Contents Index

Monstrous Image: Theory of Fantasy Antagonists

R. E. Foust

Genre, 13 (Winter 1980), 441-53

{441}        ". . . mon semblable, mon frère!"
{441} Literary fantasy has recently emerged from its lengthy sleep in the shadow of realism, the major form of Western fiction. Ironically, fantasy's dynamic element -- metamorphosis or infinitely repeatable transformation -- is substantially older than the rational illusion of gradual evolutionary change that has been the key to realism's success since the eighteenth century. Fantasy's sudden popularity is based upon a new generation's dissatisfaction with the contemporary anti-novel, with the metafictional "literature of exhaustion," and with realism in general.

As critics we can no longer ignore fantasy, and yet we lack the lexical and conceptual tools with which to treat it. Criticism requires a systematic theory based upon Tolkien's assumption that "Fantasy is a rational, not an irrational, activity."1 That undertaking is outside the scope of this essay, the purpose of which is merely to forward a theory of fantasy antagonists. However, considering the major role played by the "adversary" in the typical fantasy plot, a hypothesis is needed to counterbalance the ur-mythos of the heroic protagonist and his epical quest à la Joseph Campbell's theory of the monomyth upon which fantasy criticism has focused its attention. The hermeneutical privileging of the protagonist has condemned his adversary to the stereotype of the "bug-eyed monster" who is treated as contra naturam, the emblem of the irredeemably alien. By suppressing the hero's latent similarity to his adversary and by emphasizing their manifest differences -- that is, by repeatedly interpreting the classic fantasy conflict as a struggle between Good and Evil -- criticism has ignored the complexity of this form of fiction. That is one reason it has not been taken seriously enough. However, a {442} sympathetic analysis of the antagonist in his role as autochthonic doppelgänger will disclose the rational, consistent and complex quality of the fantasy text by revealing the basic conflict as well as the mythic archetype that underlies the imagination of the fantastic. Such an analysis should illustrate Tolkien's dictum that fantasy art is a rational activity.

The reader's encounter with the fantasy antagonist produces the affective quality that Freud called the "uncanny." For the literary critic this term signifies the sense of combined menace and grotesqueness that derives from the antagonist's psychophysical distortion. The concept was introduced by Freud in his essay on "The 'Uncanny'" (1919), and is the original of such formulations as "arresting strangeness," "astonishment," and "shock" to describe the dynamics of the "sense of wonder" that is by common agreement the hallmark of fantasy fiction. Because it is a seminal and still heuristically useful concept, I shall briefly explore it before turning to an analysis of some representative fictions.

Borrowing Rank's concept of the doppelgänger, Freud postulates that the uncanny affect derives from the psychological "phenomenon of the 'double'" in which "there is a doubling, dividing and interchanging of the self," until the double "becomes the uncanny harbinger of death."2 The importance of this postulation lies in his conclusion that the uncanny (the unheimlich) is really a form of something secretly or unconsciously familiar (the heimlich). Thus he concludes that the "uncanny is in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old-established in the mind and which has he come alienated from it. . . ."3

He elaborates this insight in Totem and Taboo. Starting with Darwin's theory of a human "primal horde" as the earliest form of social organization, Freud attempts to ascribe the origin of civilization to the sense of guilt derived from an Oedipal act of rebellion by the horde-brothers banded together against their primal Father. Patricide is thus the original civilizing act. As a result the brothers experience a sense of guilt which they control by a process of ritualized transference: a sacred totem animal invested with the sons' ambivalent love and hatred of the Father is ritually slaughtered as an act of atonement. This ambivalence survives in "the primitive conception of a soul" which "assumes that both person and things are of a double nature"; interestingly, Freud remarks that this animistic assumption parallels modern psychoanalysis' discovery of "the existence of two states" in the psyche.4 Finally, he attributes "the beginning of a mental estrangement from animals and the disrupting totemism" to the domestication of animals owing to cultural evolution (p. 148).

{443} Freud's purpose is to claim that the "uncanny" can be rationally explained as a return of the psychic materials of each person's repressed Oedipal revolt against his father. There are of course other explanations for the sense of the uncanny. For example, Tolkien and other Christian fantasists explain fantasy's "arresting strangeness" as well as its preoccupation with human and animal communication as a result of man's Fortunate Fall "from a paradisiacal state of preconscious unity into reality," the counterparadise of conscious multiplicity. The usefulness of Freud's theory, however, does not depend upon his Oedipal interpretation, but rather upon his thesis of "emotional ambivalence," which is "the simultaneous existence of love and hate towards the same object" (p. 159). Therefore, we can discard the "Oedipus complex" while retaining the concepts of the doppelgänger and of estrangement that are central to our purpose, and that relate Freud's theory to other myths that postulate primeval schism -- an alienation of civilization and nature at the root of human culture. The sense of a schism between man and nature is very widespread and of ancient origin; traces are found in such diverse cultural emblems as the Chinese Yin-Yang symbolism and the Western myth of the Fall. An important corollary of all schismatic myths is the assumption that the bifurcation of the original unity was only imperfectly accomplished; thus a residue of yearning for identity, for unity, clings to all alienation myths.

The psychological purpose of a fantasy text is to reforge the fragments of the nature-civilization dualism by a creative act that places representatives of both domains, the human protagonist and his monstrous adversary, in the fiction's foreground. By locking them in an ambivalent encounter the fiction forces the reader into a transient but deep awareness of the basic ontological fact of his own rootedness in both the phenomena of nature and the epiphenomena of consciousness. Thus the "monster" is much more than mankind's enemy, the clear-cut feond mancynnes that its inchoate appearance and manifest malevolence misleadingly proclaim it to be. Ambivalence is at the core of the "monstrous Image."

The field of fantasy literature is so vast that I must illustrate this proposition analectically. However, a chronological consideration of several representative texts will reveal certain invariant features that will allow me to generate some postulates about the genre. I will begin with the first "science fiction" novel and one of the generic fantasy texts, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.5

{444} In one brilliant stroke Shelley gave literature its first "mad scientist" and its most famous fantasy antagonist -- the lithe, articulate, but repulsive Monster. As I shall show, the Monster's "uncanny" quality is due not merely to the fact that he is malevolent and hideous, but also to the fact that he is autochthonic: both "sprung from the earth" and "indigenous" to it. The text centers upon Victor Frankenstein, scientist and emblem of the rational mind, who pursues "nature to her hiding places," even into "the unhallowed damps of the grave" where he collects his necrophiliac oddments of human "clay." By virtue of manic energy, labor, and curiosity he "animate[s] the lifeless clay" (p. 53), only to turn in disgust from the "monstrous Image" which he suddenly sees as a wretched parody of human form. Victor's monomaniacal rationalism has isolated him from mankind; now he is pursued by his golem-like "clay man" who seeks revenge for abandonment by attacking his sanity. His isolation is exacerbated by a growing sense of guilt as the Monster systematically destroys one after another of his external "doubles": first his brother William, then Clerval, and, finally his fiancee, Elizabeth, as the Monster fulfills his threat to "be with you on your wedding-night" (p. 169).

Slowly Victor comes to identify with the Monster whom he calls "my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave" (p. 76); he begins to think of himself as "the true murderer" of William (p. 87); cries that Clerval has "fallen a victim to me and the monster of my creation" (p. 183); and blames himself for Elizabeth's death (p. 185). Although he has harmed no one, he condemns himself as "the assassin of those most innocent victims" (p. 186). Finally he exhausts his life in a vengeful pursuit of his mocking creation, whom he follows into the wasteland of the Arctic. In effect, the Monster, a mockery of life, mocks his creator to death.

This outline provides the elements of an allegorical paradigm of the classic fantasy conflict. Civilization subdues Nature by the single-minded application of Reason; it "digs up" her secrets and demonstrates its mastery by challenging her in her own domain, the creation of life. Reason's mastery, however, the repression of man's natural and instinctual part, is transient. The chthonic being's fury represents Nature's revenge, and it is directed against the very rationality that had momentarily subdued it. Madness worse than death is the revenge extracted for man's hubristic self-severance from his natural origin. The novel's interest lies in Victor's gradual realization that his true relationship to the {445} Monster is that of the doppelgänger, rather than that of creator and created. The fantasy conflict is structured upon an implicit assumption of the binary, rather than the unilateral, relationship between nature and culture. The rational man is eventually possessed by his dybbuk-like creation, his chthonic alter-ego. This of course is not the conclusion of the text. The frame narrator, Walton, stands for us outside the central conflict learning from Victor the novel's central ethical lesson: "Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition" (p. 216). Good advice but impracticable; the essence of the fantasy conflict attests to man's inability to either rest in tranquility or to avoid ambition.

In creating Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, R. L. Stevenson took Mary Shelley's characters -- the irrationally rational man and the Monster -- and placed both inside one human form, thereby updating the story to suit the tastes of a more psychologically self-conscious public. Stevenson's text is built upon the apparently universal perception of "the thorough and primitive duality of man," for man, the story relates, "is not truly one, but truly two. . . ."6

Stevenson is relatively uninterested in the representative of human reason, Jekyll, who hardly appears in the text. Rather, since his concern is primarily with the atavism that provides the fiction's suspense, he lavishes most attention upon the "ape-like" Hyde. By ingesting certain mysterious mineral compounds (the inability to secure more of these natural elements will cause Jekyll-Hyde's destruction), the rational man is able to produce a fantastic psycho-physiological transformation. Thus Jekyll becomes Hyde, "the monstrous [being] . . . that I called out of my own soul" (p. 80); Jekyll calls him "my double" (p. 81), "the animal within me" (p. 87), "my other self" (p. 91). The frame narrator, Utterson, has prepared us for this atavistic regression; he muses that Jekyll "was wild when he was young -- a long while ago. . . . Ay, it must be that, the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace: punishment coming, pede claudo, years after memory has forgotten, and self-love condoned the fault" (p. 23). This, then, is "the curse of mankind . . . that in the agonized womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling" (p. 75).

I shall return to the meaning of"these polar twins"; here I shall only point out the duplication of Shelley's pattern. Reason is in ambivalent conflict with Nature: it seeks mastery manifestly to increase scientific knowledge but latently to satisfy a deep and illicit curiosity, a desire to re-experience the "wild" condition lost "a long while ago." The rational {446} man calls forth the repressed chthonic doppelgänger; his double haunts and masters him to the point that rational identity becomes a function of the Monster's reality; madness ensues and Nature takes final revenge by withholding the mineral elements needed to sustain either animal or human identity. Through it all the frame narrator calmly stands, learning the lesson of moderation that is to be civilization's consolatio for the horrific encounter with its "secret sharer."

The chief difference between these fictions and H. G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau is in narrative perspective.7 The point-of-view character, Edward Prendick, is an active participant in the bestial events of the novel. Moreau is another "mad scientist"; his pride and curiosity have driven him to attempt to transform animals into human beings. Initially Prendick is unaware of the nature of the "misshapen" beings with which Moreau has populated the island. However, he immediately senses a kinship with these "strange, brutish-looking fellows" (p. 29): "I had never beheld such a repulsive and extraordinary face before, and yet . . . I had already encountered exactly the features and gestures that now amazed me" (p. 17). They seem to him now human, now animal, never wholly one or the other. Prendick dubs them "Beast People" when he finally decides that they are "humanised animals" (p. 68). They are variations on the classic fantasy motif of the "shape-shifter," both human and animal beings the chief representative of which are vampires and werewolves. At one point he observes one of these animal-men and muses that by "seeing the creature there in a perfectly animal attitude . . . I realised again the fact of its humanity" (p. 91). Moreau is troubled by the creatures' tendency toward atavistic reversion: "First one animal trait, then another, creeps to the surface . . . they revert . . . the beast begins to creep back" (pp. 75-76). And indeed the counter-transformation does occur: both Moreau and his assistant, Montgomery, die in the embrace of their chthonic doubles. Prendick lives to return to civilization, but he is greatly changed. He cannot but see in the complacent faces of civilized Europeans "another, still passably human, Beast People, animals half wrought into the outward image of human souls," and this uneasiness haunts him until it seems that he, too, is "not a reasonable creature, but only an animal" (pp. 126-27).

Here again we find the paradigmatic pattern: the temporary mastery of Nature by Consciousness, the ultimate revolt and retribution of the repressed instinctual "id," and the identification of the human with the pre-human at some deep pre-conscious level.

{447} The ironic reversal of this pattern constitutes the basic distinction of dystopian fantasy. In dystopia the force of Rationality -- symbolized by the efficiency of a smoothly running, self-regulating bureaucratic State has so thoroughly dominated the instinctual animal impulse that life has become tedious, shallow and uneventful. The natural being who asserts the claims of individualism is thwarted and finally destroyed by the State. (One thinks, for example, of the Savage in Brave New World.) A variation involves the blending of human and animal into one despairing betrayal of utopian promise, as the pigs and the humans blend into one indecipherable totalitarian unity in the concluding lines of Animal Farm. However, the clearest expression of the theme is also the most protean dystopian work, Eugene Zamiatin's We.8

The novel's protagonist, D-503, is an engineer, builder of the rocket intended to carry the State's message of mindless unity to other planets. Thus he is also a scientist, and as a too perfect exponent of the State's doctrine of the massenmensch, he is also, but in a deeply ironic sense, "mad." Zamiatin's message is that total uniformity is unnatural, entropic, and thus inhuman. He concludes that in a totalitarian milieu of State regulated equality, "We must all go insane -- as soon as possible go insane" (p. 151). This reversal of value is typical of the dystopian form where individualism is the "insanity" that denotes true mental health, while the State's idea of sanity is insane because unnatural.

D-503 begins as a perfect example of efficient and complacent banality. Under the sexual blandishments of the revolutionary, I-330, he finally joins the MEPHI, an insurrectionist political group dedicated to anarchy as an antidote to the psychological entropy of the United State. D-503's surface rationality masks a seething second-self of which he is only dimly aware: "I hate to have anyone look at my hands; they are covered with long hair -- a stupid atavism" (p. 9). He calls his "hairy paws . . . a trace of a primitive epoch" (p. 23), and tries to conceal and forget them. They are also an important prefigurative device preparing the reader for his eventual apostasy from State doctrine. Under the tutelage of the femme fatale, I-330, he begins to see that there are "two selves in me. One, the former D-503" and another, an atavistic "ape" that would like to take I-330 "rudely with his hairy paws, tear the silk [garments], and put his teeth into her flesh!" (p. 54). This impulse to anarchic freedom is aborted by the State's ruthless suppression of political dissidents culminating in a mass lobotomization of all the "Numbers." Thus the narrative concludes on an entropic note as D-503, {448} surgically relieved of imagination, praises the wisdom of State-induced happiness. "I cannot help smiling," he says, since "Smiling is the normal state for a normal human being" (p. 217).

Dystopian fiction typically postulates a quasi-chthonic doppelgänger at its center, a being in whom the nature-civilization duality is personified; however, it tends to reverse the normal result of the conflict. Reason, not Nature, is the dystopian antagonist. Since dystopian fiction is the only essentially ironic fantasy sub-genre, this reversal is of its formal essence. More than any other feature, this reversal gives the dystopian novel its power and distinguishes it as a separate type of fantasy literature.

Of course not all fantasies build upon the "mad scientist" motif, nor do all chthonic doppelgängers take the form of animals. Some take the form of trees. A brilliant example is Abraham Merritt's "The Woman of the Wood," in which the wounded protagonist, McKay, becomes erotically cathected upon a coppice of trees.9

McKay is recovering from war wounds near a lake in what is apparently rural France. He feels an immediate and intense affinity for a nearby coppice of trees. Sensing his empathy, the trees telepathically communicate with him, describing their ancient enmity with a family of peasants, Polleau and his sons, who are bent upon their destruction. The peasants realize McKay's sympathy with their natural enemies and taunt him by felling one before him. McKay's identity with nature is so complete that he experiences a pain "as though the keen edge [of the axe] had bitten into his own flesh" (p. 47). That night "the wood voices" call him to come to them, which he does. Alone in the forest, the tree spirits glimmer before him, give him the ability to understand their speech, and vouchsafe him a glimpse of their "perilous alien beauty" (p. 51). The fallen tree and another that seems to attend to it take on nebulous human shape until "girl and man and birch seemed to be one and the same" (p. 52). He falls erotically in love with the pale, wide-eyed, red-lipped, almost vampiric spirit of the coppice, who entreats him to murder Polleau and his sons before they fulfill their pledge to destroy the forest. McKay is initially incredulous, but finally he encounters Polleau, tries to buy the coppice, is rebuffed, and, under the influence of the whispering forest, engages the men in battle. They overpower him at first, but he draws strength from the trees' murmur until an animal fury is unleashed in him. After he is knocked down, he springs "to his feet howling like a wolf" (p. 63), and murders Polleau's eldest son by tearing his throat out with a knife. The pouring blood acts as "a bridge" across which the {449} "shadowy men" leap "into materiality" and destroy Polleau and his younger son; this carnage drives the coppice "mad with joy" (p. 63). McKay is understandably overwhelmed and flees, but he is haunted by the memory of his erotic enchantment. "Tree or women?" he wonders about the wood spirit: "Tree or women? Or both?" (p. 69).

We see the pattern again very clearly: the chthonic double -- in this case both externalized as a forest spirit and internalized as the lycanthropic "wolf-man" -- is called forth as Nature's revenge upon a miscreant Civilization. The experience of the uncanny is extraordinarily strong throughout Merritt's story and can be attributed to McKay's (and the reader's) deep ambivalence, which takes the form of divided loyalties: as human he experiences the anguish attendant upon taking human life; as lover he must murder to protect the Nature that humanity threatens to destroy.

As a final illustration one can do no better than John Gardner's contemporary fantasy tour de force, Grendel.10 Gardner obviously knows Tolkien's important essay, "Beowulf; The Monsters and the Critics" (1936), in which Tolkien argues that the poem's monsters are central to the text and not peripheral poetic accidents. Gardner is in such substantial agreement that he retells Beowulf from the point-of-view of Grendel, the major monstrous adversary of the three Beowulf encounters. Gardner's Grendel, however, is a very modern monster who carries all the freight of existentialism, self-scrutiny, parody and the vision of entropy that have been the chief preoccupations of the novel since Kafka.

Grendel is about the possibility of heroism and meaningful action in an absurd universe. The monster is a supreme parodist, a skeptical mocker, and in this he is true to his fiendish archetype. Grendel's implicit motto is the Satanic non serviam, and he takes his nihilism to be a mark of his superiority over the human "herd" that he systematically cannibalizes. However, his nihilism is a sham defense against his almost human vulnerability to beauty; he is repeatedly tricked into sympathy with his human victims by their poetry and their illusions of heroism and of love.

As chthonic being Grendel is a visual oxymoron uniting in his appearance both the human and the animal realms, and, in his repeated identification with trees, the vegetable kingdom. For example, his first encounter with humans occurs when he has wedged his foot in the fork of two oak trees. As he struggles to free himself, Hrothgar's men approach and one cries, "see there where it grows up out of the trunk" (p. 18). From this point on he is represented as a humanoid who looks now {450} animal-like, now tree-like. Grendel's chthonic quality is never in doubt but the text's true value lies in its power to subtly awaken the reader to an awareness of the monster's intimate relation with his human victims. Grendel dimly perceives this relation when he first hears human speech: "it was my own language, but spoken in a strange way" (p. 18); and he muses that since men talk "in something akin to my language" he and the men are, "incredibly, related" (p. 30).

An ancient dragon, emblem of intellectual cynicism, discloses to him his true relation to humanity: "You improve them, my boy! . . . You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves . . . You are mankind, or man's condition. . . ." (p. 62) The chthonic doppelgänger imagery is complicated by the arrival of Beowulf and his Geat warriors: "They were like trees, these strangers. Their leader was big as a mountain" (p. 135). Beowulf is then likened to a fish, a bear, a wolf and a tree. He is of course another "shape-shifter"; thus Grendel says that "the harder I stared at his shoulders, the more uncertain I was of their shape" (p. 143). This passage prefigures Beowulf's ultimate metamorphosis into both avenging angel and dragon. As he grips Grendel, the monster recognizes him immediately as his "dear long lost brother, kinsman-thane" (p. 148). Beowulf recognizes their anagogic kinship and responds by calling Grendel "brother" (p. 149); he then "stretches his blinding white wings and breathes out fire" (p. 151). Thus Grendel finds fulfillment at the moment of his destruction in an embrace with a double, a being who is also both chthonic and human. In this way Gardner uses parody for a non-parodistic purpose: Grendel mocks because he is incomplete, like Frankenstein's Monster, but with the coming of his second-self he finds completeness in his fated destruction. The inhuman defines the human by giving it purpose and direction, while the human is the limit by which we know our inhuman selves.

This synopsis necessarily ignores both the novel's dark, parodic humor and its Sartrean ethics. However, we can clearly see that the contemporary and the "classical" treatments of the fantasy antagonist are in essential agreement. Human society is built upon the suppression of the organic relationship between civilization and nature, but that relationship reestablishes itself as a necessary madness taking the imagistic form of a visual oxymoron, the chthonic doppelgänger whose "lack" is the mirror image of human substance.

The origin of the ancient myth that structures the basic fantasy conflict is lost in the irretrievable past of our human prehistory. The {451} essence of that myth, as Meyer Abrams has cogently pointed out, is the image "of primordial man as a cosmic androgyne, who has disintegrated into the material and bisexual world of alien and conflicting parts, yet retains the capacity for recovering his lost integrity."11 All cultures apparently possess a form of this ur-mythos. In Judaic tradition, for example, Adam is a chthonic being compounded of nature ("clay") and Holy Spirit, whose Fall from unity into the painful multiplicity of consciousness is the primal Western story. Indeed, it is our first fiction of "alienation." The Mesopotamian legend of Gilgamesh is a variation of the tale in which the human culture hero, Gilgamesh, must overcome "his own reflection, his second self," the chthonic natural savage, Enkidu, before the two can greet each other as "brothers."12 The Greek variation is at least as old as Plato's tale of Eros and the divine androgyne in the Symposium, where Aristophanes reminds us how "ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man."13 As Thomas G. Rosenmeyer has shown, the myth of duality, of our "uncertainty about the status of the human soul," is also the essential feature of such masterworks as The Bacchae.14 Euripides is concerned with "the murky borderland where human nature and animal nature merge."15 The play's essential irony is its discovery that "Man is both beast and god, both savage and civilized. . . . he double nature of man is what the play is about. . . ."16 A prohibitive number of works, including such quasi-fantasies as Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," Hesse's Steppenwolf, and The Tempest could be cited as examples of fictive enactments of the dualistic myth that provides the basic structural principle of the fantasy text.

I have already remarked that we need not share Freud's obsession with a presumed "Oedipal" conflict to realize the value to criticism of his assumption of the universal character of the doppelgänger, the buried or second self, and of the psychological ambivalence that results from this knowledge of man's profoundly dual nature. In addition to Freud's "uncanny, " Jung's less monistic psychology is also heuristically useful to the criticism of fantasy art. Linguistically, the hero and his adversary, the chthonic "monster," constitute a psychological oxymoron equivalent to Jung's category of the Syzygy; that is, they are the bright thing and its dark opposite, "part souls" miraculously wed into an archetypal unity that it is the story's purpose to bring to the reader's consciousness. We can profitably think of the fantasy antagonist, then, as a modification of the Jungian concept of the psychopomp; he is "a mediator between the {452} conscious and the unconscious and a personification of the latter.17 Our adversary is also our semblable, raised, however, to the level of conscious and coherent expression.

Each major literary fashion develops a master archetypal figure: for the Romantics it was Prometheus; for the Existentialists it was Sisyphus; and for the emerging Fantasists it is the archetype of the Gemini, the divine and antagonistic twins. As J. R. Cirlot points out, they "symbolize the counterbalancing principles of good and evil, and hence the twins are portrayed as mortal enemies.18 This fated antagonism is the true meaning of Stevenson's "polar twins" eternally at war in the human psyche. In one sense, the Gemini symbol is another human recognition of the ubiquitousness of duality, of the essential ambivalence of human existence that finds expression in cultural institutions as various as theology, psychoanalysis, and fantasy art. In one form or another this duality lies at the root of the classic fantasy quest plot and is also discernible in all science fiction based upon the alien encounter theme. It typically takes the form of an epic conflict between a representative human culture hero and an adversary who seems hellishly compounded of both human and animal or vegetable nature. Immersed in the text, we undergo a shock of recognition: the particular "defamiliarization" of experience that is peculiar to fantasy art momentarily exorcises the demons of our repressed ambivalence. For the length of the fictive experience we reforge the fragment of our present with the fragment of our primeval past; we experience life, Hyde-like, as non-causal, miraculous, and metamorphic, founded upon an anarchic energy the very repression of which is both the glory and the debilitating price of civilization itself.

This, then, is the achievement of the successful fantasy text: that it momentarily reconstitutes within us the dark and potent portion of our nature that part that is Ape as well as Angel, Caliban as well as Ariel, the Monster as well as the Rational Man. Tolkien was of course right: the antagonists, the "monsters," are central, not peripheral, to the imagination of fantasy. The reason, however, is psychological, neither theological nor aesthetic as Tolkien thought. The fantasy antagonist is a "psychopomp," a visual metaphor for our divided condition, a way of speaking the unspeakable. The monster mediates between the daylight society of the self-created Ego and the boggy night country of the inchoate and imperfectly repressed Id, which it imaginatively represents. Thus the antagonist is not something external to ourselves, merely a threat occa- {453} sioning the intervention of the Hero (although this also occurs). It is our chthonic doppelgänger, our semblable, our "secret sharer." It seems to stare at us with mingled loathing and longing from some dark geography lying in a past we attempt repeatedly to forget. The adversary's fate -- its eternal malevolence, its more-than-human pitifulness, its universal doom -- constitutes a chapter in the spiritual autobiography of the human race.


1. "On Fairy-Stories," The Tolkien Reader (New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), p. 69n. My "Fabulous Paradigm: Fantasy, Meta-Fantasy, and Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn," Extrapolation, 21 (1980), 5-20, speculates on the nature of fantasy temporality and language.

2. "The 'Uncanny"' (1919), in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. and ed. James Strachey, Volume XVII (1917-1919), (London: The Hogarth Press, 1955), 234-35.

3. Freud, p. 241.

4. Totem and Taboo, trans. James Strachey (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1950), p. 93.

5. (New York: Dell Pub. Co., Inc., 1975). All references are to this edition.

6. (New York: Popular Library, 1963), p. 74. All references are to this edition.

7. (New York: Airmont Pub. Co., Inc., 1966). All references are to this edition.

8. (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc., 1924). All references are to this edition.

9. In Dark Imaginings: A Collection of Gothic Fantasy, ed. Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski (New York: Delta Books, 1978), pp. 45-69. All references are to this edition.

10. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1971). All references are to this edition.

11. Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1971), p. 155.

12. The Epic of Gilgamesh, trans. N. K. Sanders (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1960), p. 60.

13. Five Great Dialogues, trans. B. Jowett (Roslyn, New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1942), p. 180.

14. "Bacchae and Ion: Tragedy and Religion," in Moderns on Tragedy, ed. Lionel Abel (Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett Pub., Inc., 1967), p. 155. Among numerous obvious examples the tales of Pan and of the half-human, half-animal Minotaur are versions of the theme.

15. Rosenmeyer, p. 159.

16. Rosenmeyer, p. 158.

17. "Aion: Phenomenology of the Self," in The Portable Jung, ed. Joseph Campbell (New York: The Viking Press, 1971), p. 154.

18. A Dictionary of Symbols, trans. Jack Sage (New York: Philosophical Library, 1962), p. 337.