Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The marvellous represents a transcendence of the norm. The result of the marvellous will inspire and instil awe, not solely by the result but by the awareness of its achievement. To achieve the marvellous requires abilities which might normally be regarded as supernatural or superhuman, and certainly beyond the comprehension of Everyman. The marvellous is thus akin to the miraculous (see Miracles), but with the added aura of the glorious. It is not the simple realization that Magic works, but the awe of appreciating that there is a power that makes it work. The marvellous underpins many of those Transformations which are key to the Wonder Tale, and is particularly appropriate to Children's Fantasy. It is harder to achieve in Adult Fantasy, where the reader's cynicism combats the sense of wonder. It seldom works in High Fantasy, an exception being in the climax to Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R Donaldson, where Covenant's eventual transcendence is akin to the marvellous. It also works at a more mundane level, as in The Circus of Dr Lao (1935) by Charles G Finney, where the allure of the marvellous allows a circus to capture its audience through its wonders. [MA]

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.