The role of fantasy genre in literature

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This article deals with the fantasy genre and its role in literature. I should acknowledge that this paper represents a voyage of rediscovery for me, since I gobbled up fantasy as a teen but then fell out of touch with the genre. As I was analyzing several researches I learned that the intervening years have transformed the genre into something much more diverse and mainstream.

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I should acknowledge that this paper represents a voyage of rediscovery for me, since I gobbled up fantasy as a teen but then fell out of touch with the genre. As I was analyzing several researches I learned that the intervening years have transformed the genre into something much more diverse and mainstream.

Fantasy and the supernatural both evolved from myths, legends, and folklore later developed into fairy tales, which though ostensibly written for children were often contrived with adults in mind. Children’s fantasy in particular has contributed a number of novels that are significant not just as fantasy but as classics in general, including such familiar titles as The castle of Otranto by Walpole, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Redcliff, Frankenstein by Marry Shelly and in more recent years the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, and perhaps most notably the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. One can observe great examples of fantasy fiction in the works of several writers. Admittedly, I can say that these very works take great separable place in the English literature.

Moreover, for fantasy literature, while rather young in terms of scholarly classification, is as old as they come in reality. Myths and folktales, fairy tales and fables were around even before there was much of a written literature, and once put on paper this category just kept growing, and growing, and growing. Over the centuries it has reached in all possible directions, backward into the mythical past, forward into science fiction, and sideways into all sorts of parallel worlds. Works can portray hate and war or love and romance; they can solve all our pressing problems or leave most unsolved; they can be cautionary and didactic or humorous and, yes, fantastic. They can and do reflect the situation in all cultures and civilizations the world has ever seen, plus many it is never likely to see. Thus, even the most concise compilation must cover a lot of ground, given the vast numbers of books and shorter works, authors, illustrators, and publishers, and of types, and categories.

While analyzing most works we can divide the fantasy into following types:

There are 3 different ways that fantasy writers set up their worlds.

Some novels begin and end in a fantasy world (for example The Hobbit or A Wizard of Earth sea).

Others start in the real world and move into a fantasy world (C, S Lewis Chronicles of Narnia).

A third type of fantasy is set in the real world but elements of magic intrude upon it (for example, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series).

Realistic settings are often called primary worlds; fantasy settings, secondary worlds.

Before starting my research I had a question: why do writers use the fantasy genre? And after reading and analyzing I tried somehow to find the answer and lined in the following way:

The major advantage of fantasy is that it can open up possibilities; it is not confined to the boundaries of the real world.

Writers are able to convey complex ideas on a symbolic level that would be difficult to convey otherwise.

Fantasy works can provide a fresh perspective on the real world.

Ursula Le Guin has written that “fantasy is true, of course. It isn’t factual, but it is true.”The fantasy genre involves a different way of apprehending existence but it is no less true than realism.

Fantasy stories can suggest universal truths through the use of magic and the supernatural.

Thomas Hardy preferred fantasy over realism, claiming that “a story must be exceptional enough to justify its telling,” and that a writer must have “something more unusual to relate than the ordinary experience of every average man and woman

Protagonist are also always used in fantasy fictions. Because protagonists usually cross some kind of opening or “portal” between the two worlds.

Examples of portals:

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: a wardrobe
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: a painting
  • Haroun and the Sea of Stories: sleep
  • Harry Potter books: platform 9 and ¾
  • Coraline: a door in a flat
  • Peter Pan: magical flight
  • The Golden Compass: windows cut between worlds
  • Inkheart: a gifted storyteller reads aloud

On the other hand the voyage from the mundane to the fantastic is not simply about escape. It can change our thinking, reinterpret our lives to us, and reframe our understanding of the world – and of literature. Fantasy has a rich potential for metaphor and can be imaginatively radical, carrying a thought-provoking, subversive charge. The fantastical imagination is at the root of the literary world tree: the impulse to fantasy, as seen in everything from Beowulf to The Tempest to Gulliver’s Travels, is one of the foundations of what we do as students of literature. Despite this, fantasy today retains an image of literary inconsequence. English professors are as likely to lump fantasy novels in with romance novels as they are to take them seriously. Fantasy particularly is notable as the only form of literature that consistently blurs the boundaries between adult fiction and children's fiction

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Список литературы

  1. Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction. by Don D’Ammassa United States of America 2006, 57 213
  2. Historical Dictionary of Fantasy Literature. Brian Stableford The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Lanham, Maryland • Toronto • Oxford 2005


Нишанова, О.Г. The role of fantasy genre in literature / О.Г. Нишанова. — Текст : электронный // NovaInfo, 2016. — № 45. — С. 252-254. — URL: (дата обращения: 04.02.2023).