Children's Literature

Instructor: Chi-Fen Emily Chen, Ph.D. 陳其芬

Department of English, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan


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Fantasy

 

 Please read Chapter 10 from Russell, D. L. (2009). Literature for children: a short introduction.

Introduction Characteristics Types Values Alice in Wonderland

Types of Fantasy

1)      Modern Folktales (Literary Folktales)

  • They are 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 known authors.

  • Examples: Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales (e.g., “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Nightingale” , “Thumbelina” , “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, 1835).

2)      Animal Fantasy

  • They are 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.

  • Examples: The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter, 1902), The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame, 1908), Voyages of Dr. Dolittle (Hugh Lofting, 1922), Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White, 1952), Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (William Steig, 1969) (see the video at  Prairie School Television).

3)      Toy Fantasy

  • They are 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.

  • Examples: The Adventures of Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi, 1881), Winnie-the-Pooh (A. A. Milne, 1926).

4)      Magical Fantasy

  • The 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.

  • Examples:  Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren, 1950), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl, 1964),  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (William Steig, 1969).

5)      Enchanted Journeys and Alternative Worlds

  • In many 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.

  • The great 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).

  • The journey 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.

  • Examples: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum, 1900), Peter Pan (Sir James Barrie, 1911), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J. K. Rowlings, 1998).

  • Another 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 world.

  • Examples: Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift, 1726), The Borrowers (Mary Norton, 1953).

6)      Heroic or Quest Fantasy (High Fantasy)

  • They are 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.

  • The 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.

  • Heroic fantasy owes a great deal to the ancient myths, legends, and traditional folktales, from which are derived themes, plot structures, even characters and settings.

  • Examples: 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).

7)      Supernatural and Mystery Fantasy

  • One common 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.

  • Examples: The legend of Sleepy Hollow (Washington Irving, 1917), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J. K. Rowling, 1998).

8)      Science Fiction

  • Science 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”.

  • Much of 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.

  • Science 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.

  • Science 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.

  • Examples: Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818), 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), The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1993).

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