Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Secondary World

Term coined by J R R Tolkien in his seminal essay, "On Fairy Tales" (first delivered 1939; in Essays for Charles Williams anth 1947 ed anon C S Lewis; exp in Tree and Leaf coll 1964; rev 1988) for a particular kind of otherworld. An SW can be defined as an autonomous world or venue which is not bound to mundane reality (as are many of the domains common to Supernatural Fiction), which is impossible according to common sense and which is self-coherent as a venue for Story (i.e., the rules by which its Reality is defined can be learned by living them, and are not arbitrary like those of a Wonderland can be). All Fantasylands are forms of the SW; the main distinction is that a fantasyland is a Template venue inherently resistant to change, but no such repudiation of the possibility of Metamorphosis, arguably essential to any definition of the fully structured fantasy, is implied by the use of the term SW. [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.