The faun (Latin: faunus, Ancient Greek: φαῦνος, phaunos, pronounced [pʰaynos]) is a half human–half goat (from the head to the waist being human, but with the addition of goat horns) manifestation of forest and animal spirits that would help or hinder humans at whim. They are often associated with the satyrs of Greek mythology.
Romans believed fauns inspired fear in men traveling in lonely, remote or wild places. They were also capable of guiding humans in need, as in the fable of The Satyr and the Traveller, in the title of which Latin authors substituted the word Faunus. Fauns and satyrs were originally quite different creatures: whereas fauns are half-man and half-goat, satyrs originally were depicted as stocky, hairy, ugly dwarfs or woodwoses with the ears and tails of horses or asses. Satyrs also were more woman-loving than fauns, and fauns were rather foolish where satyrs had more knowledge.
Fauns in art
Statue of a faun; Vatican, Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection
Faun by Wilhelm von Gloeden
The Barberini Faun (located in the Glyptothek in Munich, Germany) is a Hellenistic marble statue from about 200 BCE, found in the Mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian (the Castel Sant'Angelo) and installed at Palazzo Barberini by Cardinal Maffeo Barberini (later Pope Urban VIII). Gian Lorenzo Bernini restored and refinished the statue.
The House of the Faun in Pompei, dating from the 2nd century BCE, was so named because of the dancing faun statue that was the centerpiece of the large garden. The original now resides in the National Museum in Naples and a copy stands in its place.
The French symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé's famous masterpiece L'après-midi d'un faune (published in 1876) describes the sensual experiences of a faun who has just woken up from his afternoon sleep and discusses his encounters with several nymphs during the morning in a dreamlike monologue. The composer Claude Debussy based his symphonic poem Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1894) on the poem. It has become a noticeable trend recent years for some fantasy artists to depict fauns as having the hind legs, tail, and antlers of a deer instead those of a goat. This may be due to the English word "faun" sounding the same as the English word for baby deer "fawn".
Fauns in fiction
- The Marble Faun (1860) is a romance set in Italy by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was said to have been inspired after viewing the Faun of Praxiteles in the Capitoline Museum.
- Mr. Tumnus, in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia (1949), is a faun. Lewis said that the famous Narnia story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, all came to him from a single picture he had in his head of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood.
- In Lolita, the protagonist is attracted to pubescent girls whom he dubs "nymphets"; "faunlets" are the male equivalent.
- In the 1981 film My Dinner With Andre it is related how fauns befriend and take a mathematician to meet Pan.
- In Guillermo del Toro's 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno), a faun guides the film's protagonist, Ofelia, to a series of tasks, which lead her to a wondrous netherworld.
- Don, in Rick Riordan's The Son of Neptune (2011), is a faun. In the book, several fauns appear, begging for money. Due to his memory of the Greek satyrs, Percy Jackson feels like there should be more to fauns. Also, in the prequel to The Son of Neptune, The Lost Hero, Jason Grace calls Gleeson Hedge a faun upon learning that he is a satyr. In the third installment in the series, The Mark of Athena, Frank Zhang calls Hedge a faun.
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- Canadian Oxford Dictionary, second ed., Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 541.
- "Theoi Greek Mythology - Phaunos". Theoi.com. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
- "View online". Retrieved 2014-06-23.
- "View online". Retrieved 2014-06-23.
- Roger Fry's translation can be read online
- There is a performance on YouTube
- The work and its connection with the statue are discussed online