Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Underground regions where the dead go – like Hell – are normally described as Underworlds. In sf underground passages tend to lead downwards towards ancient artefacts, evidences of alien inhabitation, Lost-Race domains or even the Hollow Earth. In Horror that which is underground has usually been there for a considerable time (> Cthulhu Mythos; Elder Races; Malign Sleeper; Time Abyss), and its irruption into the daylight world is likely to constitute a desecration. In Supernatural Fiction underground caverns, hollows and tunnels may be places to take refuge and to recoup one's strength. In fantasy, what is underground may also explicitly Mirror that which is open to the air: most fantasy Edifices show some vertical symmetry, with towers being echoed by underground structures – as with Jordan College (Oxford) in Philip Pullman's Northern Lights (1995). What is underground in fantasy may well be Little Big; and passages which expand, or continue for distances greater than seems possible, may also lead to Portals which deposit one in worlds of light. In fantasy, underground is the Shadow of overground. [JC]


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.