secondary world n.

the setting of a work of fantasy where this setting is different from the real world, but is internally consistent; cf. primary world n.

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism

  • 1947 J. R. R. Tolkien On Fairy-Stories in Essays Presented to C. Williams 60 J. R. R. Tolkien

    What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful ’sub-creator'. He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is 'true' : it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken ; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive secondary World from outside.

  • 1964 J. R. R. Tolkien Tree & Leaf (1992) 36 J. R. R. Tolkien

    What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful `sub-creator'. He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is `true': it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside.

  • 1964 J. R. R. Tolkien Tree & Leaf (1992) 37 J. R. R. Tolkien

    The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken. The magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside.

  • 1964 J. R. R. Tolkien Tree & Leaf (1992) 46 J. R. R. Tolkien

    To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, an elvish craft.

  • 1974 J. Mobley Toward a Definition of Fantasy Fiction inExtrapolation May 123 page image

    Meaning is transferred from Primary World into Secondary (and vice versa), but the forms or shapes that meaning takes belong to the Secondary World and operate by its rules, not the rules of ordinary nature.

  • 2004 B. Stableford Discovery of Secondary Worlds in N.Y. Review of Science Fiction #192 Aug. 10/2 page image Brian Stableford bibliography

    Instead of fantastic elements merely intruding upon their home territory, the protagonists of portal fantasies are physically removed to unfamiliar ground, into a secondary world.


Research requirements

antedating 1947

Earliest cite

J.R.R. Tolkien, 'On Fairy-Stories'

Research History
Greer Watson submitted a cite from a 1992 reprint of J.R.R. Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories"; Thomas M. M. Gordon verified it in the 1947 first publication in "Essays Presented to Charles Williams".

We would like cites of any date from authors other than Tolkien.

Last modified 2020-12-16 04:08:47
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.