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"To establish contact with the mysterious forces which rule the world, to come to terms with them, to obtain their co-operation or complicity, such is the objective of all those who devote themselves to magic and to whom, rightly or wrongly, people attribute supernatural powers and a special gift of receptivity to everything marvellous."--A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural (1961) by Maurice Bessy

This page Marvellous is part of the fantasy series.Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
This page Marvellous is part of the fantasy series.
Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
Hand of Glory, anonymous
Hand of Glory, anonymous

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The term marvelous has two meanings. The first is causing wonder or astonishment and surprise (such as supernatural phenomena), the second denotes something of the highest or best kind or quality.


Generic theory of marvelous fiction

In literary theory, it is opposed to the fantastique. In the preface to Pierre Mabille's Mirror of the Marvelous, Breton states: "The marvellous has never been better defined than as being in complete contrast to the fantastic." Tzvetan Todorov agrees with this point of view.


First attested from 1300, from Old French, from merveillos, from merveille a wonder. See also: marvel, from Vulgar Latin *miribilia, from Latin mirabilia (“wonderful things”), from neuter plural of mirabilis (“strange, wonderful”), from miror (“I wonder at”), from mirus (“wonderful”).

The marvelous is popular

The marvelous is popular is one of the most often quoted excerpts of Ado Kyrou's Le Surréalisme au cinéma:

"They can keep their Bressons and their Cocteaus. The cinematic, modern marvelous is popular, and the best and most exciting films are, beginning with Méliès and Fantômas, the films shown in local fleapits, films which seem to have no place in the history of cinema." --cited in Paul Hammond's The Shadow and its Shadow.

In original French:

"J'abhorre les aristocrates et les aristocraties (de classe ou de n'importe quoi). Qu'ils gardens leurs Bressons et leurs Cocteaux. Le merveilleux cinématographique, le merveilleux moderne est populaire et les meilleurs exemples de films exaltants sont, depuis Méliès et Fantômas, les films des salles de quartiers populaires, les films qui, paraît-il, n'ont pas leur place dans l'histoire du cinéma. --page 100, 2005 edition.

The marvelous is always beautiful

André Breton, in the first Surrealist Manifesto (1924) said:

"Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful."


  • Marvellous Méliès (1974), an analysis of the work of French filmmaker Georges Méliès by Paul Hammond.

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