Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

An event that defies human understanding and is usually attributed to divine intervention. There is in fact a dissonance in the relationship between miracles and Fantasy. The performance of miracles and a belief in their divine origin is fundamental to religious faith, and this brings with it an acceptance of miracles as fact. But a fundamental premise of fantasy is that we are dealing with the impossible. Thus "miracle" is a meaningless term in a Secondary World of Magic, where their performance is natural and therefore not miraculous. They can be perceived as miraculous only in our world, and thus tend to appear in works of either Low Fantasy or Supernatural Fiction. To work as fiction, miracles are best left unexplained, as in Brian Moore's Cold Heaven (1983), where the miraculous events seem to form part of some Godgame, or The Miracle Boy (1927) by Louis Golding, where the dead are restored to life (see Resurrection). The belief in miracles as core to faith was explored by Honoré de Balzac in "Jesus-Christ en Flandre" ["Christ in Flanders"] (1831), where each individual's faith is tested by following Jesus out of a boat in a storm to walk across the sea. Such aspects of faith and belief are explored and challenged in A Book of Miracles (coll 1939) by Ben Hecht. Because of their divine origin, all miracles should be beneficial; anything inexplicable and Evil will be the work of the Devil and thus Black Magic, not a miracle. Miracles induce wonder and are akin to the Marvellous. While they might suggest a sense of Wrongness, their performance results in a feeling of rightness, which may even have restored some Balance in an inherently evil world – as in Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994). Miracles or apparent miracles appear most frequently in religious fantasies (see Christian Fantasy; Religion) and apocalyptic fiction (see Apocalypse), where the rise in miracles is a precursor to Armageddon. H G Wells's "The Man who Could Work Miracles" (1898 Illustrated London News), filmed as The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936), shows the folly of humanity attempting to operate with divine power. [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.