Ledia Runnels' "World of Fantasy Fiction"

{June 16, 2012}  

High Concepts

I have been re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories,” and one of the things I have wanted to take away from the essay this time around is a good, clear definition of fantasy literature. What is it that distinguishes a tale of Faerie from other kinds of tales?

Tolkien himself in the essay does not attempt to directly provide a definition: “analysis will not necessarily discover the secret of the whole.” But he does provide many of the materials and resources for such a definition. I would like to try to see if I can make good use of these in an attempt to formulate something closer to a succinct and precise definition. Here goes…

Caveat lector: as a genre, fantasy is not essentially for children. It is “a natural branch of literature.” It has sub-genres: satire, adventure, morality tale, and pure fantasy. But how to define the…

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