Archive for the ‘Journal 1’ Category

Journal 1: Defending Fantasy

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Fantasy is often mislabeled as simple kid-lit. Stories that are not challenging and they lack serious literary merit. I won’t argue that all literature is created equally, certainly Fifty Shades of Grey is not on par with Moby Dick, but all literature has value. It is ignorant to dismiss Fantasy as simple escapist fare. Escape is the main function of Fantasy, but it is not the only function. J.R.R. Tolkien in Tolkien Reader says that Fantasy has merit outside of Escape. He argues fairy stories also offer readers Consolation, Recovery, and Fantasy itself, and these are needed more by adults than children.

As a genre Fantasy opens readers up to a multitude of worlds. I would argue that it is far more difficult to “escape” into Narnia or Middle Earth than it is to go to New York or Mexico. As a reader you are required to delve into an unknown setting where little is familiar. Fantasy allows readers to stretch their minds and create new settings. However, this is one of the reasons Fantasy is derided as children’s stories. Some argue that submerging oneself in a Secondary World is akin to imaginary friends and playing pretend. Tolkien assures us that Fantasy is a truly rational activity. It relies on the knowledge that this world is not real; it is a genre that has to be based on facts otherwise it is only delusion. Enjoyment of Fantasy does not depend on a childlike belief in this other world; rather it is about the desire for the other.

Another facet of Fantasy is Recovery, or the “regaining of a clear view.” Successful Fantasy has the power to take a familiar setting and make it new again. We can become blind to the people and places we see everyday and imbuing those things with Fantasy calls fresh attention to them. Fairy stories often deal with normal or simple things, but the injection of Fantasy lets us see them at a new angle.

Consolation, the consolation of a happy ending, is a necessary aspect of most Fantasy. It is comforting to read stories that consistently offer a Happily Ever After. Even when everything has gone wrong, the dragon is defeating the knight and the princess is still stuck in her tower, Fantasy gives our hero a second wind, the dragon is mortally wounded, and the princess is swooning because she’s so happy. I believe this is where Fantasy draws most of its critics. They accuse the genre of being optimistic and unrealistic, apparently life does not guarantee a happily ever after. They don’t seem to realize that Fantasy does not deny the existence of tragedy, but offers hope for a way out of the sorrow of both worlds, Primary and Secondary. In the end many have died, hearts are broken, places are ruined, but whatever Evil there was in this world has been faced and conquered

Escape is simply the most obvious and arguably the most important function of Fantasy. It should not be looked at as a frivolous hope for children and some adults. Life is hard, we face very real problems daily, and when adults feel the pressure of the Primary World it is almost necessary to escape in some way.