Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Lustful woodland spirits of Greek Mythology, identical to the fauns of Roman mythology. Physically they resembled Pan in being horned and often having goatlike legs, but were more closely associated with Dionysus by virtue of seeming to be younger and more virile versions of the hoary Sileni, whose drunken, lecherous and boastful singular incarnation Silenus became the central figure of the "satyr plays" ancestral to the tradition of Satire.

The role played by satyrs and fauns in literary fantasy is broadly similar to Pan's in that they usually symbolize the reckless fecundity of Nature. Before Pan was taken up by UK Literary Satanists (see Satan), Anatole France had used satyrs in likewise in "Amycus and Celestine" (1892) and "San Satiro" (1895). The Nicaraguan-born Spanish poet Ruben Dario (1867-1916) and the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) deployed them in similar symbolic roles. Being much less powerful than Pan, they are sometimes seen in a sentimentally wistful light which can threaten to reduce them to cuteness; examples include "The Ageing Faun" (1912) by Arthur Ransome, "The Inquisitive Satyr" (1914) by Oswald J Couldrey, "The Faun" (1915) by C C Martindale and, most saccharinely, in a section of the Disney movie Fantasia (1940). "The Curate's Friend" (1911) by E M Forster, Mr Antiphilos, Satyr (1913) by Rémy de Gourmont and The Girl and the Faun (1916) by Eden Phillpotts offer more robust and dignified images, as does After the Afternoon (1941) by Arthur MacArthur (1896-?   ), an eccentric sequel to "L'après-midi d'un faune" (1876) by Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898).

The central figures in "The Faun" (1894) by de Gourmont and "The Satyr" (1931) by Clark Ashton Smith are straightforward symbols of lust, but the mute satyrs in The Island of Captain Sparrow (1928) by S Fowler Wright (1874-1965) are curiously innocent, and the talkative one in Satyrday (1980) by Steven Bauer is sympathetically well rounded. The last surviving satyrs in a Thinning world play an educative role in In the Beginning (1927) by Norman Douglas. Sympathetic satyrs play crucial roles in a few of Thomas Burnett Swann's fantasies, most conspicuously in Wolfwinter (1972). [BS]

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.