Fantasy literature

Fantasy literature

Fantasy media

Genre studies


  • Fantasy
  • Fantasy awards
  • Fantasy subgenres
  • Fantasy television
  • Fantasy tropes

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Fantasy literature is fantasy in written form. Historically speaking, literature has composed the majority of fantasy works. Since the 1950s however, a growing segment of the fantasy genre has taken the form of films, television programs, graphic novels, video games, music, painting, and other media.



Stories involving magic, paranormal magic and terrible monsters have existed in spoken forms before the advent of printed literature. Homer's Odyssey satisfies the definition of the fantasy genre with its magic, gods, heroes, adventures and monsters. Fantasy literature, as a distinct type, emerged in Victorian times, with the works of writers such as William Morris and George MacDonald.

J. R. R. Tolkien played a large role in the popularization of the fantasy genre with his highly successful publications The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55). Tolkien was largely influenced by an ancient body of Anglo-Saxon myths, particularly Beowulf, as well as modern works such as The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison. It was after the publication of his work that the genre began to receive the moniker "fantasy" (often applied retroactively to the works of Eddison, Carroll, Howard, et al.). Tolkien's close friend C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and a fellow English professor with a similar array of interests, also helped to publicize the fantasy genre.

Preeminent authors in the genre who undertook popular fantasy works after Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings phenomenon of the 1950s and 1960s are listed below.[citation needed] The names listed are presented in chronological order, from the earliest published to the latest, along with their most significant works.


Authors such as John Flanagan, Terry Pratchett, R.A. Salvatore, J.K.Rowling, Jim Butcher, Peter S. Beagle, Terry Brooks, Steven Erikson, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Rick Riordan, Scott Lynch, Ursula K. Le Guin, David Eddings, Tamora Pierce, Charles de Lint, Raymond E. Feist, and partly Laurell K. Hamilton and Angie Sage are maintaining the genre's popularity.

Though it is not uncommon for fantasy novels to be ranked on The New York Times Best Seller list, to date the only fantasy novelists whose works have debuted at number one on the list are Robert Jordan in 1998,[1] 2000,[2] 2003,[3] 2005,[4] and 2009,[5] George R. R. Martin in 2005,[6] Neil Gaiman in 2005,[7] and Terry Goodkind in 2006,[8] and Patrick Rothfuss in 2011.[9]


Fantasy has been distinguished from other forms of literature by its style.

Ursula K. Le Guin, in her essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie", presented the idea that language is the most crucial element of high fantasy, because it creates a sense of place. She analyzed the misuse of a formal, "olden-day" style, saying that it was a dangerous trap for fantasy writers because it was ridiculous when done wrong. She warns writers away from trying to base their style on that of masters such as Lord Dunsany and E. R. Eddison,[10] emphasizing that language that is too bland or simplistic creates the impression that the fantasy setting is simply a modern world in disguise, and presents examples of clear, effective fantasy writing in brief excerpts from Tolkien and Evangeline Walton.[11]

Michael Moorcock observed that many writers use archaic language for its sonority and to lend color to a lifeless story.[12] Brian Peters writes that in various forms of fairytale fantasy, even the villain's language might be inappropriate if vulgar.[13]

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


  1. ^ "The New York Times Best Seller list: November 8, 1998". Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  2. ^ "The New York Times Best Seller list: November 26, 2000". Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  3. ^ "The New York Times Best Seller list: January 26, 2003". Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  4. ^ "The New York Times Best Seller list: October 30, 2005". Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  5. ^ "The New York Times Best Seller list: November 15, 2009". Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Best-Seller Lists: Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. November 27, 2005. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Best-Seller Lists: Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. October 9, 2005. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Hawes' archive of New York Times bestsellers — Week of January 23, 2005". 
  9. ^ "' 'The New York Times ' ' Best Seller list: March 20, 2011". Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  10. ^ Ursula K. Le Guin, "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie", p 74-5 The Language of the Night ISBN 0-425-05205-2
  11. ^ Ursula K. Le Guin, "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie", p 78-80 The Language of the Night ISBN 0-425-05205-2
  12. ^ Michael Moorcock, Wizardry & Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy p 35 ISBN 1-932265-07-4
  13. ^ Alec Austin, "Quality in Epic Fantasy". The generic features of historical fantasy literature, as a mode of inverting the real (including nineteenth-century ghost stories, children's stories, city comedies, classical dreams, stories of highway women, and Edens) are discussed in Writing and Fantasy, ed. Ceri Sullivan and Barbara White (London: Longman, 1999)

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