Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A hobgoblin or nature spirit, called the pooka or phouka by the Irish and pwca by the Welsh, equated by the Scottish to the brownie (> Elves) because of a helpful if mischievous, Trickster nature. The earlier usage of the name emphasized the evil nature of the spirit (the name was at one time synonymous with the Devil). Shakespeare used the word as a personal name in A Midsummer Night's Dream (performed 1596; 1600), equating it with Robin Goodfellow, so that the two have since become synonymous, with Goodfellow's adventures grafted on to Puck's. Puck thus reappears in a number of stories which recreate Shakespeare's world, in particular Land of Unreason (1941 Unknown; 1942) by Fletcher Pratt and L Sprague de Camp and A Midsummer Tempest (1974) by Poul Anderson. Rudyard Kipling uses the play as a medium to introduce Puck to two children in Puck of Pook's Hill (coll of linked stories 1906) and its sequel Rewards and Fairies (coll of linked stories 1910). Eleanor Farjeon uses a similar device in her books featuring Martin Pippin, starting with Martin Pippin in the Apple-Orchard (coll of linked stories 1921).

Puck is something of a Jack-like figure and may be connected with Jack-in-the-Green, a trickster who is one manifestation of the Green Man. Charles de Lint introduces into Moonheart (1984) and the stories in Spiritwalk (coll 1992) the spirit Pukwudji, who resembles a Native American Puck. [MA]

further reading: The Anatomy of Puck: An Examination of Fairy Beliefs Among Shakespeare's Contemporaries and Successors (1959) by Katharine Briggs.

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.