Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A potent Plot Device which motivates many stories, or provides a suitable comeuppance, like the savage revenge of the cheated Pied Piper. In Greek Mythology, the Three Furies, Tisiphone, Alecto and Megaera – euphemistically, the Eumenides or Kindly Ones – are the Gods' official instruments of vengeance for unpaid blood debts: they feature in the play The Family Reunion (1939) by T S Eliot (1888-1963) and in Neil Gaiman's The Kindly Ones (graph coll 1996). Ghosts very frequently seek to be avenged on their murderers, sometimes through human intermediaries, as in Shakespeare's Hamlet (1603) and Terry Pratchett's Shakespearean Wyrd Sisters (1988). Vengeance-driven protagonists command instant sympathy if their grievance is real – e.g., the tortured and mutilated Cara in Geoff Ryman's The Warrior Who Carried Life (1985). Roger Zelazny's ambiguous heroes often have this motivation: Corwin in Nine Princes in Amber (1970) wants revenge for the infliction upon him of exile, Amnesia and later blindness; the eponymous Trickster in Jack of Shadows (1971) is casually executed, and, reborn, embarks on a destructive vengeance which upsets the world; Zelazny's Dilvish has a similar grievance. The Picaresque adventures of Jack Vance's still less sympathetic Antihero Cugel are strung on a thread of planned revenge against the Laughing Magician whom he tried to rob, and who punished him perhaps excessively. [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.