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Fantasy is a genre that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting. Many works within the genre take place on fictional planes or planets where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three (which are subgenres of speculative fiction).

In popular culture, the genre of fantasy is dominated by its medievalist form, especially since the worldwide success of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. In its broadest sense however, fantasy comprises works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians, from ancient myths and legends to many recent works embraced by a wide audience today.

Fantasy is a vibrant area of academic study in a number of disciplines (English, cultural studies, comparative literature, history, medieval studies). Work in this area ranges widely, from the structuralist theory of Tzvetan Todorov, which emphasizes the fantastic as a liminal space, to work on the connections (political, historical, literary) between medievalism and popular culture.

The identifying traits of fantasy are the inclusion of fantastic elements in a self-coherent (internally consistent) setting, where inspiration from mythology and folklore remains a consistent theme. Within such a structure, any location of the fantastical element is possible: it may be hidden in, or leak into the apparently real world setting, it may draw the characters into a world with such elements, or it may occur entirely in a fantasy world setting, where such elements are part of the world. American fantasy, starting with the stories chosen by John W. Campbell, Jr. for the magazine Unknown, is often characterized by internal logic. That is, the events in the story are impossible, but follow "laws" of magic, and have a setting that is internally consistent.

Dobrynya Nikitich rescues Zabava Putyatishna from the dragon Gorynych.

Selected fantasy work

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, better known by its abbreviated title The Hobbit, is a fantasy novel and children's book by J. R. R. Tolkien. Set in a time "Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men", The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic children's book.

Bilbo's journey takes him from light-hearted, rural surroundings into darker, deeper territory. The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature, or type of creature, of Tolkien's Wilderland. By accepting the disreputable, romantic, fey and adventurous side of his nature (the "Tookish" side) and applying his wits and common sense, Bilbo develops a new level of maturity, competence and wisdom.

The final chapters deal with the climactic Battle of Five Armies, where many of the characters and creatures from earlier chapters re-emerge to engage in conflict. Critics have cited Tolkien's own experiences and the themes of other writers who fought in World War I, along with the author's professional knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature and personal interest in fairy tales, as the chief influences.