Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Treece, Henry

(1911-1966) UK author who in the early 1940s began his career as anthologist, propagandist and writer, under the influence of Herbert Read, on behalf of poetry's New Apocalypse Movement, according to which the poet had a priest-like role to act as Bard. HT's poems were duly Celtic in tone (> Celtic Fantasy), but their fame is very dim. Within a few years, with I Cannot Go Hunting Tomorrow: Short Stories (coll 1946), he had begun to shift into prose, and it was with stories, novels and plays – some for children – that he made his reputation. His range was considerable, and many of his historical novels invoke a fantasy glamour of presentation and significance without necessarily departing the mundane. His Greek TrilogyJason (1961), Electra (1963) and Oedipus (1964) – comprises tales of this sort; a mythological, mythopoeic glow suffuses them, but they are not fantasies.

Several of HT's historical novels deal with a quasi-historical 5th-century Arthur; although HT demythologizes certain aspects of the Arthurian cycle, Merlin can still prophesy and other fantasy elements are mixed variously into some of the tales. "Princes of the Twilight" (in The Haunted Garden coll 1947; the volume is mostly poetry) and The Tragedy of Tristram (broadcast 1950; in The Exiles coll of plays 1952) introduce Ghosts and other supernatural elements.

Legions of the Eagle (1954), The Eagles Have Flown (1954), The Great Captains (1956) and The Green Man (1966) all take place within the Arthurian world. Although clearly inclined to a euhemerist version of the mythos (> Euhemerism) – at one point, the immensely powerful Artos the Bear thrusts a sword into an Oak log and, being the only one capable of freeing it, is acclaimed the ruler of Britain – an ambience of Myth so powerfully suffuses them that the relatively few supernatural events in their pages seem fully appropriate. The king who is protagonist of The Green Man may only re-enact the Season myth of the Green Man, but in doing so he seems preternaturally rooted in the tale.

Other titles of similar interest include: The Golden Strangers (1956; vt The Invaders 1957 US), a Prehistoric Fantasy, though once again with a severely restricted fantasy palette; Red Queen, White Queen (1958), about Boudicca; and The Dream-Time (1967). HT had a harsh imagination, but its icy clarity – its unequivocal pessimism about human virtue – makes him a writer very much of the times that came after his death. [JC]

other works: Ask for King Billy (1955), borderline sf; Viking's Dawn (1955); The Road to Miklagard (1957); The Return of Robinson Crusoe (1958; vt The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe 1958 US); The Golden One (1961); The Burning of Njal (1963), a legend retold; The Last of the Vikings (1964; vt The Last Viking 1966 US); The Windswept City (1967); Vinland the Good (1967; vt Westward to Vinland 1967 US); The Invaders: Three Stories (coll 1972); The Magic Wood (graph 1992 US) illus Barry Moser; this is Moser's version of HT's poem "The Magic Wood", from The Black Seasons (coll 1945).

further reading: Henry Treece (1969) by Margery Fisher.

Henry Treece


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.