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What is Fantasy?

Fantasy is imaginative thinking, literature of the grotesque, or of dreams and visions, absurdist, unusual, depicting an imaginary and unrealistic world. It is considered a sub-category of the romance genre of chivalry and adventure. Normal settings and physical laws are suspended, wherein magic and enchantment prevail. It has a range of choices: it may be frolicsome or serious, adventurous or contemplative. It aims to please and delight the heart and mind than to specifically teach. It doesn’t demand or induce belief, it is a “what if” game carried to its full conclusion.

A clear and crisp presentation of good and evil is intrinsic to fantasy. There are no divine beings superior to both humanity and the physical environment. The magician is not the struggling hero or heroine, for the capabilities are already fully harnessed. The typical romance fantasy is to integrate the protagonist with one’s society with a comic tendency.

https://youtu.be/HQKHfHqZrDA Danny Kay in the movie Court Jester (1955)

I cannot think of a more appropriate time to hunker down with the family into some creative fantasy to wipe away our cares, or at least to ease them, in this COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic is our heroic perilous journey. Good fantasy stories will sooth our brows. They project a highly desireable world of innocence, sustained by the protagonist’s courage and considerateness over and above others in kind and degree. It meets a need to feed the imagination and the spirit. And not least, they make terrific family bonding tools. And with schools out, these books encourage literacy as well as amusement.

These early writers made a watershed mark in the history of serious Fantasy. Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, translated from the Danish in 1823-6 can be found on http://scribd.com , as can J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, The Story of the Amulet, The Enchanted Castle, among others. Beatrix Potter’s works with her amazing artwork are also on the site. The site also sports books for adults: William Morris delved into artwork, furniture design, wallpaper, textiles, stained glass, but you might prefer The Wood beyond the World (1895) and The Well at the World’s End (1896), an escape from dirty industrialization. Others are Oscar Wilde, Mrs. Molesworth, George Macdonald, Lewis Carroll, Charles Kingsley, John Ruskin, the Grimm Brothers, Kenneth Grahame, Walter de la Mare, Kenneth Grahame, and Walter de la Mare.

After the two world wars in the twentieth century, cynicism infiltrated the romantic fanatasy genre. The actuality of experience is more pronounced. The 1960’s was watered with the words from Alan Garner, Peter S. Beagle, William Mayre, Ruth Nichols. Ursula LeGuin, followed by the 1970s John Christopher, Paul Biegal, Leon Garfield, Susan Price, Susan Cooper, Anne McCaffrey, Anne McCaffrey, Stephen R. Donaldson.

Some notable illustrators are Ralph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, Walter crane, Beatrix Potter, Kathleen Hale, Edward Ardizzone, Maurice Sendak. Lewis Carroll partnered with John Tenniel, George MacDonald partnered with Arthur Hughes, J. M. Barrie with Kenneth Grahame.

There are different kinds of fantasy: adventure fantasy, fairy tale, heroic fantasy, and comic fantasy.

Adventure fantasy is a sword and sorcery type of thing. It is episodic with simple plots and characterization. The characters are defined through events. Examples are The Hobbit, and Peter Pan.

The folk fairy tale is traditional with various variations. Literary fairy tales are known for the author’s writing style. The differences are explained by Axel Olrick. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axel_Olrik.

Oral fairy tales begin with a leisurely introduction. The story proceeds beyond the climax to a period of rest and stability. Repetition is used to give suspense, to fill the journey out and give it body. There are only two persons in a scene at one time. There is an elegant simplicity in the action. The contrasting characters encounter each other and present as good versus bad. If two persons are in the same role, the weakest one is the best in the end. Characterization is simple, the tale is self-contained.

Heroic fantasy typically reflect human values and thoughts with different levels of meaning and growth of a champion. The underlying theme is presented through the event of the story. Bonny Bergstrum wrote adventure fantasy of swashbuckling entertainment. Any magic used is varient between shallow and deeper (more meaningful), good versus evil. There is an internal world order in the book. Middle Earth in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is an example of such integrity, including social, theological, and moral world order.

The questor is associated with seasonal cycles to find purpose and to change society for the better. In autumn, the champion leaves amidst the blight and disharmony. In the winter, the protagonist enters difficulty. The task is accomplished in the spring, and put things in order. In the summer, the hero returns home. It is not escapist: the story questions humanity’s relationship with superior beings and with one another. There is a more deliberate movement in heroic fantasy than in adventure fantasy, greeting us with the happy ever after and redemption of the rightful sovereign. It is more psychological than fast paced.

Comic fantasy can be parody or playful comic fantasy. In Bored of the Rings, Frodo is given sexuality. It is a parody of a theme, high style, with a lack of physical reality. Playful comic fantasy uses elements of heroic fantasy and has fun with those, plays with questor, beautiful women, wizards, magic, but magic is not to be taken seriously. Language may be comic.

Perhaps you have a fantasy novel perculating in you now. Pen and paper handy?

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