Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Ghosts who reappear after some time rather than immediately after death and in more material form. They are often presented as decomposing (though clothed). They are not Zombies, as they retain an identity and purpose – possibly Vengeance. Like ghosts, revenants appear close to the place of death, though not necessarily in Haunted Dwellings. They are frequently depicted in graveyards or crypts, which is where they are most common in Victorian Ghost Stories, but they can appear on a grander scale – a good example is in The Beleaguered City (1879) by Margaret Oliphant. Many of M R James's ghosts are revenants; so is the thing that returns for "John Charrington's Wedding" (1891 Temple Bar) by E Nesbit. Revenants are also common in ghost stories of the sea. The crew of the Flying Dutchman are revenants, and other examples occur in "Ringing the Changes" (1955) by Robert Aickman and The Fog (1975) by James Herbert – also in The Fog (1979), seemingly unrelated. Further interesting movie examples are Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter (1972) and Pale Rider (1985). Revenants allow for more graphic descriptions than their incorporeal counterparts, and are thus frequently used by such exotic wordsmiths as Clark Ashton Smith, Tanith Lee and Michael Shea. [MA]

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.