Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ransome, Arthur

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(1884-1967) UK writer and editor, best-known for his late series of children's stories (none fantasy) which began with Swallows and Amazons (1930). His fantasy work precedes this series by several decades. The Stone Lady: Ten Little Papers and Two Mad Stories (coll 1905) contains two or three stories – "Meddling with the Fairies" in particular – that emote a condescending "delicacy" typical of turn-of-the-century texts dealing with Fairies and other diminutive inhabitants of suburban gardens; and Highways and Byways in Fairyland (1906) is a geography of Faerie, which is again seen in diminutive terms. The tales assembled in The Hoofmarks of the Faun (coll 1911) are intermittently more significant, though they tend still to be crippled by sentimentality. In "The Hoofmarks of the Faun" (1908) itself a faun in northern exile falls in love with a young mortal lady, but his hoofs spook her. "Rolf Sigurdson" (1904) tells of long-ago days when Dreams foretold reality, and of a man who goes to Yggdrasil (> World-Tree) in a dream-state which curves in upon itself (> Arabian Nightmare), but escapes. The protagonist of "The Ageing Faun", a tale which prefigures the work of Thomas Burnett Swann, gives up Immortality to wed a woman, though warned by Apollo that she'll die in childbirth and that he'll wither and perish likewise, having forgotten his motive for becoming mortal (this indeed comes to pass). The Elixir of Life (1915) is a Horror novel: an aristocrat owes his immortality to the Elixir, which requires those who take it to murder to maintain its strength.

AR's first lasting success in fiction came with Old Peter's Russian Tales (coll 1916), Russian-style Fairytales told from the vantage of a Frame Story by Old Peter to his grandchildren. By now AR had mastered a Diction which did not belittle his chosen subject matter. The Soldier and Death: A Russian Folktale Told in English (1920 chap) retells a traditional tale with dignity.

AR was also active as a man of letters in the early years of the 20th century. A History of Story-Telling: Studies in the Development of Narrative (1909) is more than anecdotally useful in any history of the impulse to Story. He edited the 12-volume The World's Story-Tellers (1908-1909); of the 12 authors given individual volumes, those of fantasy interest included Théophile Gautier, Nathaniel Hawthorne, E T A Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe, and translated Rémy de Gourmont's philosophical fantasy Une nuit au Luxembourg (1906; trans as A Night in the Luxembourg 1912 UK); his essay on that author in Portraits and Speculations (coll 1913) is of interest. [JC]

other works: Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (1919 chap).

Arthur Michell Ransome


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.