Readers, I have a confession to make: I love fantasy. Some people prefer logic and facts while others prefer spaceships and galaxies that are far far away. I, however, like magic and mythology. I love the creativity that comes with inventing your own world, the what ifs that go along with the spells and potions, and the “dude, that’s so cool” that comes with the supernatural. It’s not just the content of the books that I love so much, though. Fantasy as a genre has such a rich history, though there are those who write it off as complete drivel. I would remind them that some of the greatest books written are indeed fantasy. The Once and Future King by T. H. White (and its source material, Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory)? Fantasy. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm? Fantasy. The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis), and Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)? You guessed it… Fantasy. Past literature is rich with magic and made-up worlds and has allowed scores of readers to escape into other lands for centuries.
These books haven’t just shown longevity in their popularity, though, as authors of fantasy books can be considered some of the greatest influences on modern writing. They are often cited as a source of inspiration by present authors. For example, J. R. R. Tolkien – author of the ever-popular Lord of the Rings series and its companion novels (The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, etc) – has been listed as a source of inspiration by many authors, including:
- Terry Brooks (The Sword of Shannara)
- Stephen King (The Stand and The Dark Tower)
- Christopher Paolini (Eragon)
- George. R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones)
While Tolkien’s influence can clearly be seen on literature, it doesn’t stop there. British rock band Led Zeppelin has a number of songs inspired by Tolkien, such as “Ramble On” and “Misty Mountain Hop.” Summoning, a symphonic black metal band, has based most of its songs on Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, with a specific focus on the orcs and darker forces within it. And even before she recorded the song “May It Be” for the soundtrack of the first The Lord of the Rings movie, Enya recorded a song titled “Lothlórien.” Indeed, The Lord of the Rings could be considered a cultural phenomenon, especially after its resurgence in popularity following the wildly successful films made by Peter Jackson.
The Lord of the Rings isn’t the only fantasy novel to have a profound impact on popular culture and society. In 1997, readers around the world started falling in love with a “boy wizard” named Harry and his two friends, Hermione and Ron. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series quickly became one of the most successful children’s series in the world, with more than 500 million copies having been sold worldwide. In fact, the final book in the series sold roughly eleven million copies in the United States alone within twenty-four hours of its release. The books have been translated into eighty languages, ranging from Chinese to Spanish to Russian and even Ancient Greek and Latin. A series that was started on a napkin has spawned 8 movies, a parody musical, and even its own theme park. Harry Potter’s humble beginnings couldn’t have possibly imagined the wild success it now enjoys. And what genre is it?
I feel it’s fair to say that fantasy is one of the strongest literary genres out there, and it seems to keep getting stronger. Though it will be a small sample of this expansive genre, I’ll be sharing a few of my personal favorites with you over the next few weeks. Should you decide to give them a read, all are available at JTCC Libraries, and staff will be more than happy to check them out to you.