Behold the design for the World Fantasy Award, created by sculptor and artist Vincent Villafranca! The competition to create the new statue has been a long time running, and now we can gaze upon its beauty.
For many decades, the World Fantasy Award was a bust of fantasy author H.P Lovecraft designed by artist Gahan Wilson, but in recent years this design had come under fire due to Lovecraft’s controversial legacy. A redesign was proposed, and has been in the works for some time–last year’s World Fantasy Award winners were given certificates, and they will finally receive their appropriate statues as soon as they are cast.
After a very close competition (the WFAA gave a special mention to semi-final Misty Hawkins), Villafranca’s design was chosen, and he will receive two lifetime memberships to the World Fantasy Convention in thanks.
Here is a statement on the new statue’s design from the World Fantasy Award Administration:
The Awards Administration wanted something representational that would reflect the depth and breadth of the fantasy field, from horror to high fantasy and all stops in between. Trees—good trees, evil trees, prophetic trees, harboring trees, forests full of demons, forests of sanctuary—turn up throughout art and literature from the very beginning. They represent life, strength, nature, endurance, wisdom, rebirth, protection; they symbolize the link between heaven and earth. In Christian mythology, mankind starts with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In Norse mythology, the entire structure of the universe is dependent on the giant ash Yggdrasill, the World Tree, which many Eastern European countries see as a home to the spirits of the dead. Indian mythology has the cosmic tree Asvattha, and there are plenty of fantastical trees in Greek and Roman mythology too, including dryads, the nymphs who inhabit trees, the Dodona grove of prophetic trees, and Argo, Jason’s ship, which maintained the magical properties of the tree which provided its wood.
The Green Man is a magical figure in many countries; druids are tied to the oak and the ash; some oak trees were thought to be oracular. Yews guard the entrance to the underworld, rowan keeps witches away. In Native American myth the hero Gluskap created humans by shooting an arrow into the heart of a birch. In Persia, the tree which grew from the decomposing corpse of the first human split into a man and woman, and the fruit became the other races of mankind. Buddha reached enlightenment under a Bodhi tree, which in turn inspired Robert Jordan’s Chora trees.
Trees bestride fantasy literature, from Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber to Robert Holdstock’s WFA-winning Mythago Wood cycle, C.S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles to Michael Sullivan’s Age of Myth cycle, the godswoods of Westeros in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents and Enid Blyton’s Magical Faraway Tree.
But not all trees are nurturing: it’s the treatment of a Chora sapling which begins a bloody war in Jordan’s books. Tolkien’s Mirkwood is as evil as its denizens and Weasels and Stoats rampage around Kenneth Grahame’s Wild Wood; J.K. Rowling’s Whomping Willow has terrified millions, while Patrick Rothfuss’ Cthaeh, lurk unseen in the branches of a giant tree in the fae realm. There’s the baobab tree in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Ray Bradbury’s The October Tree, the apple tree in The Wizard of Oz, and many more.
Vincent Villafranca has encapsulated the worlds of fantasy in the branches of our new award, and we thank him.
The statue will be presented for the first time at this year’s World Fantasy Awards at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio, Texas. More information can be found on the World Fantasy Award Administration’s website.