The Fungus Among Us
See more of the Virtual Museum of Canada  
It's a Fungusful World!
Fungus in Our Lives
Fungal Science
Finding Fungi
Funky Fungi Facts
Fungal Folklore
Mushroom Models
Fungal Fun
Meet the Mushrooms: Fungi A-Z
  Fungal Folklore
 
 
Amanita Muscaria
 
Amanita virosa
 
FUNGI IN ART AND LITERATURE
From time to time, fungal hyphae penetrate the consciousness of artists. In the work of medieval Flemish painters, toadstools were often associated with Hell. Victorian illustrators in England took a more benign view, and developed a popular style that linked fairies and toadstools. Elements of this connection persist today. The colourful spotted cap of Fly Agaric, often associated with a gnome or sprite, remains a favourite with children's illustrators, designers, advertisers, and the manufacturers of kitsch garden ornaments. The psychedelic sixties, of course, generated a mass of artwork that owes its origins to fungus-induced creativity.

Down the ages, from Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, fungi have also sprouted regularly in literature. Shakespeare seems to have had fungus in mind when he penned The Tempest. Prospero observes that it is elves' pastime to "make midnight mushrooms," and one scholar has suggested that the fits of Caliban show that he was suffering from ergot poisoning. In recent times it's no surprise to find fungal references at "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry' in the Harry Potter stories.

Writers often turn to fungi when searching for a metaphor for decay or rottenness. Examples abound and can be found in the works of many great poets and authors, including Spenser, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, D.H. Lawrence, and Emily Dickinson. Raymond Briggs' cartoon creation, Fungus the Bogeyman, a celebration of much that children like to find revolting continues the tradition.

The best known-and perhaps most inspired-literary mushroom of all is the one nibbled by Alice in her Adventures in Wonderland. Eating from one side of the mushroom makes her grow larger, eating from the other side makes her shrink. It's possible that author Lewis Carroll knew of the properties of Fly Agaric. One effect of this hallucinogenic fungus is to make objects appear larger or smaller in the user's eye.

French playwright and satirist Moli╦re went so far as to name his most famous protagonist, Tartuffe—an old French word for truffle. Moli╦re's fondness for fungi is also reflected in the title he gave his estate, Perigord, the name of an area noted for its exquisite black truffles.

Short story writers have occasionally delved into the world of fungi. In H.G. Wells' tale, The Purple Pileus, a mushroom changes the course of a man's life. Several science fiction authors, including Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham, have written stories that feature fungi in menacing form.

Fungi continue to provide a source of material for contemporary authors. Mystery writer Sue Grafton features the deadly poisonous Death Cap, Amanita phalloides, in her book "I" Is for Innocent. Robin Cook, famous for his medical thrillers, has fun with a mould that produces a mind-altering drug in Acceptable Risk.
 
Fairy Rings and Fungal Superstitions
Fungal Folk Remedies
What's in a Name?
Poisonous Fungi
Fungi and Witchcraft
Magic Mushrooms
 
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