Types of Fantasy
tales told in a form similar to that of a traditional tale
with the accompanying typical elements: little character
description, strong conflict, fast-moving plot with a sudden
resolution, vague setting, and sometimes magical elements.
However, these tales were original and written by
Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales (e.g., “The Ugly
Duckling”, “The Nightingale” , “Thumbelina” , “The Emperor’s
New Clothes”, 1835).
stories in which animals behave as human beings in
that they experience emotions, talk, and have the ability
to reason. The animals in fantasies also retain many of
their animal characteristics. Animal fantasies often have
easy-to-follow episodic plots. Animal fantasy
constitutes a form of literary symbolism, the animal
characters symbolizing human counterparts, and these
fantasies are often vehicles for exploring human
emotions, values, and relationship.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix
The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth
Voyages of Dr. Dolittle (Hugh
Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White, 1952),
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (William Steig, 1969)
(see the video
Prairie School Television).
stories in which admired or beloved toys (e.g., teddy bears,
puppets, or dolls) are brought to life and
transformed into animated beings who talk, think, live,
breathe, and love like humans do. Modern toy fantasies
are most frequently in picture-book format.
The Adventures of Pinocchio
(Carlo Collodi, 1881),
Winnie-the-Pooh (A. A. Milne,
magic itself – whether a
magical object or a character with magical powers –
becomes the very subject of the story, rather than
simply a means to an end. Note that the magic always
operates according to some established rules.
Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren, 1950), Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl, 1964), Sylvester and
the Magic Pebble (William Steig, 1969).
Enchanted Journeys and
fantasies we see the protagonists undertaking journey
to some fantasy world or alternative world. Realistic
stories also use the journey motif, but only in fantasy
journeys do magical things occur.
advantage to sending fictional characters on a journey is
that the possibilities for plot variations are virtually
endless. The plots of fantasies are usually quite
loose, sometimes episodic, simply stinging
together a series of adventures.
We rely on
the central character to be our touchstone with reality
(Alice and Dorothy judge everything they see in Wonderland
and Oz by the standards they knew at home).
may have some purpose (e.g., Alice wants to find the Queen’s
Garden, Dorothy wants to find the Emerald City and
ultimately a way back home), but the purpose is usually
overshadowed by the thrill and delight offered by the
extraordinary events happening in the fantasy world.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
(Lewis Carroll, 1865),
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L.
Frank Baum, 1900),
Peter Pan (Sir James Barrie,
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J. K.
type of alternative world is the land of miniaturized
characters. Young readers are attracted to these
miniature worlds because they can identify with the
diminutive characters and because these stories often
depict the clever triumph of the small and weak
characters over the larger, but duller, bullies of the
Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan
Swift, 1726), The Borrowers (Mary Norton, 1953).
Heroic or Quest Fantasy
adventure stories with a quest, or search, motif.
The quest may be pursuit for a lofty purpose, such as
justice or love, or for a rich reward, such as a magical
power or a hidden treasure.
conflict usually centers on the struggle between good and
evil. The protagonist is engaged in a struggle against
external forces of evil and internal temptations of
weakness. The plots of heroic fantasy are usually more
tightly woven, with all the actions directed toward a
single purpose – the triumph of good over evil.
fantasy owes a great deal to the ancient myths, legends, and
traditional folktales, from which are derived themes, plot
structures, even characters and settings.
The Hobbit / The Lord of the
Rings trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien, 1937),
The Lion, the
Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis, 1950), The Book
of Three (Lloyd Alexander, 1964), The Hero and the
Crown (Robin McKinley, 1985).
Supernatural and Mystery
form of supernatural fantasy is the ghost story.
Ghosts in children’s books can be fearful threats or helpful
protectors. Another common form is the mystery in
which the solution is partially supernatural or arrived at
with supernatural assistance, for example, witchcraft.
The legend of Sleepy Hollow
(Washington Irving, 1917), Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer’s Stone (J. K. Rowling, 1998).
fiction is a form of imaginative literature that provides a
picture of something that could happen based on real
scientific facts and principles. They may portray a
world that young people will one day inhabit; thus, they are
sometimes called “futuristic fiction”.
science fiction is devoted to dramatizing the wonders of
technology. Science fiction, in fact, closely
resembles heroic fantasy, with magic replaced by
technology, and the plots focused on mighty struggles
between the forces of good and evil and with the fate of
civilization hanging in the balance.
fantasy presents a world that often mixes elements of
mythology and traditional fantasy with scientific or
technological concepts, resulting in a setting that has some
scientific basis but never has existed or never could exist.
fiction seldom contains much humor because the
science fiction writer usually wants to create the
illusion of reality, or at least of possibility. Many SF
works deal with ethical problems facing humanity as science
and technology outpaces our development as human beings.
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley,
The Time Machine (H.G. Wells, 1895), Rocket Ship Galileo (Robert Heinlein, 1947),
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle, 1962), The
White Mountains (John Christopher, 1967),
(Lois Lowry, 1993).