Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

1. Straightforwardly, the Genre-Fantasy analogue of medical treatment. The most usual form is a laying-on of hands, sometimes accompanied by chanting or a spoken Spell. Herbs, Potions or poultices can speed the healing process. More dramatic magical healing may be available – e.g., the touch of a Unicorn's horn. [CB]

2. More interestingly, one of several central terms which help describe the narrative course of the fully structured fantasy tale. Of these terms – the others are Wrongness, Thinning, Recognition and Story (see Fantasy for full discussion) – "healing" is the most straightforward. It is what occurs after the worst has been experienced and defeated. It is the greening of the Waste Land or the recovery from Amnesia on the part of the Hero or the escape from Bondage and the Metamorphosis into the desired shape and fullness of those who have been wounded/imprisoned by the Dark Lord. In the language of J R R Tolkien, it is the Eucatastrophe. In The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) the harrowing of the Shire is a form of healing; in Peter S Beagle's The Last Unicorn (1968) the land immediately blossoms after the death of King Haggard, the Knight of the Doleful Countenance who cannot pass through the necessary purging self-recognition into the new world. It is what Covenant, in Stephen R Donaldson's Thomas Covenant sequence, finally permits himself to grant the Land which has been his disease. It is what the story of fantasy "wishes" to tell. [JC]

[Clarification, 2014: In post-1997 versions of the four-part model of fantasy Story which here comprises Wrongness, Thinning, Recognition and Healing, John Clute has renamed the final phase as Return.]

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.