Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A word coined by Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716) to give a name to the doctrine that argued that a God who permitted Evil to exist could be just. Basically, evil exists as a measure – in this best of all possible worlds – of good. The moment-to-moment and ultimate function of evil – a Parody of good – is to make good visible. The tapestry of the world as it exists to our various perceptions – sunrise and sunset, the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate – is to be cherished, defended, maintained; it is a Story whose warp and woof all need telling. God is, therefore, merciful.

It is easy to understand theodicy as a wisdom of winners, and there are certainly many tasteless moments, throughout world literature, in which humble folk are praised for doffing their caps to those who abuse them. Though the politics of fantasy writers are various, Fantasy as a genre – with its inherent bias towards stories focused upon a Recognition of that which has always existed and is now gloriously restored – is peculiarly prone to bouts of thinking (and unthinking) theodicy. Genre Fantasy in particular excessively valorizes hierarchy, ancient lineages, an unchallenged return of the Seasons, a folk complexly colour-coded (see Colour-Coding; Estates Satire) to social roles. Some Fantasies of History, and certainly much Supernatural Fiction – the sort, for instance, which takes doctrine and plot impulse from movements like Theosophy – give a theodicy-governed high value to the back-story which generates the shape of the current world. [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.