Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Pygmalion

A king of Cyprus, a woman-hater and an artist. The story appears in Metamorphoses (written circa AD1-8) by Ovid. Pygmalion sculpts an ivory statue of Aphrodite and falls in Love with it. He then prays to the Goddess for a wife as beautiful as this carven image, and She causes the statue to come alive. Pygmalion marries the living woman, Galatea.

The tale is important in various ways. Even more than Daedalus and Icarus, Pygmalion and Galatea have long served as Underlier figures for stories depicting makers and their creations, most notably perhaps in the story of Frankenstein and his Monster. Just as significantly for the understanding of fantasy stories is the moment in the tale when inanimate stone cannot be told apart from animate human flesh (> Animate/Inanimate). This Trompe-L'oeil instant is an exemplary model for the danger-filled, highly charged Metamorphoses which shape the outcomes of many fantasy texts. [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.