Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What's Fantasy without the Fantastic?

My apologies for getting so very far behind. It was a really busy weekend. Hopefully I can get caught up this week, but I'm still going to be very busy for a while so all I can promise is that I will try.

F is for all things Fantastic.

The clearest sign that you are in a fantasy story is the presence of the fantastic. Whether it's mythical creatures like unicorns and dragons, mythical races like Elves and Dwarves, the existence of elements with properties that would be impossible in our world, or characters who possess magical powers, fantastical features are the one requirement of the genre.

What I love about fantasy is that there are so many varied ways to use magic and the fantastic. Every author finds new and different ways to color the worlds they create with the supernatural. There's a huge range of possibilities from low magic settings to high magic settings and everything in between.

Did you know that Middle-earth, the quintessential fantasy world, is a low magic setting? There is actually very little magic in Middle-earth. In fact, Tolkien disliked using the word magic. As Galadriel says to Sam in The Fellowship of the Ring:

"For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word for the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel. Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-magic?"

Tolkien didn't really consider what the Elves were capable of "magic" in the way we understand the word. Rather, it was more akin to "art" or "craft", something that came as naturally to them as our more mundane activities come to us. The most fantastical aspect of Middle-earth was simply the natural presence of such beings as Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits and of course the Powers of the world.

In contrast, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a very high magic setting. Nearly everyone that we meet is a magic wielder or a magical creature, magical tools and devices are everywhere, and magical spells are used for everything. Both types of settings can be highly enjoyable in the right hands. All we readers ask is that you give us an opportunity to feast on the fantastic.


  1. And there are a thousand variations in between.

  2. Well, my world in The House on the Corner definitely leans more toward the low magic setting.

  3. I agree with Alex. There are so many fantasy and magical settings which is one reason reading fantasy is never boring.

    I love your fonts that you use on your blog. What is it called or what are they called (not sure how many different fonts you have). I just love the font where you have "What I'm reading" Your font really makes your blog pop.

  4. And the great thing is that there are wonderful fantasy books at both ends of the magic spectrum and everywhere in between!

  5. High or low fantasy - if it truly fits the story then it works. If it is a really great magic system, we want more!

  6. For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word for the deceits of the Enemy.

    Totally going off on a spiritual tangent here, but I've always loved what Tolkien says here. How many miracles have been attributed to the enemy, and vice versa, because the Church lacks discernment? How many good things have been called evil, and evil good?

  7. Your posts are great so far. I hope you won't give up.


  8. Yes, in 'Lord of the Rings' a lot of active magic has gone out of Middle Earth, heralding the new age coming, but the magical races are still around. Good point!

  9. I love fantasy! For many years it was all I read.

  10. I also like the bit in the prologue where Tolkien says the hobbits' art of disappearing when big humans come lumbering by may seem like magic to us, but isn't really :-)


Comments, Precious, we appreciates them!