Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The term "land", when cross-referred to this entry, has a restricted meaning. A land is a venue located in a Secondary World – and in certain kinds of secondary world only. The mere backdrop to the action, as in almost any novel set in Fantasyland, is not a land but simply a venue. For our purposes a land may be defined as a secondary-world venue whose nature and fate are central to the plot: a land is not a protagonist, but has an analogous role. Some or all of the following will almost certainly be the case: the land may evince Wrongness; it may be subject to Thinning; it may be a Waste Land; it may suffer (or be saved by virtue of) a fundamental Transformation (see Recognition); it can be healed; and it is almost certainly, in some sense, alive.

The central figures in the history of the development of the secondary world all created some form of land: the various domains travelled through in William Morris's The Well at the World's End (1896) are increasingly land-like; the Dyfed ruled by Pwyll in Kenneth Morris's Pwyll sequence (1914-1930), though ostensibly a Land of Fable version of Wales, is so Crosshatched with Faerie that it becomes a fully imagined land; the Mercury where E R Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros (1922) unfolds, though ostensibly another planet, soon intensifies into a land; J R R Tolkien's Middle-Earth is a land in every respect, as is the eponymous Waste Land whose condition must be transformed in Alan Garner's Elidor (1965). But the most comprehensive example of a land is almost certainly that in Stephen R Donaldson's First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (1977), where the dynamic tension between Covenant's Unbelief and land can be read as a nearly articulate debate between a protagonist and the world which both defines him and is defined by him. Other novels in which the land is central include Michael Ende's The Neverending Story (1979), where Fantastica is being devoured by the "Nothing", which will not retreat until the ruling Empress, who "is the centre of all life" there, is given a new name and thus cured of her wasting illness. [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.