Enchanted World Series

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The Enchanted World Series of books was a set of twenty-one books published in the 1980s. Each book focused on different aspects of mythology or folklore, and all were released by Time Life Books.[1] Their overall editor was Ellen Phillips and their primary consultant was Tristram Potter Coffin, a Guggenheim Fellowship Award winning University of Pennsylvania Professor Emeritus of English.

The volumes in the series were known for their beautiful art and the extensive research used in their stories. The books often overlap; for example, while King Arthur and his knights only have one book completely devoted to them, Fall of Camelot, they often appear in other books. Half of Legends of Valor is about them and they appear in Wizards and Witches, Fairies and Elves, Dwarfs , Spells and Bindings, and Giants and Ogres.

A unique part of the series was that its books were written as stories, taking place from an "in the universe" perspective, presenting its subjects as real people, places, and things. Related to such things having once been real, a common thread through several of them was its documentation of the alleged decline of magical things from "when the world was young" to the modern day. The subjects—dragons, dwarfs, giants—are presented as being potent and strong at the dawn of time but magical creatures grow weaker and eventually disappear as humans spread and demystify the world, though there is always the promise that the magic will return once again.

Christianity is often related to the decline. Though Enchanted World portrays it as humankind's greatest shield against those magics and beings of magic that would prove hostile to it, it proved detrimental even to good magic as people ceased to believe in the old gods in favor of Christ. According to the series, this was because Christianity was centered around a god of reason and that it promised a clearly defined universe of order and stability, a universe where there could be only one god. Magic could hardly thrive under such circumstances. It continued to exist either in opposition to Christianity or more often in connection to in-between places and in-between things. The series states that magic had always had a strong connection to things that were neither one thing nor another because as neither one thing nor another, such things could escape definition and be more than what they appeared.

The Series[edit]

In order of publication:

Wizards and Witches[edit]

Brenden Lehane's book opens stating that in the earliest days the world was not yet fully ordered and the process of creation not yet completed. Since reality was fluid, it was relatively easy for mighty wizards such as Finland's Väinämöinen, Taliesin, Manannán mac Lir, Math the Ancient and Gwydion to cast their magic. Magic in those days was almost instinctual and inborn; it was an art. Those days ended with Merlin, the last and greatest of the old wizards. Famous for his aiding King Arthur and the realm of Camelot when he withdrew from the world, magic itself began to withdraw and the wizards retreated from human sight.

As a result of Christianity clearly setting and defining the world, the use of magic became much more difficult and even dangerous. It was difficult because it was no longer an art to be understood instinctively but a science that required years of study. It was dangerous because to challenge the order of reality was to challenge God the author of that reality, and, more often than not, the only being willing to aid a wizard in such an effort was Satan himself. Some wizards earned their powers legitimately and used them responsibly, Roger Bacon is one example as revealed in one tale. Others such as Michael Scot gambled their souls by attending the Scholomance, the school of black magic. Still others such as Faustus took the quick and easy way and made deals with the Devil, always with grisly results.

Concurrent with the scholar wizards were their more humble cousins, the witches. Unlike their male counterparts, their magic retained links to the natural world. Some witches were good and were called white witches, cunning folk, and fairy doctors. They tended to be good Christians and they used their powers for good; their spells were often indistinguishable from prayers. The White Paternoster is just one example. They were needed to counterbalance and oppose their evil sisters who used their powers for the sake of greed, revenge, or even just cruel pleasure. They more often than not placed themselves in the service of the devil and served as his perfect followers. The Witches' Sabbath was their chief pleasure.

Lehane closes that as time marched on and witches retreated from humankind, their magic was forgotten and relegated to stories for scaring children. Even so, their ancestors the sleeping wizards are still alive waiting for the time to awaken.

Dragons[edit]

Dragons opens recounting the legends of Apep, Tiamat, Jörmungandr, Nidhoggr, and Typhon. Born before time began, these creatures were sons of chaos and so the gods did battle with them for only when they were beaten could order prevail and the universe be born. Across various cultures, the same told was told with Set and Ra, Marduk, Thor, and Zeus playing the same role. The gods ultimately did prevail and these cosmic dragons were destroyed but the fight was not yet over because they left descendants with whom mortals would do battle . Cadmus’ dragon was one example.

Chinese dragons and other Asian dragons were an exception to all this; unlike their western cousins, they never lost their semi-divine status and, again unlike them, they were mostly benevolent. The creator goddess Nu Kua was herself partly dragon and Emperor sat on the Dragon Throne. The Dragon Kings governed wind and water and for the rain they sent the Chinese people loved them.

No such love was present for European dragons. While not always evil as seen with the Laidly Worm, dragons were nearly always a threat, and even when they were not, they guarded treasures that man sought, weather gold or water or something else. They had to be destroyed and Christianity, "the hammer of the dragon race," proved one of the most powerful weapons against them because it promised a world in which dragons, creatures of appetite, could have no place. Some saints killed their dragons such as Saint Margeret while others such saints Carantoc tamed theirs. Regardless of the good intentions of men like Carantoc, however, peaceful coexistence between man and dragon was almost impossible as the tale of Saint Martha and Tarasque shows. The dragonslayers rose up to destroy them as well. Saint George is the most famous example. A dragon slayer could expect to win gold, women, and everlasting glory, but it was usually a quest for survival. In the end, humans civilized the world and drove dragons to extinction.

Fairies and Elves[edit]

Unlike other books in the series, this text does not concentrate on the decline of magic though it does state that in the beginning, beings of pure magic (not exactly gods but more than mortal) freely intermingled with mortals (the friendship of Arawn and Pwyll is one example) only to separate themselves later on. They were known to the Norse as the Alfar or elves in English and sometimes as fairies, a word that derives from the Latin fatum/fate and fatare/enchant. Fairie correctly refers to their lands or magic. In contrast to mortals, beings who sought order, these magical beings were said to be very fickle and unpredictable. Even members of the usually good Seelie Court were prone to mischief.

The chief classifications were the trooping and solitary fairies the aristocrats and pesants of their kind. Among the Trooping fairies are mentioned the Sidhe, the Tuatha Dé Danann and the children of the Dagda. Though friendly enough to their mortal counterparts, they eventually withdrew from their sight and were replaced in mortal interactions by their smaller cousins. Leshy, polevik, and other nature spirits continued to haunt the wilds of the world. They were all very unpredictable; some were friendly to humans and used their powers to help them with their household chores while others were cruel and delighted in tormenting mortals

Inevitably, the fairies weakened in the wake of humanity. This was in changelings; a fairy mother would exchange her child with a human child, perhaps to add the vigor of humanity to a weakening race. Also, the friendly meetings which had characterized their relationship with mortals grew increasingly rare. Husbands of Swan maidens often won their wives only through deceit. True love was possible between fairies and mortals but, as in the case of Melusine, the love failed when the mortal husband broke the wife's trust.

Ghosts[edit]

Forthcoming

Legends of Valor[edit]

Written by Brendan Lehane, Legends of Valor centers primarily on Cúchulainn and the world of the Ulster Cycle, and later on King Arthur and the Matter of Britain. Other heroes briefly mentioned are Perseus, Sigurd, and Roland from Greek myth, Volsunga saga, and the Matter of France/Song of Roland, respectively.

In detailing the life of Cuchulain, Lehane writes that in the early world, tribes needed champions to protect them and lead them in battle. The king could not risk his life, so in his place a hero fought and were the jewels in a king's crown. It emphasizes that heroes were often born to gods and mortal Queens—it was not given to peasants to birth heroes. Such men were warriors and were expected to be fierce and savage. Their lives were short, bound to vows of vengeance and the "cruel demands of honor." The kife of Irish hero Cuchulain is retold and how while there were other men of the Red Branch he proved himself the greatest champion of Conchobar mac Nessa, King of Ulster. Cuchulain, the son of Lugh fought bravely for his king and became a warrior without peer although he was killed by Maeve who tricked him into breaking his various vows or geis. After Cuculain's death, Ireland was plunged into chaos though later as the Fenian cycle told, order was restored. Leading men milder and more civilized, but just as valiant, High King Cormac Mac Art and his Fianna protected Ireland from invasion. Even there conflicting vows could speel doom as when Grianne betrayed her husband the king by sleeping with his champion Diarmuid.

The rest of the story centers on the "Brotherhood of the Round Table." Heroes still lived but they were different from their forbears, most notably in the moralizing effects of chivalry. A knight was expected to be kind to women, to show mercy to defeated foes, and to refuse no plea for help. Horses also gave men greater mobility. Under the salvific influence of Christianity, Arthur and his men were the finest heroes in all Christendom and beyond. Despite the Christian kingdom of Camelot being at peace, such men were needed as giants, dragons, and witches made Britain a place of wonder and danger. Some magical beings, such as the Lady of the Lake, proved friends. However, those who would harm the innocent were kept at bay due to Arthur's Knights, chief among them Lancelot, the Lady's son. Unfortunately, Lancelot's love for Guinevere, Arthur's Queen, would bring down Camelot which was already grievously exhausted by the Grail Quest. In searching for the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table did prove themselves the very best heroes of all times but the loss of so many good men in the quest crippled Camelot and left it vulnerable to decay from within. Arthur's bastard son Mordred, in the end, destroyed the perfect world his father tried to create, though it is promised that one day, Arthur will return.

Night Creatures[edit]

Forthcoming

Water Spirits[edit]

Water Spirits opens with the story of man who saved the life of a mermaid who promptly blessed him with the power to heal and to break witchcraft and cursed him so that every generation one man from his family would drown. This was done to illustrate people's fear of the sea as a mysterious and fickle place that could from one moment give life and in the other death. Water was hailed as the source of life; the Hindus worshipped the Ganges under the name of Ganga, Mimir's well gave Odin his wisdom, the Nile and the Jordan River built civilizations, and everywhere people sought the Fountain of Youth. Water Spirits then points out that the creation myths of many cultures imagine the universe coming out of the watery deep and that many cultures recalled a time when the world was washed clean of sinners by the Great Flood.

Humans began taking the initiative in sea quests, however, as seen with Jason and his Argonauts. He was faithful to the gods and led a crew of heroes across the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas. Regardless of his initial faithfulness to the gods, those same gods destroyed Jason but turned the Argo into a constellation. That was a testimony to how fickle the gods could be because sea gods were viewed in relation to their seas. Poseidon, for example, was as arbitrary as the enchanted seas and magic islands he ruled. On the contrary, the kinder Ea came from the calmer Persian Gulf to teach men civilization and agriculture whilst the consistently cruel Rán ruled the volatile North Sea. The gods would lose their strength however.

In Christian times, sailors no longer worshipped the sea gods but still lived in fear of the sea's power. For example, ships were still launched on Woden's Day/Wednesday and not, for example, on Thor's Day for fear of storms and thunder. Figureheads replaced the oculi or eyes of Greek Triremes but the function remained the same; keep a lookout for evil. Anointing a ship with wine replaced the pagan custom on smearing ships with animal and even human blood. There were limits as seen with how Christian priests were rarely let on board for fear of angering the old gods.

Lakes and rivers held their powers too in the form of Nixes and Undines. The Japanese told of Urashima and Europeans of selkies and mermaids; daughters of foam-born Aphrodite, they were carved on churches as warning against lust.

Magical Beasts[edit]

Magical Beasts opens with a recounting of how early in humanity's existence the world was locked in an Ice Age. Humans feared the animals and worshipped the Cave bear. Time passed and the cave bear perished but other beast gods remained such as Cernunnos. The gods of Egypt were beast men and the Greeks spoke of their gods disguising themselves as animals. There are other examples such as Chiron; a centaur, he was hailed as the divine beast. There came the day, however, that Pan the goat god died and the beast gods' decline began. This was seen in how animalistic Fomorians of Ireland had lost their magic and were forced to ruling with brute force. They and Balor, their king, were routed by his grandson Lugh of the Long Hand, champion of the ascendant Tuatha de Danaan. Magic was dying as Europe Christianized but there were other places in the world such as Asia where magic yet held sway and dog men, monopods, and Blemmyes.

It also recounts that many flying animals, both mundane and magical, commanded respect for reason that they were able to escape the mundane world by flight. Pegasus, the Roc, Simurghs, Firebirds, the Phoenix, and even ordinary birds like the Raven in mythology and the robin were revered. Other flying animals were also known such as Griffins, Harpies and Tengus.

Of all magical beasts, however, Unicorns were the most respected. It epitomised beauty and purity but courage as well because it would never let itself be taken alive. Its cousins included China’s Ki-lin and the Persian Karkadann which, unlike their European counterpart, respectively embodied only gentility or ferocity. All however could be tamed by maidens. Unicorns' horns also had the power to cure poison and disease; in their desire to obtain the horns, humans drove unicorns to extinction

The text mentions other beasts such as the manticore, mermecolion, baromets, basilisk, and peryton

Dwarfs[edit]

Dwarfs (actual spelling used on book - this is the proper spelling - "dwarves" comes from Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, and was an intentional change of spelling) opens with the Prose Edda, a narration of Norse mythology. It opens with Norse dwarves and tells how the race began soon after Odin and his Aesir killed Ymir, using his flesh to make the earth. The maggots that crawled from the flesh became dwarfs. Corpse grey and subterranean troglodytes, the gods tended to look down on them but the dwarfs, brash and brazen, knew that when Aesir needed weapons or wanted luxuries that the dwarfs by their magical craftsmanship alone could provide what was needed. While author Tim Appenzeller admits that such tales contain much fiction they still contain a grain of truth.

However, in time the dwarfs lost the ability, or the will, to stand as equals to the gods and walked among mortals. With the pagan gods dead and the God and His Church dominant, a new world had dawned. Even so the dwarf kings such as Herla or Laurin of the Tyrol's Mountains were not afraid and outshone their cavedwelling ancestors in splendor. The dwarfs adapted well to Christian Europe, befriending mortals; Alberich, for example was famous for befriending King Otnit of Lombardy and going with him to Syria to help him win an exotic pagan princess for a bride. The tale of Elidor is also recounted.

The dwarfs decline is further explored with the dwarfish peasantry. They were friendly towards mortal peasants with whom they shared parallel lives and they often helped each other just as their respective kings did. However, as humans grew stronger forming centralized states, large cities, roads, and factories and as the dwarfs' own magic began to fail them, the fragile ties of friendship began to unravel and most dwarfs left the mortal world. Those that remained, abandoned by their fellows suffered a diaspora and placed themselves at mortals mercy. They went on to become household spirits slavishly serving as domestic help of their particular mortals though even there they would go into retreat. The last sightings of dwarfs concerned the Knockers, beings that lived in mines and watched over miners. While, the text says, miners would give them food and drink, these were offerings and not rewards. Appenzeller goes on to speculate that knockers are just the most visible members of hidden dwarf kingdoms. While some of them might be recent dwarf refugees from the outside world, some of them might have always lived there, "awaiting the day when their earth-shaping skills will once again dazzle mortals and gods alike".

Spells and Bindings[edit]

Forthcoming

Giants and Ogres[edit]

Giants and Ogres opens by stating that at the dawn of time, the giants were the mightiest of beings, creatures whom even the gods feared. It cites the legends of Og, Orion, Cronus, and Ymir, and shows that in those earliest of days, giants were indeed wielders of incredible size and strength. However, these "princes of the cosmos" were also superior to the gods (their children) in authority and wisdom and magic. In fact, it was from the giants that the Greek and Norse gods had to wrest their dominion. Even after, as was seen in the Northlands where the giants held to their power the longest, the gods looked to the giants as equals, beings to whom they would turn in search of wisdom.

However as the "first world" ended and they lost their equality with the gods, giants assimilated into mortal society. Some such as Bran the Blessed went on to become kings and heroes, worthy heirs of their ancestors. Others befriended and watched over the peasantry; some giantesses even used their magic as midwives for their tiny neighbors. However, as the giants' decline accelerated, they grew increasingly hostile to humans. They became enemies to humanity, using their superior strength and their magic to attack the younger race that was taking over their world. Their cousins, the trolls and the ogres, became outright predators raping human women and eating human men. Examples such as the giant who had no heart in his body or of the giant who faced Jack atop the beanstalk are cited.

By the end of their existence when men like King Arthur and Charlemagne ruled, the giants were totally defeated. While there remained a few wise and noble giants such as Ferragus who battled Roland, they were the exceptions. Most had shrunk in size to the point that they were only slightly larger than humans. Worse, the giants—beings whose wisdom even the gods had once envied—became degenerate cretins who could be bested by mere children's tricks. Though the giants disappeared, the common folk never forgot them, they remembered the great monuments they had built such Giant's Causeway and the Long Man of Wilmington.

Seekers and Saviours[edit]

Forthcoming

Fabled Lands[edit]

Forthcoming

Book of Christmas[edit]

Brenden Lehane's 'Book of Christmas opens with a brief retelling of the Nativity story told in the Gospels of Luke and Mark. It recounts Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus Christ but states that the pattern was already set. The fact that the birth of Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, is celebrated in December is no accident. There are many winter festivals. Most people worshipped the sun as a god and so were afraid when winter came and it seemed that the lifegiving sun grew weak; thus they celebrated the Solstice, the winter day when the weakening sun regained its strength. In fact, many Christmas traditions have their roots in pre-Christian traditions but it was the birth of Jesus that made a season of fear into a season of hope.

Such fears are mentioned in tales of animal and even human sacrifice meant to appease the pagan gods such as Odin in hopes of surviving winter. Christmas was also said to be the time of the dead; as it was the time when the whole world seemed to die and was an undefined in between time, it was only right the ghosts and monsters rise up against mortals. Similarly the Wild Hunt and its various leaders are recounted, various heathen deities such as Berchta and Gwyn ap Nudd cast out by their former worshippers in favor of the Christian God whose mortal birth said worshippers celebrated.

However, while winter could be terrifying, Lehane asserts that most Christians were not afraid. They celebrated a topsy turny Christmastide with mummers and plays and feasts led by the Abbot of Misrule. Christmas was a time filled with old magic when animals could talk and nature spirits abounded, but followers of the new religion saw nothing strange in keeping their ancestors' pagan traditions alive. Their faith was not the abolition, but rather the fulfillment, of their old rituals because with Jesus, the rituals meant to hold back winter's darkness were vindicated. Lehane states, "In the Child born at Bethlehem, they had the promise of spring in the heart of midwinter, the divine gift of a bright, cleansing flame to drive away the dark."

Fall of Camelot[edit]

Forthcoming

Magical Justice[edit]

Forthcoming

Lore of Love[edit]

Forthcoming

Tales of Terror[edit]

Forthcoming

Book of Beginnings[edit]

Forthcoming

The Secret Arts[edit]

Forthcoming

Gods and Goddesses[edit]

Forthcoming

How the series was advertised[edit]

The Enchanted World was advertised with a series of commercials transmitted either in first-run syndication or during late-night television programming. The first of these known to be transmitted featured four people who described themselves as being in touch with the Enchanted World:
1. Susan Hammett, who called herself an authentic witch. She began the first commercial by saying:

"People think that witches only exist in fairy tales. I'm living proof that we're real--and still around today! In fact...I'm from a long line of witches."

2. Litany Burns, a self-styled clairvoyant. Her statement was:

"Ever since I was a child, I've been able to see things that aren't visible to ordinary senses. So ghosts are nothing new to me. I've seen them many times."

3. Olga Hayes, a tarot card reader. According to her statement:

"The tarot cards are over five hundred years old. With them, I can tell a person's future. I can also tell what they were--in another life."

And
4. Wayne Weiseman, a self-styled psychic and the only male participant in the commercial. As he phrased his contacts with the Enchanted World:

"There are times when I find myself in another world. (He here faced the camera more directly.) I'm actually there. A lot of people have this power. They just have to develop it."

At least two of the later commercials featured actor Vincent Price, well known for his frequent roles in horror films. The first of these, which featured a series of animals--first a rabbit, then a crow or a raven, then a frog, then a cat--transforming into each from the last through special photographic effects, had him, as the narrator, exhorting viewers, "Enter 'The Enchanted World.'" At the end of this commercial, the cat transformed--again, through special photographic effects--into a human; specifically, self-styled authentic witch Susan Hammett from the previous commercial, who pointed out, "After all, how can you be sure witches don't exist--if you don't know what one looks like?" In the second, Price was shown on camera promoting the series and reading at least one of the books by candlelight. At one point, a gust of wind from an open window blew out the candle, which Price re-lit with a match. Then, through lighting trickery, his skin turned glowing green.

All the commercials ended with announcer Ted Alexander providing a toll-free telephone number for viewers to call, together with a mailing address where payment for each book in the series could be sent after a ten-day trial.

References[edit]