Fantastic literature: what it is, characteristics, main works and authors


What is fantasy literature?

It is a type of literature that is within the narrative genre and is based on the use of fantasy elements, so that any story that includes extraordinary elements or supernatural phenomena, such as magic, is called fantastic literature. However, it is important to mention that the definition could not cover all that this type of literature implies, since it shares elements with other types of stories, such as the supernatural within mythological stories.

What is fantasy literature

Another way of defining this type of literature is to mention that it is a relatively modern phenomenon that has given rise to an important number of literary works, including novels and short stories. In this way, the fantastic work can offer a story based on reality but that when analyzed may not be in it, including characters or objects taken from it but with implausible situations.

Origin of fantasy literature

The birth of this type of literature is located in mythology, particularly in Greco-Roman and Egyptian mythology, although its greatest moment of diffusion and growth has been until the twentieth century. That is why it will be the great epic stories of which there is evidence of Antiquity, which will inspire the development of fantasy literature in which we find the mythological heroes related to mortals, also the actions of the gods, among others.

Thus, in the twentieth century, the subgenre will begin to spread significantly in different areas of the world, generating, over time, a large number of literary works that will echo in posterity and thus become great works of world literature, among which we find The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, as his works are set in the Middle Ages.

In short, it is one of the most important types of literature and subgenres in the world of literature, which has also been a source of inspiration for the creation of cinematographic pieces, as well as games.

Development of fantasy literature

This is perhaps one of the most complex genres to define, since, as we mentioned, it is closely related to other types of literature. Even so, it has achieved an important development and has even given rise to emerging subgenres of this modality for literature. Among them we find the following:

High fantasy

The action of this type of texts is within a fictitious world that may or may not be completely or partially removed from reality. In this type of story there are usually instructions about the location in which the actions are going to take place and often there is an evil threat in which the characters are immersed. Among its most common elements are: fairies, giants, wizards, prophecies, new gods, oracles, dwarfs, among others.

Low fantasy

In this type of story, the story is based on the conditions faced by one or two heroes within the event. It often takes place in an area removed from the real world that incorporates magical creatures. However, the race that commonly predominates in low fantasy texts or stories is usually the human race.

In addition to these two classifications in particular, it is possible to identify other modalities that emerge from fantasy literature, such as the following:

Dark fantasy

Characterized by the fact that the stories take place in an unreal but at the same time gloomy world. The characters in these stories move according to evil purposes. Usually, the story will lead to a power that is confronted with violence and madness.

Historical Fantasy

We can identify this type of fantasy literature because it is set in a historical moment of humanity, in which historical characters may appear to be presented. It includes elements such as weapons, there are allusions to time and era, technology, etc.

Science Fiction Fantasy

Also known as science fantasy, it is a subgenre that includes technology and science predominantly, accompanied by other elements typical of fantasy.

Urban fantasy

These are stories set in the world as we know it or in other worlds with similar characteristics, including the city as the central axis. It often includes those clandestine urban areas for its setting, where there are combinations of human beings with other creatures.

Fantastic Strange

In this modality the events seem supernatural in the development of the story, however, at the end there is a rational explanation provided by the story itself and that does not give place to the reader’s possible deductions for its explanation from reality.

Fantastic Wonderful

It is one of the types of stories that are closest to the world of pure fantasy, since the events do not have an explanation, at least rational, as they develop. They take the reader to the idea that it could be explained only if the existence of the supernatural is conceived. However, it is possible to find guiding elements.

Characteristics of fantastic literature

Characteristics of fantastic literature

Among the most distinctive features that give rise to this subgenre, and which have also been used as the basis for the development of a large number of literary works that we can find today, we find the following:

Fantastic elements

And hence its name, this type of literature deals not only with characters, but also with scenarios and elements that go against the rational and logical. This will be the fundamental element that will give rise to this type of stories. The fantastic content allows us to identify what provides the basis for fantastic literature and it is everything that is out of reality or that is not possible to believe.

Presence of two planes

Another feature that also allows us to identify the fantastic story has to do with the existence and convergence of two planes. On the one hand we find the real plane that constitutes our own reality and on the other the unusual, that which will be given by the writer. In this sense, the credible and the unbelievable are in the same place for an artistic creation. In short, we speak of a literature that is located in the limits of the possible and the impossible, always presenting the feature of verisimilitude.

Thus, it is possible to identify recurring elements such as time alterations, space alterations, the existence of portals that allow the entrance to parallel dimensions, metamorphosis, dreams in the real world, among others.

Surprise in the characters

A crucial element that also manages to have an important impact on the reader is that the presentation of the fantastic provokes in the characters a great variety of sensations with which readers can identify. Thus, often the irruption of the fantastic world generates fear or anguish in the characters due to the unbelievability of the events, elements or additional characters.

Possibility of worlds

Although part of the fantastic stories are set in the real world, there are also those that are constituted from other types of resources and possibilities. Thus, within fantasy literature it is possible to identify several types of worlds in which, in many cases, they are the place of origin of unusual characters or supernatural elements. These can be alternate worlds or parallel worlds.

Stimulation of the imagination

The absence of explanations that come from reality as we know it, allows the reader to stimulate his imagination and his searches always go beyond what surrounds him. In this way, he will be able to find partial answers within the same environment presented in the text.

Most important works and authors of fantasy literature

Among the most important works and authors of this type of literature, we find: The Monk (1795), by M. G. Lewis, The Devil in Love by Jacques Cazzotte, Melmoth, the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin, tales by the German E.T.A Hoffmann, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Earthsea by K. Le Guin, works by Edgar Allan Poe, as well as by Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Machen and M.R. James.

Other fundamental works in fantastic literature and references of universal literature are: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, Twilight, The Neverending Story, Dragonlance, Peter Pan, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Game of Thrones, The Color of Magic, The Kingkiller Chronicle, Born of the Mist, The Wizard of Oz, The Wheel of Time, Song of Ice and Fire, among others.

To learn more about the literary world, as well as other types of literature, subgenres and more, continue visiting our section dedicated to this artistic expression where you will find a wealth of information.