Fantasy literature is a literature genre usually characterized by magic, supernatural elements and imaginary worlds. Fantasy may be considered a subgenre of science fiction and horror although it lacks scientific themes; on the contrary, it abounds of magical animals such as dragons or werewolves and magical elements like wizards and fairies.
The origins of fantasy can be traced back to ancient mythology, whose goal was to explain to humans the workings of nature and mild their fear for the unknown. Usually, mythology tries to explain the rules of nature through the action of Gods or supernatural beings that, in general, tend to resemble human qualities. Gods are the maximum expression of the best and worst qualities of human beings: let’s think about Zeus, who is basically the stereotype of the average man, who wants to have fun and party all night, enjoy different beautiful female lovers and is quite ill-tempered. But Zeus has also one single characteristic that makes him unique: immortality. Such supernatural quality, typical of mythology in general, would become one of the elements of fantasy.
Fantasy is also rooted in epics and legends. The oldest surviving English epic poem, i.e. Beowulf, contains fantasy elements like witches, monsters, and dragons, and so does the legend of King Arthur. These elements kept on living also during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (do you remember the typical, brave knight who fights a dragon to free the beautiful princess locked in a tower?), eventually absorbed in the fairy tales of the XVIII century. Indeed, speaking animals and magic creatures are other common elements of fantasy: for example, the Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, and the animals in Cinderella.
The great fantasy masterpieces come all from the XX-XXI century. In the ’50, two of the most famous modern fantasy works were published, i.e. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Later came also Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and American Gods. Finally, we can’t miss two other big hits in fantasy literature: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin. All these examples show how fantasy can embrace different and various elements: for example, in Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia not all locations are imagined, and some parts of the story are settled in real-world locations. Moreover, magic can assume different shapes, like a magic wand or a wicked ring, or dragons and direwolves.
The television success reached by the works above shows how fantasy is still an appealing genre also in the modern world and is followed and loved by millions of people of all ages.
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