I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.


Monday, May 19, 2014

The Refined Reader (10) Origins of Fantasy Literature

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

Fantasy.  Definitely one of my most read genres, because it consistently provides a fantastic escapist read. The world is complete fiction, with elements of magic to elevate and inspire a reader.

Unlike the origins of Gothic literature, Fantasy has much less clear-cut beginnings.  Our first known story The Epic of Gilgamesh could be classified as a Fantasy, with other early stories fitting the bill being Beowulf, The Odyssey and The Book of a Thousand and One Nights.  The need to invent stories enhanced by the unreal or the supernatural was very strongly imbued in our species it seems.  It is also likely the first genre of literature since it may be the oldest.

George MacDonald has the strongest claim to being the first modern Fantasy writer with such works as Phantastes (1858) and The Princess and the Goblin (1872).  MacDonald seemed inspired by fairy tales and the mystical (he was a Christian minister) to integrate the mystical and the fantastic in stories that would appeal to everyone.  It is interesting to note that MacDonald's work was the first time fantasy stories in our time were seen as stories for adults as well as for children.  He inspired C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien to create their complex fictional worlds and they in turn helped make the genre very popular.

Fantasy today has taken on many guises, with so many different worlds and aspects to explore and it has become a very popular and enduring genre.  Which is understandable given how early on in our history we began to tell fantastical stories.  I think the appeal of fantasy lies in how well it transports the reader into something very different to their own lives, but because the characters have issues and aspirations that are relatable to our own we can immerse ourselves so easily into the world.

Can you remember your first Fantasy read?  If you are a fan of the genre, what aspects of it appeals to you?

Sources:
Wikipedia
Genre Fiction
George MacDonald

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17 comments:

  1. Fantasy is definitely my favorite genre. I've been really curious about The Epic of Gilgamesh since we learned about it in History. =)

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  2. I don't think I heard about Gilgamesh in school which is terrible! I just heard about it during my googling for this feature, and now I am looking forward to reading it sometime! I have to read the first book! :)

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  3. Oh 100% yes! I was so enamored by the idea of opening a doorway to a new world! I'm not sure which book was my first fantasy read, but it may well have been The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

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  4. Courtney Reads A LotMay 19, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    My favorite genre has got to be fantasy. I've loved reading fantasy ever since I was little, though I have no idea what books I first read in that genre. Perhaps something by Roald Dahl? Or The Phantom Tollbooth. That was another favorite of mine. And then I became absolutely obsessed with Harry Potter. I like thinking that it was the oldest genre, and I enjoyed reading all of the history in your post. Like you said, it definitely offers a chance to escape from reality, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. Great post! :D

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  5. Ana @ Read Me AwayMay 19, 2014 at 8:59 PM

    Another great post, Charlene! :D I love these, they're so informative.


    My first fantasy story? Oh gosh, I probably can't remember. I remember the Disney stories based on faerie tales being kind of my "gateway" into fantasy? I've always loved fantasy books, but when it comes to pinning down an exact title from my childhood, I can't say, haha! What I *can* remember is the comic book series, W.I.T.C.H., because I was a young'un when it came out, and it stuck with me through my high school years. :D

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  6. Oh wow... my first fantasy read????? I would say was the Hobbit. I read it in 8th grade. Prior to that I was reading Fear Street. I don't remember reading any fantasy before that.

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  7. Okay, I said in a previous comment that Narnia might have been one of my first fantasy reads, but I totally forgot about Dahl, and I'm almost sure it must have been The Witches or James and the Giant Peach - so thank you for that! :) Harry Potter I read when I was older, but I wish I started it when it first came out (although I would have been in high school...) Thank you for your comment!

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  8. The Disney films might have been my gateway too - I know I watched them when I was really young, so probably that instilled a love for certain kinds of fantasy - namely with princesses and happily ever afters! :)

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  9. The Hobbit would be a great introduction to fantasy! I only got into Tolkien when I was in college which I think is a shame. And I remember reading all kinds of R.L. Stine when I was young, I just loved those high school thrillers! I used to be more into mystery stories too when I was young - really interesting that I don't read them as much now.

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  10. Alice @ Alice in ReaderlandMay 20, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    This is really interesting! When I learned about The Epic of Gilgamesh in school I never thought about it as part of the Fantasy genre, so it's really interesting to look at it in that light.
    Love these Refined Reader posts! :)

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  11. I hope to read Gilgamesh soon, and I want to compare it to modern fantasy as I read it - it will be interesting to think how far we've come from those early story-spinning days! Thank you Alice! I'm glad you are reading! :D

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  12. I think my first fantasy was Chronicles of Narnia or The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I think fantasy is one of my favorite genres! Fun to read the 'origins' story :)

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  13. Yay Narnia! It's definitely a great gateway fantasy read! I haven't heard of The Sword of Shannara though, I have to look that one up! And I'm so glad, I love learning more about book genres by writing about them!

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  14. I tried doing something similar on my blog but I think I got too deep into the content and it was taking me too long to write each piece. Yours is much better.

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  15. I wanted to keep this feature as an overview to stir up interest, because otherwise I'm sure it would be such a lengthy post! And it would take me so long to research and write. I am glad you enjoyed this - but maybe you can try your hand at your feature again!

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  16. Good idea. I have been thinking of a piece on gothic fiction for some time. I shall have to dust off the idea again

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  17. That would be great! I love Gothic lit so it would be wonderful to read more about it!

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