Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

In Christian theology, the theory that, when Christ took human form, he emptied himself of divine attributes. More generally, the word can describe the process by which the Divine (who may be one of the Gods, or the primordial word) becomes incarnate, like Severian in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983); by analogy, it may also be used to describe the process whereby an Immortal or unaging being becomes mortal, like Arwen in J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) – who accepts the "Doom of Men" to live as Aragorn's queen – Ged in Ursula K Le Guin's Earthsea sequence, Schmendrick in Peter S Beagle's The Last Unicorn (1968), and Callabrion, the god of Summer in Lisa Goldstein's Summer King, Winter Fool (1994), who becomes enamoured of the world and descends into it, stopping the Seasons. In Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion sequence, kenosis is constant but revocable; and is, in the end, ironized deliberately into meaninglessness.

As an act of Bondage, whether or not voluntary, kenosis tends to mark a Thinning of the relevant world. [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.