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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 be.
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:
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.