Fantasy is a literary genre in which supernatural elements and/or magic are central to the plot
Some scholars distinguish between works whose authors believe to some extent in the reality of
supernatural beings or events, and works which place the magic and the supernatural in an
alternate reality. The latter are considered to be true fantasy, while the first have fantasy
By this rule, most traditional fairy tales would not fully qualify as fantasy
Fantasy is very much concerned with world building eg: history, geography. Fantasy spends a lot
more time exploring these things. The authors of the work you are reading believe in the
supernatural eg: they exist eg: witches, fairy’s.
The sources of modern fantasy
Where can we place the origin of modern fantasy?
Modern fantasy begins around the 1850’s, with George A. MacDonald’s (one of the first children
One of George’s famous works is “The princess and the Goblin” which teaches friendship, good
behaviour and faith. The novel is set in the kingdom where the humans occupy the above
ground and underground there is a race of goblins and the humans and goblins are at war. The
novel spends a lot of time explaining what the goblins wear, eat and how the kingdom was built.
A lot of time was spent explaining the geography of that time which is why George A
MacDonald’s work was considered modern fantasy because it spends a lot more time explaining
Its sources are very varied, but the most important ones include:
-Medieval epics, like the King Arthur cycle, and the Nibelung cycle. We tend to relate
fantasy to a specialized audience. Fantasy has roots in a tremendously popular genre.
-pre-Christian mythologies, especially (but not exclusively) Germanic.
the Arthurian Cycle consists of a vast number of narrative poems, written roughly between the
13 and 16 century
the main protagonists are King Arthur and the Knights of the Round table
the plots revolve around the search for the Holy Grail, or other adventures which often involve
magic and/or supernatural creatures
as the popularity of the cycle grew, new characters were added and the world was expanded
the Arthurian Cycle promotes an ethos of courtly love and noble heroism
the Nibelung cycle is a medieval epic poem written in the 16 century, but based on pre-
Christian mythology it is considerably darker tale of love, betrayl and greed
it features some of the most common motifs used in modern fantasy, such as dragons guarding
treasure, supernatural races like trolls and dwarves etc.
it promotes an ethos based in heroic violence and the valuation of fame
the Nibelung cycle is based on pre-Christian beliefs in Europe. More concerned with the dantier
stuff eg: war
Fantasy in other media
Frank Frazetta was a painter and illustrator whose style has come to define fantasy art and
the “sword and sorcery” genre. Eg: barbarian fantasy, wizards and magic everywhere. He is
used as an example because its entertaining because he had a tremendous amount of
imagination, his colors are beautiful and he realizes his characters and makes them
enjoyable and fun to watch in an exaggerated nature.
Some movies, like star wars are essential fantasy epics, despite superficial SF trappings. Very
simple to realize if you remove robots and lasers and spaceships your left with a purely
The most important feature of modern fantasy is world building. Authors build
elaborate, multilayered realities, with self-contained mythologies and histories.
Because of this, fantasy fiction is often lengthy and arranged into cycles.
It’s a descriptive genre, depends