Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ingelow, Jean

(1820-1897) UK poet and novelist, best remembered for her stories for children, in particular Mopsa the Fairy (1869) which is arguably the first feminist Bildungsroman (see Feminism). The story tells of a young boy, Jack, who discovers a nest of Fairies and endeavours to return them to Faerie. The journey is via a river – clearly symbolic of the River of life – and en route Jack has many adventures. The fairies grow at a more rapid rate than humankind and, halfway through the novel, Mopsa, who has developed into the Fairy Queen, becomes a dominant character, taking control over Jack's life. Like Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies (1863) and George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind (1871), Mopsa is an Allegory of lost innocence.

JI produced also a volume of Fairytales, The Little Wonder-Horn (coll 1872), in which most of the protagonists strive for an ideal world though do not always have the potential to realize it. These stories were later issued in separate booklets and collected together in a gift box as The Little Wonder-Box (6 vols; omni 1887), which was a much treasured Victorian gift.

JI produced many other children's stories, but few are fantasy. She was admired as a poet and was associated with the Preraphaelites. She produced some realistic novels, notably Off the Skelligs (1872), Sarah De Berenger (1879) and Don John (1881). [MA]

Jean Ingelow


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.