Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

As the most visible of all the heavenly bodies, and the one whose effects are most immediately felt by humans upon the planet, the Sun has always been a central actor in the great, meaningful show of the heavens. It is a central component in most Creation Myths and in Mythology in general. It is the central star in the Zodiac around which the calculation of Astrology circulate; and is invoked in various forms of Occultism. When thought of as taking godly form, it is usually male, and more often than not is either a Symbol of the father of the gods or may actually be God.

Modern fantasy – perhaps surprisingly – makes little use of the drama of the heavens which the Sun dominates (although in John Grant's Albion [1991] the ruling elite worship the Sun as the creator god, and thus justify their oppression of the peasants, who worship no gods), concentrating rather on the much more assimilable Moon. Most Genre Fantasies set in Fantasylands presume, without cosmological comment, a Sun very much like our own; in Dying-Earth tales, its brightness is dimmed. The new star in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983) is described, in sf terms, as a "white hole", though Severian's own association with the Sun god Apollo weds sf and fantasy. Some writers with a metaphysical bent, like A A Attanasio in The Dragon and the Unicorn (1994), may treat the Sun as a generative (and conscious) principle of creation or destruction. Full-scale Secondary-World fantasies, like J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), may also express some attitude toward the Sun, which in Tolkien's text is specifically female (and hence, perhaps, readily obscured as a Portent of woe to come to men) while the Moon is male; and some, like Jenny Jones's Flight Over Fire sequence, may treat the Sun as a being. But most often, in modern fantasy, the Sun is merely a source of heat and light.

Various metaphorical and literal uses of the Sun appear in Chasing the Sun: A Journey Around the World in Verse (anth 1992 chap) ed Sally Bacon. [JC]

see also: Icarus.


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.