Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Eight years after Don Quixote (vol 1 1605) had begun to kill off the Knight-errant novel, the staple diet of the medieval imagination, Miguel de Cervantes published his "Coloquio de los perros" (1613; trans C A Jones as "The Dogs' Colloquy" in Exemplary Stories coll 1972), a dialogue between two dogs who, receiving the gift of speech for one night, tell each other their adventures against the dark, cruel background of a disintegrating society.

In 1790 José Cadalso (1741-1782) anticipated late-blossoming Spanish Romanticism with his Noches lúgubres ["Mournful Nights"], and almost half a century later Agustín Pérez Zaragoza (?   -?   ), a self-proclaimed heir to Ann Radcliffe, published his Galería fúnebre de espectros y sombras ensangrentadas ["A Funeral Gallery of Ghosts and Bloodstained Shadows"] (coll 1831), 21 short stories and three short novels about prodigies, marvellous events, itinerant corpses, bloodstained heads, and worse. Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (1833-1891), included in his Narraciones inverosímiles ["Implausible Stories"] (coll 1882) one of the most famous fantasy short stories in the Spanish language – "La mujer alta" ["The Tall Woman"]. But the best Spanish fantasy writer of the 19th century was Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870), whose Leyendas ["Legends"] (coll 1871) – 18 pieces about the faraway, exotic world of India, the atmosphere of the Middle Ages, and the relations between the living and the dead – combine humour and poetic fantasy.

In the 20th century Ramón del Valle Inclán (1866-1936), starting with his play Luces de bohemia ["Bohemian Lights"] (1920), put forward his special theory of the esperpento ["absurd"], which holds that Spain is a grotesque deformation of European civilization where the tragic meaning of life can be depicted only by means of a systematically deformed aesthetics. In his novels and plays he achieves this distortion by depriving his characters of the dimension of depth, comparing them with animals, Puppets or Dolls.

Wenceslao Fernández Flórez (1884-1964) describes in El secreto de Barba Azul ["Bluebeard's Secret"] (1923) a farfetched war between two imaginary countries, Surlandia and Westlavia, in which a notable strategist, General Mikrí, organizes a masterly retreat. His troops walk backwards around the world on the double, and so reconquer the starting-point. In Las siete columnas ["The Seven Pillars"] (1926), Flórez's most famous novel, the Devil withdraws the Seven Deadly Sins from circulation, thereby eliminating everything of interest and destroying civilization.

La princesa durmiente va a la escuela ["The Sleeping Princess Goes to School"] (written 1951; 1983) by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester (1910-1999) freely mixes historical, fictional and mythological characters. In another of his novels, La saga/fuga de J.B. ["J.B.'s Saga/Escape"] (1972), past actions can be changed from the future, and history and legend can be altered at will.

One of Spain's most remarkable fantasy novels is Industrias y andanzas de Alfanhuí ["Industries and Deeds of Alfanhuí"] (1951) by Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio (1927-    ). Compared by critics with Lewis Carroll's Alice books, Peter Pan and Lord Dunsany's stories, it relates the magic adventures of a boy who, among other things, befriends a weathercock that comes down from the rooftop by night to catch lizards, learns how to extract red hues from the western sky, and at school writes in a strange alphabet of his own. A modern author of fantasy interest is Marcial Souto, whose work is better known in Latin America.

Spain being a multilingual country, a good deal of its fantasy has been written in Galician and Catalan. Galician writer Ánxel Fole (1903-1986) has several fantasy pieces in Álus do candil ["By the Light of the Oil Lamp"] (1953), Contos da néboa ["Tales of the Mist"] (1973) and Historias que ninguén cré ["Tales Nobody Believes In"] (1987). The novel Cara a Times Square ["Facing Times Square"] (1980) by Camilo Gonsar (1931-    ) describes an oneiric, Kafkaesque New York. Xosé Luís Méndez Ferrín (1938-    ) has gathered some of his best fantasies in Percival e outras historias ["Percival and Other Stories"] (1958), O crepúsculo e as formigas ["The Twilight and the Ants"] (1961) and Eclipse e outras sombras ["Eclipse and Other Shadows"] (1971). But Galicia's most important author of fantasy is Álvaro Cunqueiro (1911-1981), who makes a highly personal use of the Arthurian cycle (> Arthur), the magic of Brittany, and the Arabian Nights (> Arabian Fantasy), respectively, in Merlín e familia e outras historias ["Merlin and Family and Other Stories"] (1955), As crónicas do sochantre ["Chronicles of a Choirmaster"] (1959) and Si o vello Sinbad volvese ás illas ["If Old Sinbad Returned to the Islands"] (1961).

In Catalan, the tradition of fantasy goes all the way back to the 13th century, when Ramon Llull (1235-1315), a Majorcan poet, philosopher and mystic who wrote 243 books in Catalan, Arabic, Latin and Provençal, published his Libre des maravelles ["Book of Wonders"] (1289), about the spiritual and scientific pilgrimage of young Fèlix. The current master of fantasy in Catalan is Joan Perucho (1920-2003), whose books include Amb la tècnica de Lovecraft ["With Lovecraft's Technique"] (1953), Llibre de cavalleries ["Book of Knighthood"] (1957), the Timeslip story of a 20th-century young man mysteriously transported back to the Middle Ages, and Les històries naturals ["Natural Histories"] (1960), about a modern Vampire in the Mediterranean landscape of Barcelona. Some of his shorter pieces are in Roses, diables i somriures ["Roses, Devils, and Smiles"] (coll 1965), Aparicions i fantasmes ["Apparitions and Ghosts"] (coll 1968) and Històries apòcrifes ["Apocryphal Tales"] (coll 1974).

Two sf writers, Luis Vigil (1940-    ) and Domingo Santos (real name Pedro Domingo Mutiñó; 1942-    ), have published in Spanish the first three novels of a Conan-like saga about a barbarian called Nomanor: El mito de los harr ["The Myth of the Harr"] (1971), El bárbaro ["The Barbarian"] (1971), and La niebla dorada ["The Golden Fog"] (1974). [MH/MS]

further reading: Historia natural de los cuentos de miedo (1974) by Rafael Llopis; Literatura fantástica de lengua española (1987) by Antonio Risco; El relato fantástico en España e Hispanoamérica (anth 1991) ed E Morillas Ventura; Anthropos #154-5 (March-April 1994), special issue about fantasy in Spanish.


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.