Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Magic worked with evil intent. The sorcerer or black magician (see Black Magic) is a key figure in Heroic Fantasy, to the extent that the Pulp subgenre delimited by Robert E Howard and his imitators was dubbed Sword and Sorcery. Although anthropologists sometimes differentiate between Witchcraft and sorcery in respect of certain African tribes, the two terms are nearly synonymous in the Western tradition; the qualification is necessary because in literature as in legend male sorcerers employing Ritual magic tend to be much more imposing figures than female witches, who are often imagined as disreputable hagwives. None of the Renaissance scholars who took an interest in ritual magic thought of themselves as sorcerers, but their critics often took a different view; textbooks of black magic were apocryphally attributed to Albertus Magnus (circa 1200-1280) and Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535).

Sax Rohmer's study The Romance of Sorcery (1914) is a testament to the aesthetic fascination of the notion, but he was never able to capture its glamour in his fiction. Elliott O'Donnell's The Sorcery Club (1912) is further evidence that credulity is no advantage to the literary imagination. The names of the sorcerers of S&S are legion, and they constitute a remarkable compendium of linguistic exotica extending from Howard's Xaltotun and C L Moore's (female) Jarisme to Roger Zelazny's Jelerak. Clark Ashton Smith, whose sorcerers include Malygris, Pharpetron, Namirrha, Maal Dweb and Eibon, was particularly prolific in the field of eccentric nomenclature. [BS]

see also: Necromancy; Sorcerer's Apprentice; Wizards.

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.