Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Mischievous little creatures, usually invisible, who interfere with the functioning of airplanes. The myth seems first to have emerged during World War II among the pilots and mechanics of the Royal Air Force. Roald Dahl, himself a fighter pilot, wrote two stories about them – the short fantasy The Gremlins (1943 chap) and Some Time Never: A Fable for Superman (1948) – but otherwise they have appeared little in fantasy. The Gremlins movies use the name but are unrelated. One episode of The Twilight Zone, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", scripted by Richard Matheson, was based on the idea. The mock-anthropological study The Book of Gremlins (graph 1980) by Michael Ridley, illus Bryan Neary, describes gremlins as microscopic in size; they come into being as manifestations of "human desires, aspirations and emotions." A gremlin features in the Bugs Bunny cartoon, Falling Hare (1943). [JH/JG/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.