Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Memory Wipe

Partial Amnesia inflicted by some outside agency, via Mesmerism or Magic. MW is a recurring device in Children's Fantasy – sometimes vaguely justified as a necessary security precaution of Secret Masters, Secret Guardians, Wainscot societies, etc.; sometimes merely implying a sense of auctorial tidiness, as though, once children's magical adventures are over, even the memories must be lost. In either case the violation of a mind conveys unease, as when Puck in Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill (coll 1906) gives two children many remarkable Timeslip history lessons, but repeatedly withdraws the knowledge. The selective MWs imposed on Miramon Lluagor in James Branch Cabell's The Silver Stallion (1926) by a hasty Wish and on the heroine of Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock (1984) by the Fairy Queen are properly shown as Wrongness, and are overcome; Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising (1973) features a MW which is a kind of Healing, relieving characters of terrible knowledge that could break their minds. But in Cooper's Silver on the Tree (1977), E Nesbit's Wet Magic (1912-1913 The Strand; 1913), Pat O'Shea's The Hounds of the Mórrígan (1985) and many further examples, it seems slightly unfair that children who have had the adventure of a lifetime and often helped defeat Evil should have even the memory of their achievement taken away. It is different when they themselves choose to forget, like Susan in C S Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia – who finds the memory of Narnia incompatible with her grown-up worldliness, and rejects it. [DRL]

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.