What is fantasy fiction? It is usually set in a fictional universe but this is not always the case. Oral traditions are where it all started, which then developed into drama and literature. More recently it has expanded even further and now includes video games, graphic novels, television and film.
The main elements of fantasy fiction are usually magic and magical creatures. Fantasy fiction stems from the genre of speculative fiction, along with science fiction and horror. What makes fantasy different from these is that there is no scientific or macabre themes.
Fantasy fiction from the early days to modern times
There have been supernatural and fantasy elements in literature from the moment we first started telling tales. In Greek literature, fantasy elements were part of many of the folk tales meant for adults. Early Christian writers used parables to make a point or share advice in both the Old and New testaments. Being able to pick out the meaning in a story that is not strictly true became an important feature that helped the fantasy genre to develop.
The history of modern fantasy literature is considered to have begun with George MacDonald. Examples of this Scottish authors work include The Princess and the Goblin and Phantastes. Both of which were written in 1858. Phantastes is considered by many to be the first adult fantasy novel. And he is said to have had a big influence on authors such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.
The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places’ but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love in now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater
JRR Tolkien, the Two Towers
William Morris is another important fantasy author, also a popular English poet. He wrote a number of fantasy novels towards the end of the century. One of these was The Well at the World’s End.
While fantasy fiction was a popular genre it did not reach a large audience until the beginning of the 20th century. For a time, fantasy novels became more of a juvenile thing. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and even The Lord of the Rings were classified as children’s literature.
One day you’ll discover that the opinions of worthless people are worthless
Piers Anthony, A Spell for Chameleon
Different types of fantasy fiction
There are a number of different sub genres that make up fantasy fiction. For example:
Fantasy of manners
Gods and demons
Sword and sorcery
Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new
Ursula K Le Cuin, The Lathe of Heaven