Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

In Greek mythology Pan was a horned and goat-legged Arcadian shepherd-god, similar in form to the Satyrs; he played seductive music on pipes made from the reeds into which the nymph Syrinx had been turned in order to escape his amorous advances. His shout had the ability to infect adversaries with the unreasoning terror of "panic". His identification with both the seductive and frightening aspects of "nature" made him a uniquely useful symbol in late-19th- and early-20th-century fantasy, his invocation as an ambiguous adversary in Urban Fantasy mapping out the changing relationship of town and country. His utility was further increased by virtue of the fact that key aspects of his physical appearance had, by association with the Horned God (> Devils), been appropriated for incorporation into Christian images of the Devil, so that he became the chief substitute for Satan in the sceptical tradition of UK Literary Satanism. This renewed image was quickly appropriated by lifestyle fantasists (> Lifestyle Fantasy) like Aleister Crowley, perhaps inspired by the example of Edgar Jepson's The Horned Shepherd (1904) and No. 19 (1910). Crowley's intellectual descendants often credited this allegedly suitable object of reverence with the title bestowed on him by Arthur Machen's classic melodrama "The Great God Pan" (1894), while Oscar Wilde's litany to the "Goat-foot god of Arcady", in "Pan" (1881), is echoed in such apologetic works as The Goat-foot God (1936) by Crowley's one-time disciple Dion Fortune as well as in tales in a more horrific vein like The Devil and the Crusader (1909) by Alice and Claude Askew.

Pan's symbolism of the wildness within and without is variously exemplified by such tales as "The Moon Slave" (1901) by Barry Pain, "Pan" (1905) by James Huneker (1860-1921), "The Story of a Panic" (1911) by E M Forster, "The Music on the Hill" (1911) by Saki, "The Man who Went Too Far" (1912) by E F Benson, "The Golden Bough" (1934) by David H Keller, "Capra" (1951) by Sarban and "The Forest of Unreason" (1961) by Robert F Young. Meeker and more benevolent versions appear in "Syrinx" (1891) by James Vila Blake, "Pan's Wand" (1903) by Richard Garnett, "The Prayer of the Flowers" (1915) by Lord Dunsany, "On the Knees of the Gods" (1940) by J Allan Dunn (1872-1941) and "The Pipes of Pan" (1940) by Lester del Rey (1915-    ); he makes a cameo appearance in a visionary interlude in The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame. A more sinister Pan is featured in "The Master of Cotswold" (1944) by Nelson Bond.

The Plea of Pan (coll of linked stories 1901) by Henry Nevinson (1856-1941) is a curious set of dialogues in which Pan and his followers reveal new depths of philosophical sophistication. These were carried forward into such works as Pan and the Twins (1922) by Eden Phillpotts, in which Pan is a symbol of Epicurean joy in life whose worship is carefully contrasted with the asceticism of Christianity, and The Oldest God (1926) by Stephen McKenna, in which Pan plays a cleverly mischievous role in upsetting the attempts of a conference of Christians to come to terms with the problem of Evil. Dunsany's The Blessing of Pan (1927) describes a revival of life-enhancing paganism caused by the music of Pan, which carries away a vicar as well as his village flock, according to an ambivalent pattern earlier laid out in "How Pan Came to Little Ingleton" (1926) by Margery Lawrence. In David H Keller's The Homunculus (1949) Pan is the twin brother of Lilith and the archetypal male. [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.