Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What is Fantasy? (Erin)

Hello! So nice of you to stop by! You’re probably here because you love fantasy, or you love us. (If the latter, thank you!) Either way, I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of what fantasy is. Basically, anything that comes out of someone’s imagination and couldn’t happen in the real world qualifies as fantasy. Think magic, talking animals, mystical creatures, and living legends.

But, did you know the fantasy genre can be broken down into several distinct categories? Read about some of them here, then post a comment to tell us which you like best.

Take Note: Each of our bloggers’ names is in parentheses next to the type of fantasy they are currently writing.

High Fantasy (Hannah):  This is fantasy that is set in an entirely different realm, with no connection to anything in the “real” world (i.e. Earth). High Fantasy often includes histories of separate lands, like the Shire, Rohan, and Mordor, in Middle-earth; races such as Elves and Hobbits; new languages (Can you read Elvish or Dwarvish?); and lots of maps.  
Can you tell J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings series is a great example of a High Fantasy?

Arthurian Fantasy: Arthurian Fantasy in based on the legends surrounding King Arthur, Merlin, Morgan Le Fey, and the Knights of the Round Table. Examples are Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series.

Classical Fantasy: Fantasy based on Greek and Roman Mythology, like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.

Historical Fantasy: Fantasy that takes place in a historical setting, such as the Civil War, or Victorian England. Check out King of Shadows by Susan Cooper or The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Fairytale Fantasy (Laurie and Laura): Based on fairy tales, but full of realistic characters, twists and surprises. My daughter’s favorite is Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm series. 

Science Fantasy: Often set in space and science plays an important role, but different than Science Fiction. Science Fiction must be possible according to scientific principles, given logical technological advances. In Science Fantasy, anything goes! Madeleine L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first Science Fantasy books written for younger readers. She had a hard time finding a publisher, because no one could figure out how to categorize her book! 

Portal Fantasy (Elizabeth): Fantasy where characters move back and forth between the real world and a fantasy world, via some type of portal, like the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, or Platform 9 ¾  in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Time Travel Fantasy: Fantasy where the characters move forward and backward in time. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, of course.

Low Fantasy: Fantasy set entirely in the real world, but including fantastical elements unknown to most people. Did you know there are vampires and werewolves in Forks, WA? (If you can’t answer that, you may need to read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.)

Magical Realism (Erin and Laura): Real life in the real world, but requires you to believe in legends, random magic, or mystical occurrences. Magical Realism doesn’t rely on fantasy elements as much as Low Fantasy, but includes just enough wonder and mystery to make you think it couldn’t really happen. Read The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, to see what I mean.

Of course, authors often use more than one fantastical device, so many of the books I mentioned could be placed in more than one category.

Remember to post a comment and let us know your favorite type of fantasy.

Also, let me know if you think of a type of fantasy I missed!

Thanks for reading!



  1. Even though I've read this post several times by now it still blows my mind that there are 10 different types of fantasy! Fairytale Fantasy is my favorite, not surprisingly, but I also really enjoy Magical Realism, along with Portal, Historical, and Low Fantasy. The sad thing is it was hard for me to narrow it down to those 5 categories :)

    1. I don't think I can pick a favorite, either! : ) I do love portal fantasy. . . just the idea that a new world could be just around the corner is exciting! Thanks, Laurie!

  2. Fantastic post! It is a great way to start a blog about fantasy, so that everyone is on the same page. My favorite is definitely high fantasy, but I also love classical, Arthurian, time travel, historical, portal... well, I write fantasy for a reason. :) The more magic, dragons, elves, and fantastic cultures, the better!

  3. I love dragons and elves, but haven't written about them yet! Looking forward to reading some of your work, Hannah! Thanks!

  4. Wow! Not being a fantasy writer, I had no idea. Great post, Erin.

  5. Thanks, Stacy! Fantasy can be fun, with so many variations. Thanks for reading! Erin

  6. My favorites are high fantasy, portal fantasy, and urban fantasy. I'm not sure what the technical difference is between urban fantasy and low fantasy. They both take place on Earth, with the presence of things like modern technology. In some of the urban fantasies I have read, such as Written in Red by Anne Bishop, the humans are fully aware of the presence of the paranormals and non-humans. Perhaps that is one difference.

  7. Hi All! So. . . what do you know about Urban Fantasy? I missed it in my post, and I'd love to hear your definitions. Thanks!


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