Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The sympathetic-Magic link between a well made statue and the thing represented (whether a human, a God or an imagined ideal) lends itself to fantasy developments, usually Animate/Inanimate transitions. A statue may become animated, as in the tales of Pygmalion and Don Juan – whose animations are inspired by, respectively, Love and Vengeance. In Ernest Bramah's "Kin Weng and the Miraculous Tusk" (in Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat coll 1928) the carved figure of a bird is so perfect that it comes alive and takes wing. Museum statues of Greek gods are animated in Thorne Smith's The Night Life of the Gods (1931). New York gargoyles wake to vengeful life in Harlan Ellison's "Bleeding Stones" (in Deathbird Stories coll 1975) and Parisian ones are friendly in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1995); statues of Monsters atop a New York skyscraper come diabolically alive in Ghostbusters (1984), whose sequel animates the Statue of Liberty. Mannequin (1987) sees a shop-window dummy animated via Possession.

The reverse process – whereby living things turn into statuary – goes back to the Myth of the Gorgons and their petrifying gaze, shared by mythical Monsters like the basilisk and cockatrice. It is a favourite form of Bondage imposed by evil magic-users: Mombi plans this fate for the boy Tip in L Frank Baum's The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904). However, a child turned to marble by an incautious Wish in E Nesbit's The Enchanted Castle (1907) finds her (temporary) statuehood curiously idyllic. G K Chesterton's Science Fantasy "The Finger of Stone" (in The Poet and the Lunatics coll 1929) features water that causes rapid petrification. Trolls traditionally become statues of themselves when touched by the Sun, as in J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937). In John Collier's "Evening Primrose" (1941) those threatening the secrecy of the Wainscot society, whose members pose as mannequins in a Shop, are punished by being made over into "real" wax mannequins. The White Witch of C S Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) routinely converts her opposition to statues. Robert Holdstock's "In the Valley of the Statues" (1979) hints at repeated, reversible statue/human Transformations, and a mystic oneness of flesh and stone.

Even statues which remain statues may play a part in strange and/or symbolic relationships – one reason why the second of the Bible's Ten Commandments is a Prohibition against making any "graven image", particularly idols such as the Golden Calf. Legendarily, placing a Ring on the finger of a statue of Aphrodite (as related in The Anatomy of Melancholy [1621] by Robert Burton [1577-1640]) is an unwitting Contract of marriage which will clash dangerously with earthly relationships, as in F Anstey's comic The Tinted Venus (1885); this theme is horrifically echoed in Tim Powers's The Stress of Her Regard (1989). It is a magic statue that whimsically precipitates the Identity Exchange in Thorne Smith's Turnabout (1931) (see also Turnabout [1940]). [DRL]

see also: Face of Glory; Gog and Magog; Golem.

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.