For the month of June, I’m going to be writing about why I write fantasy. This series will be a three part series on fantasy.
Often, when people find out I’m a writer, the conversation almost always goes like this:
“Oh, you write books? What’s it about?”
“Well, it’s a fantasy, and it’s about [insert explanation of general plotline of the book here].”
“Oh. I’ve always wondered why people write fantasy.”
Fantasy is often looked down on. It’s some nerdy Little Brother that can’t quite get its act together like Big Brother Thriller/Suspense or Cool Sister Contemporary Romance. (As if these things aren’t truly fantasies in themselves in many ways, anyway).
And, in a way, I get that. I get that people might not understand. I mean, why get excited about things that don’t exist? Why spend your time creating things that have no relation to reality?
Why do I write fantasy, anyway?
In Part I of my series, I will tell you one reason.
When I was a kid, my father would sit and read to us every night. We didn’t watch TV a lot. We sat and drew or played Legos while our Dad (or Mom) read us stories. To this day, it’s one of my favorite memories of being a kid. Listening to the cadence of words rolling off either of my parents’ lips.
When I was around 5, my Dad read us The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yes, when I was 5. I hardly remember anything from this reading. But Dad read it to us again when I was 7 or 8. I still remember the way he did Gollum’s voice–all raspy and horrible just like Andy Serkis did it in the movie. I still remember the chill of the Black Wraiths chasing down the Fellowship of the Ring. I remember the scene when Eowyn fights the Nazgul, and I loved it. She was a woman, fighting with the men! And she took down the Biggest, Baddest Ringwraith of them all (with a hobbit’s help, of course).
My friends and I played versions of Lord of the Rings and all sorts of other fantasies in our backyards. We thrived on making worlds. The swing set was our spaceship. The water that spread over the cement basketball court was a creature that would consume us. The neighborhood kid was an evil bandit, and we had to defeat him.
We put on plays for the neighbors. We reveled in creativity and imagination.
These were memories I have of my youth. Memories of listening to stories that took me beyond this world. Memories of world-building with neighborhood kids. Memories of delight in imagination. Memories of unadulterated, innocent story-telling as a child when no sorrows had yet burdened my heart.
So that was the roots of it, I suppose. But even in high school, I never forgot those childhood games. I read books left and right. No, not all fantasy. If it was good book, I devoured it (I read Jane Eyre when I was 11, and it is still one of my favorites to this day).
But fantasy was always a part of me. And, as a girl, it always set me a little apart from my gender.
When the girls my age started giggling about boys and talking about the colors for their weddings, I would be thinking about learning how to fence or riding a horse.
When the girls talked about how many children they wanted, I was imagining a life of adventure, fighting for what’s right, alongside a group of friends.
I never fit in. I dreamed of noble things, of epic adventures, of fighting for what’s right, of long and hard struggles where one lost hope only to see it brimming on the horizon.
So naturally, when the call of writing began to blossom in my mind at the age of 15, my pen took up a tale of fantasy. It has always flown from the very essence of who I am, of who I was as a child before sorrow and pain came in my teenage years and beyond.
When I was a child, I believed in things through fantasy. I believed in good verses evil. I believed in nobleness of heart. I believed in loyalty. I believed that people could rise above their circumstances. I believed in an Unseen Hand that moved in the midst of circumstances and directed the course of history. That, as Gandalf pointed out, Frodo was meant to find the Ring, that he was meant to go on his quest. And it was a comforting thought.
These beliefs seem to fade as one grows up. As people betray others and do horrible things to each other, as hopes begin to die, as growing up seems very much more painful than anything we could’ve ever imagined….
I still must cling to these beliefs throughout all the pains of life as an adult.
And that’s why I write fantasy.
Because fantasy, at least the good ones, helps us believe in things. Fantasy is a way to help show us what humanity is capable of. It helps us remember there is something noble about mankind, and that there is something good to fight for, and that friends are important, that love is sacrifice.
Think about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or the Narnia series. These series are about normal people who face extraordinary adventures, have to face evil, have to learn to be strong, and learn to endure.
They teach us things about ourselves in our “normal” world.
When Frodo drags himself toward Mount Doom trying to destroy the Ring that is destroying him, and Sam is his loyal companion…We remember that sticking by a friend during the times they are hurting and about to give up is one of the most extraordinary acts of love there is. We can’t get through the burdens on our own. We need loyal friends. (Sam is one of my all time favorite characters ever).
When Harry chooses to fight for what’s right and not succumb to the corruption of power and the seeking of immortality like Voldemort, he teaches us that as humans, we must focus on living a full, loving, sacrificial life. Evil is always seeking immortality, power, and destroying others to do so.
When Edmond betrays his brother and sisters to the White Witch, and Aslan takes the punishment for his betrayal by death on a slab of stone, we see that Love is most fully shown when one loves someone that doesn’t deserve that love. And Edmond, because of his great mistakes, becomes one of the wisest of all people throughout the rest of the series. We see that anyone can be redeemed, that even traitors (and we are all traitors) can be accepted by God’s love.
All these analogies and metaphors in the fantasy world help us see things more clearly in our own. They help us see with a sharp eye what oftentimes we forget in the mundane aspects of everyday life.
Good fantasy is always exposing things, sharing truths, shining light on things, teaching us how to live. It is always spurring us on to become better people in reality. It is always giving us hope that despite the evil and pain we face in reality (which is oftentimes far worse than any dragon or sorcerer), we can triumph.
Good will overcome evil, even when it seems all hope is lost.
I don’t know about you, but fantasy gives me hope.
And that is why I write fantasy.
Because let me tell you, my life has been a dark adventure where I have often wondered whether I could overcome the foes surrounding me.
Often, I have remembered that I am fighting a battle here on earth–a battle just like the ones characters face in fantasy stories.
Often, I must remember…Don’t give up. In the midst of a great story of adventure, the character must wonder, how will I make it? Hope on. Don’t give up.
And they do make it, time and time again.
And I will make it.
(Tune in next week for Part II, where I explore another reason I write fantasy).
Featured photo from Adobe Stock/justyle