Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

In Supernatural Fiction and Slick Fantasy texts, Fate often serves as a comeuppance. It punishes those who fail to Read the Small Print, or hope to trick the Gods, or who enter into any form of Agon with destiny. Chess matches in particular provide an ideal level playing field upon which Fate (which or who often appears as a personification of Death) may demonstrate its (or his, or her) ineluctable writ.

In Algernon Blackwood's "By Water" (1914), a man told to fear the effects of water dies in the deserts of Egypt when in a delirium of thirst he falls helplessly into a small pool he had failed to notice, and drowns (see also Amulet). In the "Appointment in Samarra" Fable, a man runs away from Death to Samarra – where Death has a prior appointment with him. In Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1956), a knight, foreknowing the outcome, plays chess with Death/Fate. [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.