The definition of this
fictional genre could be
described as something that contains rudiments that are not realistic,
such as magical powers, talking animals, etc. Fantasy is often characterized
by a departure from the accepted rules by which individuals perceive
the world around them; it represents that which is impossible (unexplained)
and outside the parameters of our known, reality. Make-believe
is what this genre is all about.
Another description of a Fantasy Novel is any book that contains
unrealistic settings, or magic, often set in a medieval universe,
or possibly involving mythical beings or supernatural forms as a
primary element of the plot, theme, or setting. Something magical
is almost always part of fantasy and magic may be seen in the setting
or in the plot. It may even be practiced by the characters.
Fantasy usually describes those stories that could not happen
in real life. Fairy tales by known authors, such as those
by Hans Christian Andersen, are considered modern fantasy and have
no problem relating to young children; in fact most adolescents
grow up believing in fantasy. They wish on candles, wait for tooth
fairies, talk to their stuffed animals and play with imaginary friends.
Though the genre in its modern sense is less than two centuries
old, its precedents have a long and distinguished history. Fantasy
Fiction has a rich history of inspirations for critics
to dissect and apply to the modern genre. It is often examined as
the modern counterpart to mythology, but whether one of these practices
inspired the other, and which inspired which, is hotly debated.
With its roots in myth and legend, fantasy is the most elemental
of all the genres. It is certainly interesting that many people
for many generations believed in myth and legend in a way that dramatically
affected their life and their culture.
One thing is certain: there is something timeless about stories
that pit motivating heroes who face long odds against dynamic villains.
(It could also be argued that this is the elementary basis of most
commercial fiction genres.) Good is good and evil is evil. Eventually
there is often a happy ending although important secondary characters
may have been killed.
Stories of the Odyssey, Arthur, and the like have influenced and
shaped culture for centuries. Heroic fantasy yearns for a time of
rigid class distinction, when good and evil were a part of breeding.
When the strong ruled the weak and weak lived happily - providing
rustic atmosphere in the way good peasants should. In fantasy, the
reader may return to a simpler time - the world as we wish it might
Characteristics of fantasy fiction and
its many overlapping sub-genres are the subjects of debate among
some fans and writers. Fiction can and is often a multiple
thing. A piece can belong to the fantasy genre as well
as the detective genre, the romance genre etc.
Science-Fiction and Fantasy are substantially different
categories, however the line between them is often a
thin one. Star Wars is a good example, since it is clearly within
the science-fiction genre yet includes certain unexplained fantasy
elements (particularly "The Force," may it be with you
all). Both types of genre are usually shelved together, both because
of their readerships' tendencies to overlap and because of the
authors' tendencies to blur the lines between these categories.
Many science fiction authors have also written works of fantasy.
Speculative fiction is a difficult genre to categorize neatly.
For example, some authors might argue that most speculative fiction
is pure fantasy - and yet a fantastical tale set in a far distant
future would be more likely classified as 'science fiction'.
In recent times, the term 'fantasy', when
regarded as part of an individual genre, generally brings to mind
tales of dragons and castles and knights in shining armor - but
in truth, the genre as a whole encompasses so much more. Some
examples of sub-genres are:
· Romance Fantasy
· Fairy Tales
· Alternative History
· Arthurian Fantasy
· Comic Fantasy
· Dark Fantasy
· Epic Fantasy
· Fairy Tales and Mythology
· Heroic Fantasy
· High Fantasy
· Mystery Fantasy
· Magic Realism
· Modern Fantasy
· Sword and Sorcery
Fantasy is the genre least likely to be affected by age.
Many adults have enjoyed the Hobbit or the Harry Potter books.
More recently the success of the film versions of the Lord of
the Ring and the Harry Potter stories have dramatically increased
interest in fantasy along with C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of
Narnia, and the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Fantasy continues to substantially outsell science fiction.
Myth and legend has been an important part of culture
since the beginning. Literature began with these stories.
They explained the world that people lived in, provided lessons
about behavior and consequences, and entertained as well. Fantasy
opens the door to experiencing the magic that is in the world
around us and more importantly the magic in ourselves. It can
encompass a whirlwind of images and plot twists and is
one of the few genres in which the same book can be read by an
adult and a 12-year old - comfortably and without any explanation.