Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Mines, when they appear in fantasy, are usually redolent with meanings beyond the industrial. A mine may be a Portal to an Alternate World or to a Secondary World; it may be a passage to the Underworld, or to some other place of trial where the protagonist must undergo a Night Journey; it may contain a Malign Sleeper or the Once and Future King; it may open the eyes of the protagonists to the true age of the world (> Time Abyss), and may well be worked by Dwarfs whose history extends backwards into the dawn of time; it may be a Polder or a Last Redoubt, or underlie an Edifice; it may have countless other roles. Mines crop up in all kinds of fantasy, and are part of the standard geography of Fantasyland.

There are mines in George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin (1872). Moria, in J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), and the Vincula, in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983), are further examples; neither is as terrifyingly claustrophobic as the unnamed workings within Alderley Edge featured in Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: A Tale of Alderley (1960; vt The Weirdstone: A Tale of Alderley 1961 US: rev 1963 UK). The most famous mine in all fantasy is almost certainly the one in which the Seven Dwarfs labour (> Snow White; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [1937]). [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.