How do you describe fantasy literature? What do you think of as fantasy literature? Do you consider of epics of ancient Sumer, Greece, and Rome fantasies? How about Anglo-Saxon poetry and folklore, do you consider these as fantasies as well? For that matter, what genre do some of Shakespeare’s plays fall in to? The fantasy genre as we know it today can trace its history back to such stories, myths, and legends from past cultures. In some ways today’s fantasy novels revisit these ancient tales but with modern sensitivities. However, many consider fantasy as an escapist genre, a genre where the reader longs to escape from their perception of reality. Instead, fantasy literature often engages our reality in new ways through allegory and satire.
According to J. R. R. Tolkien, (author of The Lord of the Rings) fantasy literature is best defined as follows:
First, the creation of an internally consist secondary world (the “subcreation”) and second, the use of Faerie (the use of magic and enchantment).This world is accessed by the narrative skill of the author and the imaginative willingness of the reader. (as cited by Timmerman, Genreflecting, 2006).
Stories in this genre often contain several of the following characteristics: the use of common archetypal characters, depictions of other worlds that are both similar and yet different from our own, the battle between good and evil, and a quest (Timmerman, Genreflection, 2006).
Though this guide focuses on fantasy literature, the genres of fantasy and science-fiction are so intertwined that telling the difference between the two genres is often difficult. The distinction between the two is that, “Science fiction deals with improbable possibilities, fantasy with plausible impossibilities” (Miriam Allen deFord as cited in Westfahl,
Science Fiction Quotations: From The Inner Mind to the Outer Limits, 2005).
See a book that you like but it's not at your MDC campus library? Then ask a librarian to request it for you via Inter-Library Loan.
Have a favorite novel in this genre? Please leave a comment and we will add it to our list!
These are famous fantasy authors. Click on their names to be taken to a list of their works found in Miami-Dade College's libraries.
Need help navigating the waters of fantasy and science-ficition literature? Then take a look at NPR's (National Public Radio) guide to the top 100 fantasy and science-fiction novels! What will you read?
Interested in finding books based on your favorite novels and authors? Then check out these Reader's Advisories online for suggestions and reviews.