See Debussy's Prélude à "l'après-midi d'un faune" on Feb. 22


The History of the Faun

Pan, God of Nature
A depiction of ancient Greek God Pan

In ancient Greek mythology and folklore, Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds, and rustic music, and the companion of the nymphs. With his homeland in Arcadia—a rural, mountainous region in Greece home to farmland and grassland—he is also recognized as the god of fields, groves, wooded glens, and often affiliated with sex. Because of this, Pan is usually associated with fertility and springtime.

Pan also is the reason the pan flute has its name. In Greek mythology, Syrinx, a forest nymph, transformed into a water-reed or calamos (cane-reed) in an attempt to escape Pan's affection. Pan then cut several reeds, lined them up parallel one next to the other, and bound them together to make the musical instrument we know today.

On February 22, Eugene Symphony will perform Claude Debussy's Prélude à "l'après-midi d'un faune" (Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun), which tells the story of an excitable faun as he tries to recall his dream during an afternoon nap wherein he chased amorously after some nymphs (there's a weird running theme here...).

A faun design of half-goat, half-man, is not a very common theme in popular culture, but the fauns we do know are very popular indeed!

Philoctetes | Hercules (1997)

Hercules and Phil
Disney (1997)

Voiced by Danny DaVito, Philoctetes (aka Phil), is an old faun who was infamous for training legendary heroes who more often than not end up as failures, but he steps up to the task of training Hercules. Though he comes off as rough around the edges and rude, he has a big heart and shows his love for Hercules throughout their time together.

Mr. Tumnus | The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

Lucy and Mr. Tumnus
Disney (2005)

In both the original book series and the many movie adaptions since, kind but careful faun Mr. Tumnus serves as Lucy's guide during her first visit to Narnia, but is punished for disobeying the White Witch who had cursed the land with a hundred-year winter. Played by James McAvoy, we appreciated his offer of tea in his cozy home.

The Faun | Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Ofelia and the Faun
Warner Bros. Pictures (2006)

Pan's Labyrinth's depiction of a faun (named Faun) is more goat-like, also serving as a guide for main character Ofelia, who follows a fairy into a labyrinth. Faun believes she is the long-lost princess of the Underworld and gives her a book with three tasks to complete for her to return to her rightful role. Although the connections seem obvious between this faun character and the "Pan" in the title of the movie, director Guillermo del Toro has assured fans that Faun is in fact not the god Pan.

The Faun | Afternoon with a Faun (1924)

The Faun
Ballets Russes (1924)

We of course can't make this list without mentioning the faun in Debussy's Prélude à "l'après-midi d'un faune" (Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun). The piece, composed in 1894, is based on a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé. The faun is our narrator, sleepily recounting a dream in which he chased after some nymphs. Known for its whole-tone scales, the work is intentionally suggestive while exploring color and immersing us in a voluptuous soundscape as the quintessential example of musical Impressionism.