Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

 Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

In Classical mythology the Moon is associated with various forms of the Goddess; in Teutonic and some other mythologies it is masculine. The association which links its fullness to madness (as in "lunacy") and lycanthropy is also parochial. The symbolism of the Moon is often derived by contrast with the attributes of the Sun and/or Earth. Some Classical writers wondered whether it might be the habitation of the souls of the dead and the source of Oracles. It often represents the unattainable, the unlikely and the absurd, as in "crying for the Moon". All these meanings are amply reflected in fantasy fiction, especially in the more fanciful satirical lunar voyages (see Satire), whose tradition began with Lucian and is detailed in Marjorie Hope Nicolson's Voyages to the Moon (anth 1948) and Roger Lancelyn Green's Into Other Worlds (anth 1958).

The Man in the Moon, supposedly discernible in its visible features, is sometimes identified as Cain (see Accursed Wanderers) and sometimes as Endymion (a lover of Selene or Diana who chose eternal sleep as his "reward"). The story of Endymion is recapitulated in numerous literary works, including "Endimion, the Man in the Moon" (1588) by John Lyly (circa 1554-1606), "Endymion" (1842) by William Aytoun (1813-1865) and "The New Endymion" (1879) by Julian Hawthorne.

In Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1516) everything wasted on Earth – including misspent time, broken vows and unanswered prayers – is treasured on the Moon; this theme was recapitulated by several later writers. In Jacques Cazotte's The Thousand-and-One Follies (1742) the Moon's inhabitants are reportedly light-headed and light-minded. Similarly playful devices are used in much modern fantasy, especially Children's Fantasy; the tradition extends from The Garden on the Moon (1895) by Howard Pyle to The Moon's Revenge (1987 chap) by Joan Aiken. The symbolism of the Moon is explored far more earnestly and elaborately in Paul Auster's Moon Palace (1986).

The metaphorical link between the Moon and womanhood is emphasized by the menstrual cycle, giving rise to the Scholarly Fantasy that women are somehow "enslaved" or forced to "pay tribute" to the Moon – a notion echoed in such works as "The Moon-Slave" (1901) by Barry Pain and Salome (1930) by George S Viereck and Paul Eldridge. James Branch Cabell's Ettarre was held captive in a palace on the far side of the Moon but made her presence known via The Music from Behind the Moon (1926). Dion Fortune's Moon Magic (1956) was an early example of a now-fashionable occultism which combines lunar goddesses from various mythologies into a single overarching symbol of female nature – a notion cleverly redeveloped in such works as "The Woman who Loved the Moon" (1979) by Elizabeth Lynn and Waking the Moon (1994) by Elizabeth Hand.

The more sinister aspects of lunar mythology mostly fall within the domain of occult fiction, although tales like "The Moon-Stricken" (1899) by Bernard Capes are of fantasy interest. The attempted creation of a sinister Messiah in Aleister Crowley's Moonchild (1929) is echoed in some other Occult Fantasies, including "The Case of the Moonchild" (1945) by Margery Lawrence. [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.