Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A Demon or species of Genie whose name is translated as "screech-owl" in the Authorised Version of the Bible (Isaiah 34:13); in Babylonia the name was associated with Witchcraft and applied to the first wife of Adam (see Adam and Eve); her existence is recorded in the Talmud and various apocryphal documents, though not in Genesis. This Lilith was allegedly expelled from Eden for refusing to accept Adam's domination, and vowed revenge upon her meeker replacement, becoming a stealer and mutilator of babies. Fantasies re-examining the Creation Myth – notably Rémy de Gourmont's Lilith (1892), George MacDonald's Lilith (1895) and John Erskine's Adam and Eve (1927) – sometimes restore Lilith's crucial role but differ markedly in their judgement as to the extent to which she might have been unjustly maligned by tradition. She is treated with considerable sympathy in David H Keller's The Homunculus (1949), where she is the sterile twin sister of Pan. Lilith is a name frequently worn by Femmes Fatales, and its mythical significance has recently been renewed and transfigured by her adoption as a symbolic ancestor-figure in many revisionist Vampire stories. [BS]

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.