Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Erskine, John

(1879-1951) US writer. His early essay, "Magic and Wonder in Literature", is reprinted in The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent and Other Essays (coll 1915). Many of his works recycle well known Myths and Legends (their supernatural components eliminated or drastically reduced) such that the actions of their protagonists are satirically related to contemporary social etiquette. The Private Life of Helen of Troy (1925) describes Helen's readjustment to family life following the fall of Troy; the story is told almost entirely in dialogues in which Helen runs rings around her critics. Galahad, Enough of His Life to Explain His Reputation (1926) reveals the perfect Galahad to be a perfect prig. Adam and Eve, Though He Knew Better (1927) is really the story of Lilith and Eve (see Adam and Eve); the weak-willed Adam eventually forsakes the free-spirited Lilith for the nagging emotional blackmailer Eve. Penelope's Man: The Homing Instinct (1927), perhaps the most telling of JE's Satires, shows a hypocritical Odysseus disappointing a whole series of philosophical coquettes. Uncle Sam, in the Eyes of His Family (1930) is concerned with myths of a more modern stripe. The stories in Cinderella's Daughter and Other Sequels and Consequences (coll 1930) rework the motifs of classic Fairytales to comment on various social issues; the sharpest – "The Patience of Griselda", "Sleeping Beauty" and "Beauty and the Beast" – deal with sexual politics, as does the most fantastic of JE's novels, Venus, the Lonely Goddess (1949), which describes rather melancholily the hapless goddess's attempts to figure out exactly what she stands for. [BS]

other works: Solomon, My Son! (1935).

John Erskine


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.