded against him. He wishes for death in order that his beloved may live again, and the novel closes with the Devil frustrated.

Much of AD's shorter fiction of interest was assembled as Les Mille et un Fantomes (coll 1848-1851; part trans anon 3 vols as Tales of the Supernatural 1907 UK – new trans of this vol Alan Hugh Walton as Horror at Fontenay 1975Tales of Strange Adventure 1907 UK and Tales of Terror 1909 UK), a title which reflects the Arabian-Fantasy structure – usually superficial – of its frame, and the vague Orientalizing impulse which shapes some of its contents. Some of his literary Fairytales were assembled as The Phantom White Hare and Other Stories (coll trans Douglas Munro 1989 UK). Plays of interest include Le Vampire ["The Vampire"] (1851), which sums up the tradition of the Byronic Vampire instituted by John Polidori in 1819. Children's stories include: Histoire d'un casse-noisette (1845; trans anon as The Story of a Nutcracker 1846 chap UK; new trans, vt The Nutcracker of Nuremberg 1930 UK), AD's trans of "Nussknacker unde Mausekönig" ["Nutcracker and Mouseking"] (1816) by E T A Hoffmann; La Bouillie de la comtesse Berthe (1845; trans anon as Good Lady Bertha's Honey Broth 1846 chap UK; new trans The Honey Feast 1980 chap UK); La Jeunesse de Pierrot (1854; trans anon as When Pierrot Was Young 1975 chap US); and The Dumas Fairy Tale Book (coll trans Grace Gingeras 1924 US/UK illus Else Hasselriis). Much remains unplumbed. [JC]

Alexandre père Dumas


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.