Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Hughes, Ted

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Working name of UK poet Edward James Hughes (1930-1998), whose work has displayed an almost truculent consistency from his first book of poetry, The Hawk in the Rain (coll 1957), to his most recent major volume, Wolfwatching (coll 1989); other titles of importance include Lupercal (coll 1960), Wodwo (coll 1967), Crow (coll 1970; exp 1972; > Trickster), Gaudete (coll 1977) and Moortown (coll 1979). He was made Poet Laureate in 1984. His poetry invokes natural forces and animals – whose essential beings he represents through consciously shaman-like conjurations and exaltations – to convey a sense of the absolute priority of raw individual acts, to construct a primitivist narrative of the Matter of Britain, and passionately to mourn the environmental degradation of the planet.

This mourning is perhaps most clearly articulated in his Iron Man sequence – The Iron Man: A Story in Five Nights (1968; vt The Iron Giant 1968 US), later made into a musical (> Opera) by Peter Townshend (1945-    ), and The Iron Woman: A Sequel to the Iron Man (1993 chap) – both written ostensibly for children but powerfully directed for the attention of anyone. In the first, an ambivalently well inclined Iron Man defends the world from a space Dragon, which he persuades to sing the music of the spheres and to bring humans to peace. In the second, peace is not mentioned. The focus this time is on pollution; an Iron Woman rises terribly from a poisoned swamp to threaten a nearby "Waste Factory" – one of the waste-treatment plants notoriously allowed by the UK government to import and "treat" deadly chemicals from around the world – with utter destruction. Anyone she touches instantly hears the pain of all living things as they die. A young girl who has been so touched contacts the young boy who served as the Iron Man's companion; eventually all four come together, and with the space dragon's almost infinite power, inflict a savagely chastening Transformation on all the men of the UK: they are turned into aquatic animals, where their bodies are tortured by the poisons which are killing the Land (> Bondage) until they are magically redeemed and the natural world is saved.

Other Children's Fantasies include Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth (1986 chap), What is the Truth?: A Farmyard Fable for the Young (1984 chap) and the Creation Tales sequence – How the Whale Became and Other Stories (coll 1963), Tales of the Early World (coll 1988) and The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales (coll 1995) – assembling original Creation-Myth tales which describe a somewhat accident-prone God, his dealings with Angels and Demons, and his making of various animals (including the human race). Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (1992) attempts to do for William Shakespeare what TH's work as a whole attempts to do for Britain: to understand Shakespeare as a being dictated by Myth. TH argues that a twofold representation of the Goddess – the first myth being that retold in Venus and Adonis (1593), the second that retold in The Rape of Lucrece (1594) – underlies the dynamic that generated Shakespeare's tragedies and, more relevantly for fantasy, the complex Night Journey into Healing that characterizes the late romances. [JC]

other works: The Coming of the Kings and Other Plays (coll 1970; exp vt The Tiger's Bones and Other Plays 1974 US).

Edward James Hughes


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.