On Fantasy and Magic
It has come to our attention that some readers—students, educators, and parents included—are unfamiliar with the terms fantasy and magic, and how they apply to children’s literature. To eliminate any confusion, we would like to share our thoughts on the subject.
Fantasy is a bona fide literary genre as credible and edifying as science fiction, mystery, westerns, and any other number of fictional works. In various forms, it has been around since the advent of writing. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s earliest written work of fiction, is arguably fantasy by today’s standards. Similarly, such time-honored works as Beowulf, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Disney’s Peter Pan, and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings are also fantasy.
By definition, the genre is fiction. The name fantasy says it all, and we make no attempt to veil this or to suggest otherwise. The storylines, action, characters, and events in Knightscares are intended to inspire, sometimes educate, and always entertain. Nothing more.
Fantasy is fun and enjoyably simplistic. It is the account of good versus evil in which good always triumphs. Moreover, the lines between good and evil are clearly defined. The heroes are unquestionably good, and the villains undoubtedly “evil.” There is no confusion or grey areas. Young minds enjoy fantasy, but they also need defined guidelines.
A notable difference between fantasy and other genres is setting. Fantasy often occurs (at least in part) in some make-believe Never-Never Land (Peter Pan), Middle-earth (The Lord of the Rings), or mythical Narnia (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). This is where the genuine fiction of fantasy becomes most evident.
Fantastic settings translate into fantastic results. In fantasy, the characters, creatures, environments, and machines often behave or function wondrously. Dogs talk, snowmen stalk the land, turtles sing, fairy creatures live for centuries, and, yes, characters sometimes use magic to perform incredible feats.
Does this mean we believe in or advocate real-life magic? Of course not. We need not believe in thousand year-old mummies coming to life in order to enjoy stories about them. We need not believe in space ships that travel millions of light years to visit far-off worlds.
We need only suspend our disbelief, to take off our hats of critical thinking, mundane logic, and inappropriate prejudices, in order to sit back and enjoy a good story. The old adage of not believing everything you read should be taken literally. In fact, it should be mandatory.
Some of what we read is intentionally make-believe. It is good old fashioned fantasy.
All books, you see, are magic. They take us to other places and times. They allow us to discover, learn, and become heroes ourselves. They teach us what it means to be human and how to dream.
Everyone should read often and with enthusiasm, especially children. With the rising popularity of the mostly mindless distractions of video games, internet chat, texting, and television, books are our greatest ally in the real struggle against educational and imaginative apathy.
So we repeat: All books are magic. Read them.
Charlie & David