Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Time in Faerie

Visitors to Faerie find that Time there is subjective, disengaged from real-world clocks and Calendars. Years of Revel or Bondage may occupy one night or one instant of normal time; or years may pass outside during a perceived (> Perception) brief visit. The first situation suggests a time Polder where in the extreme case no real time passes. Examples are: C S Lewis's Narnia series, where a decades-long visit to the Secondary World compresses into moments of Earthly time (and, conversely, an Earth year corresponds to many Narnian centuries); J G Ballard's "The Garden of Time" (1962), whose Magic flowers can, while they last, be plucked to turn back oncoming Thinning and doom; and Michael Scott Rohan's The Lord of Middle Air (1994), whose callow protagonist matures and fights long wars in Faerie, only to return at the instant he left. Non-Faerie variations may treat time as Illusion: Jurgen's entire year of adventures is cancelled and converted to Dream in James Branch Cabell's Jurgen (1919); Jorge Luis Borges's "The Secret Miracle" (1943) pauses time for the protagonist in a manner invisible to outsiders. The Third Policeman (1967) by Flann O'Brien has a region called "eternity" where time continues but one does not age, nor (a special convenience) need to shave. Time polders are parodied in Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter (1993 UK), where real-world time does not pass for visitors to an enchanted shopping mall.

The second and commoner form of Faerie time-slippage, where real time passes unnoticed, is likely to be harrowing. J M Barrie's play Mary Rose (performed 1920; 1924) recognizes this as the eponymous heroine returns unchanged to her 25-years-older husband and child; but Brigadoon (1954) accentuates the positive by avoiding the painful issue of long-delayed return. James Stephens's In the Land of Youth (1924) toys with reasons for the magic world's differing time flow. Poul Anderson suggests a practical application in Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961), when Elves plan to entertain the protagonist Underground for a night which will be a century, preventing his interference in current events. Ursula K Le Guin's "The Dowry of the Angyar" (1964; vt "Semley's Necklace") adds a cruel Technofantasy justification: here a night-long journey with Goblin-folk takes 16 years because, unknown to the victim, this is relativistic spaceflight. The stolen child Lilac, caught out of time in John Crowley's Little, Big (1981), is briefly glimpsed asleep on Father Time's lap.

Katharine Briggs's A Dictionary of Fairies (1976) contains an extensive listing of Fairytale TIF examples. [DRL]

see also: Belatedness; Crosshatch; Time Fantasies; Timeslips.

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.