Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Stevenson, Robert Louis

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(1850-1894) Scottish writer. His much-imitated short novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886 chap; versions published after RLS's death usually add a prefatory The), a paradigmatic Technofantasy, was based on a nightmare; rumour alleges that his wife Fanny persuaded him to burn the first version and turn the story into a more strident moralistic fantasy in which the war between Good and Evil which rages in every human psyche would be clarified as well as made manifest (see also Jekyll and Hyde; Jekyll and Hyde Movies). With his friend W E Henley (1849-1903) RLS had earlier written the melodramatic play Deacon Brodie, or The Double Life (1880; rev 1889) about a (real-life) criminal masquerader hanged in 1788.

Many of RLS's novellas and short stories, including the early works collected in New Arabian Nights (coll 1882 2 vols), are baroque without being outrightly fantastic, but he did write several other moral fables with a horrific edge similar to that in Jekyll and Hyde. Most of the actual fantasies were assembled in The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables (coll 1887). The conscience-stricken protagonist of "Markheim" mistakes an Angel for Satan. In Will o' the Mill (1895 chap US) the private world of a selfish man is finally invaded by a not altogether hostile personification of Death. "The Merry Men" itself is a hallucinatory fantasy in which yet another Calvinist conscience does its brutal work; part of it is written in Scottish dialect, as is the horrific "Thrawn Janet". "Olalla" is a more convoluted moral fantasy whose saintly heroine suffers for the sins of her animalistic relatives and cannot accept the mundane Redemption offered by a wounded soldier. Island Nights' Entertainments (coll 1893) includes The Bottle Imp (1896 chap; vt Kaëwe's Bottle 1935 chap UK), RLS's version of the classic tale of the ultimate poisoned chalice reworked for the Samoans among whom he had taken up residence, and "The Isle of Voices", an original fantasy likewise set in the South Seas. Much earlier RLS had written Treasure Island (1881-1882 Young Folks as "The Sea Cook, or Treasure Island"; 1883); while wholly lacking in supernatural elements, this adventure is so fantasticated that it is hard to regard it as outwith the fantasy genre.

All the above-mentioned stories are reprinted in The Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson (omni 1928 UK). The much slimmer The Short Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson (coll 1923 US) includes all the familiar fantasies and adds The Waif Woman (1916 chap), but neither volume includes Ticonderoga: A Legend of the West Highlands (1887 chap US) or When the Devil Was Well (1921 chap US). There are many other collections sampling RLS's work; one which assembles all his shorter works is The Complete Shorter Fiction (coll 1991). [BS]

other works (selective): Thrawn Janet; Markheim: Two Tales (coll 1903 chap); Tales and Fantasies (coll 1905), which includes The Misadventures of John Nicholson (1889 chap US) and the marginally weird The Body-Snatcher (1884; 1895 chap US); Pan's Pipes (1910 chap); Fables (coll 1914); The Tales of Tusitala (coll 1946).

further reading: The Definitive Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Companion (1983) by H M Geduld.

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson


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.