Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Chiefly of fantasy concern as a medium for Omens and Portents (>>> Astrology) – most famously the Star of Bethlehem in Christian Fantasy. The Hyades cluster has a baleful reputation in the Cthulhu Mythos, thanks to mentions in (for example) Robert W Chambers's The King in Yellow (coll 1895). Many stars of ill omen are actually planets, like the Red Star that threatens Anne McCaffrey's Pern. Unfamiliar constellations may indicate to protagonists who have passed through a Portal that this is not Earth, or help distance a Secondary World for the reader – as when J R R Tolkien mentions "Remmirath, the Netted Stars" in The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955). Wizards in Ursula K Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) must know the unchanging constellations which signal that they have entered the land of the dead. Fallen stars need not be figurative (> Lucifer): two human-seeming characters in C S Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) are former stars, one retired and one undergoing punishment. The Spirit of Sirius is likewise punished and condemned to live as a dog on Earth in Diana Wynne Jones's Dogsbody (1975); in her Howl's Moving Castle (1986) it is literally possible to catch a falling star which is a fire Demon or Elemental. The huge eponymous mountain of Fritz Leiber's "Stardock" (1965) was the launching-place for the world Nehwon's stars, of which one remains still docked: a jewel "big as the biggest oak tree". Unusually, Jack Vance's "Morreion" (1973) features a magic-powered interstellar Quest and includes a visit to a burnt-out star's surface. [DRL]


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.