The genre of fantasy is speculative writing, often set in a fictional universe or a reimagined real-world, typically with the addition of magical powers or mythical creatures. Fantasy is one of the oldest literary genres, and although the term is a more recent application, historical tales about heroes battling mythical creatures have existed in almost every culture throughout history. While it isn’t clear if the mythological tales were believed to be factually accurate, or whether they were accepted as stories with a moral tale, it is clear that they have helped to shape both civilisations, as well as the way that we tell stories today.
One of the oldest examples in the fantasy genre is the epic poem of Beowulf, a story which is alleged to have been written around the year 1000 AD. The story itself is set in Scandinavia, where Beowulf comes to the aid of the king of the Danes, Hrothgar, to slay a creature that has been plaguing his hall.
A more modern example of fantasy is Tolkien’s story, Lord of the Rings, a series which has helped mould the fantasy genre and created many of the tropes that are still widely used today in fantasy stories. Lord of the Rings features both mythical creatures, as well as non-human intelligent species, namely hobbits, elves, dwarves, and orcs. While iterations of non-human intelligent species had existed before, their lore was largely expanded by Tolkien and has been copied by nearly every fantasy writer since. The story primarily follows the archetype of the hero’s journey, where the protagonist Frodo Baggins has to take a mythical ring and destroy it in the only place that it can be destroyed.
Dungeons and Dragons, although not technically designed to be limited to the written word, borrows heavily from fantasy themes, and has even been part of establishing many tropes that still exist today. It has also been credited for interactive ‘choose your own ending’ style stories, although this is disputed by some.
Popularity in the fantasy genre continues to increase, and in recent years has seen several crossovers with the romance genre, which has proven to be a massive hit with fans. Epic fantasy stories are also proving to be popular, with George RR Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ series having been turned into a highly successful television series watched around the world. Whatever the future of fantasy holds, it isn’t a genre likely to disappear any time soon.