Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

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Pseudonym of UK author and journalist Hector Hugh Munro (1870-1916), now best-remembered for his witty, barbed and epigrammatic short stories and Contes Cruels. Several of these are fantasy or Supernatural Fiction, often framed as Club Stories, with a leaning to Animal Fantasy – even nonfantasies casually loose hyenas, monkeys, Wolves, etc., upon an exquisite English social scene. Relevant stories appear in all collections. Reginald (coll 1904) spoofs Fables with "Reginald on Besetting Sins: The Woman who Told the Truth", stressing the hazards of truth-telling. Reginald in Russia (coll 1910) includes the ironically cruel Werewolf story "Gabriel-Ernest" and "The Soul of Laploshka", where a miser's Ghost will not rest until a two-franc debt is repaid by bestowing it on the deserving rich (> Conditions). The Chronicles of Clovis (coll 1911) has: "Tobermory", where the eponymous Cat who has seen too much scandal through country-house windows alarmingly becomes a Talking Animal; "Sredni Vashtar", whose ill child makes an oversized pet ferret his God and feels vindicated when it kills his oppressive guardian; "The Music on the Hill", where a sceptical modern woman disturbs an offering to Pan, who has her killed by a stag; and "Ministers of Grace", which replaces politicians by Doubles who, being rational Angels, run England even more disastrously. Beasts and Super-Beasts (coll 1914) includes "Laura", whose mischievous heroine achieves Reincarnation as a troublesome otter, and two celebrated tales-within-tales: "The Open Window", whose inset Ghost Story is fabricated by a young girl to terrify a visitor, and "The Story-Teller", in whose invented Never-Never Land the penalty of being odiously moral is to be eaten by a wolf – delighting child listeners and appalling their aunt. The Toys of Peace (coll 1919) has: "The Wolves of Cernogratz", who like banshees howl only for the von Cernogratz dead, discomfiting their castle's parvenu owners; and "The Hedgehog", another unlikely eponymous Ghost. The Square Egg (coll 1924) includes "The Infernal Parliament", a comic Hell where constituents are compelled to listen to all parliamentary speeches. [DRL]

other works: The Complete Short Stories of Saki (omni 1930; exp 1948), including biographical memoir by Saki's sister Ethel M Munro; The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope, and Other Stories (coll 1995 chap).

further reading: Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Munro, With Six Short Stories Never Before Collected (1981) by A J Langguth (1933-    ); "new" stories are associational only.

Hector Hugh Munro


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.