Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A term coined by Robert Holdstock and first used by him in "Mythago Wood" (1981 F&SF), a story which in expanded form as Mythago Wood (1984) begins the Ryhope Wood sequence. Mythagos – the word is put together from "myth" and "image" or, perhaps more plausibly, "imago" – are in Holdstock's words "heroic legendary characters from our inherited unconscious" (see Jungian Psychology), metamorphs who wear (and are) Masks of our deep, constantly mutating Myths. In the sequence which gave them birth, they inhabit an almost impenetrable Polder in rural England called Ryhope Wood. The wood's outskirts are relatively easy to near, but the further one penetrates Into the Woods the larger it becomes (see Little Big), and, the closer one approaches the heartwood through Labyrinths and Thresholds, the closer one comes to the utterly primordial mythagos (see Time Abyss) at the beginning of things: the point at which all the Metamorphoses or Transformations or Shapeshiftings began, the point at which (it may be surmised) the inner psyche of the human being also started to take shape, the point from which (it may be) mythago and human began to walk separate paths.

Mythagos take various shapes in Holdstock's work: the wodewose or Wild Man, Heroes and Heroines from the Matter of Britain, the Green Man or Robin Hood. Other writers have not used Holdstock's coining, but (as an example) Charles de Lint in Spiritwalk (omni 1992) creates Native American manifestations of myth and story who might usefully have been called mythagos. [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.