Fantastic Fantasy

Official-DH-Chapter-Art-harry-potter--26-the-deathly-hallows-200206_400_501[1]“The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real… for a moment at least… that long magic moment before we wake. Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smoke-stacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?
We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the song the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever, somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.
They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to Middle Earth.”       – George R.R. Martin

I have finally arrived at the conclusion that fantasy is my favorite genre. I don’t know exactly why it took me so long to realize this; I’ve loved it since I was about five. Maybe it’s because after I finished Harry Potter I thought I would never find a better or equal fantasy, so I just stopped trying to find one. But reading Tolkien made me fall in love with fantasy all over again. It kind of feels like his books wounded me and now I’m trying to find something to heal myself, but nothing works. Some things come close – thank you, Martin – but at the end of the day I’m in the same situation that I was with Harry Potter.

Why do I love thee, fantasy? Let me count the ways.

I read such stories because J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory.” I have a pretty great life but sometimes I do feel down, so I pick up one of my favorite fantasy books and forget the real world for a while. It’s hard to feel sorry for myself when I’m busy feeling sorry for everyone in House Stark.

I love fantasy because of its beauty. I find that its authors write more beautifully than do those in any other genre. Perhaps that’s due to the setting of fantasy. It’s often about grand things like princesses, kingdoms, gleaming swords, enchanted forests. Fantasy is also unfamiliar so it needs description, and my favorite authors provide that in abundance. Sometimes reading fantasy makes me grumpy because I wish I could write that wonderfully. If anyone says that writing can’t be a work of art, I will hit them very hard with a heavy book like A Game of Thrones and then tell them to read it. That whole book – oh my god. The author tells a story and tells it well.

I read fantasy because in spite of all its, well, fantastical elements, its characters are relateable. I may never carry the One Ring into Mordor or sail to the edge of the world on the Dawn Treader but I, too, have felt exhausted and awed so I can understand those characters. Sometimes fantasy’s characters aren’t even human but again, they have feelings and so do I. In fantasy the settings are vastly different from ours but in the end their inhabitants are just trying to get through the day, as are we.

Sometimes I don’t know why I listen to songs like “The Breaking of the Fellowship” because in the end, all they do is make me feel sad. I cannot possibly describe what they awake in me, just how desperately I want to visit Middle-earth. I want to visit Rivendell and do nothing but sit there quietly to just take it all in. I want to wake up in Bag End one morning. I want to wander up and down the levels of Minas Tirith, getting hopelessly lost and then stumbling across a wonderful building or a beautiful view. I want all that and more, and I can’t tell you sad and mad I feel when I realize that I can’t, that I never can. I have literally cried from frustration thanks to the nature of fantasy – it has you half-convinced that it’s all real, that you can find it just somewhere beyond the horizon if you look hard enough, but of course it’s not real and so you can never see the things that mean so much to you. Never ever ever.

But the greatest reason I love fantasy is so much deeper and simpler than anything I’ve mentioned above: I love fantasy because it makes me feel small. I want to stay a child – I think that deep down, we all do, though some of us pretend not to – but as I’ve realized that isn’t going to happen, I’ve settled for the next best thing. Fantasy, with its huge scale that is epic in every sense of the word, makes me feel insignificant. It makes me feel confused and overwhelmed and lost and curious – it makes me feel like I did when I was a little girl and the world seemed like such a big place. When I grew up I realized that the world was not as mysterious, magical, and innocent as it seemed… but fantasy allows me to retain that feeling, if only for a few hours while I read.

Fantasy is better than fireworks and wide blue skies and meeting your best friend for the first time. Fantasy is like your birthday and Christmas and the best day of your life, combined. Fantasy is your imagination and dreams and childhood all rolled into one and then some, and – although it is not perfect and other genres are also lovely – it is mine and I will never, ever give it up.

About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, Harry Potter, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Fantastic Fantasy

  1. Liam, Head Phil says:

    Excellent post. I agree with you– fantasy is an amazing genre, with stories ranging from hundred-word short stories to thousand-page behemoths on steroids, and all of it is good.

    One question, though: you said you like fantasy because it makes you feel insignificant. I can make you feel insignificant too– does the same still apply?

    • nevillegirl says:

      Except for Eragon. But let’s not go there.

      In what ways do you make me feel insignificant, Liam? Is it your colossal ego, your supposedly huge intellect, or your “Ha ha, look at me, I’m so clever for my nasty little comments” attitude? Because that doesn’t make me feel insignificant. That makes me ticked off and feel like punching you in the face. Just sayin’.

    • nevillegirl says:

      But that wasn’t a joke. That was just more of this “Liam thinks his wit is God’s greatest greatest gift to mankind, so he’ll make other people feel stupid”.
      Now, would you like some ice with that burn?

    • nevillegirl says:

      Well, it didn’t feel that way. Grow up.

      • Liam, Head Phil says:

        I’m sorry I offended you. If you want to delete the last half of my original comment, by all means, do so. But please leave the first half where it is, because it’s absolutely true– this was an excellent post.

    • nevillegirl says:

      OK, just… watch what you say. That was a bit harsh even in light of our usual “Let’s insult each other!” nonsense.
      I’m very happy that you think so, because fantasy is just so – well, hard to describe. It was hard to describe how much I love it and I kept feeling like I wasn’t completely getting my point across.

      • Liam, Head Phil says:

        I’m glad you said something, though, because I shouldn’t have said that. I apologize.

        I quite agree. It’s difficult to explain why you love stories about dragons and elves (tall and short) to people mostly concerned about real life. It feels kind of like explaining to you why I like Redwall– “Well… it’s got talking animals… that fight… and eat stuff… and go on quests… What’s weird about that?”

    • nevillegirl says:

      I do believe there’s hope for you yet. 😉
      I love fantasy because real life usually turns out to not be as interesting as I thought it would be. Oh, it can be cool – you know, growing up and your parents trusting you to do stuff on your own, that’s cool – but there aren’t any quests or dragon-slaying or whatever. It’s just… tests, and waiting in line, and hoping Gandalf will come along to pick you up for an adventure.
      Wow, I feel so pessimistic now. 😦

      • Liam, Head Phil says:

        Pessimistic… or realistic? That’s the question. Following that line of reasoning, however, fantasy is optimism. Hmm.
        But I’ve found life to be just exciting as fantasy, as long as you know what your definition of “exciting” is. If it’s meeting elves and finding magical doodads which you then have to smelt, I think you’re stuck. But if you can figure out quests for mundane things, you can have adventures too. It gets especially fun when you think of bad events as plot twists.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yay, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks of bad things as plot twists.
      I agree with figuring out quests for real life, but sometimes it’s still sad because I WANT THERE TO BE DRAGONS WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS.

      • Liam, Head Phil says:

        Yes. As fun as writing is, you still wish you could be Meggie or Mo Folchart and read the world out of the pages.

  2. Lydia says:

    Aaaaa! This is such a good post. So well-written and marvelously thought out. But now I feel sad because you described so perfectly the frustration of life not being magical enough. *SOB*

    • nevillegirl says:

      *feels happy because she actually thought out this post at the last possible minute before she had to log off the computer*
      *offers a hug* It’s sad to feel that way, but good to know that other people agree with me.

  3. I would absolutely love to see Erebor in the height of its glory. But then, that’s what fanfiction is for (the well-written ones, at least.)

  4. Tori says:

    I agree! Let’s stay children in our hearts together!! Yay!(?)

  5. Taylor Lynn says:

    Beautifully written, NevilleGirl! I too love fantasy, and I know exactly what you mean when you talk about the beautiful descriptions and gorgeous prose of fantasy writers. I’ve read a lot of different kinds of books—from historical fiction to contemporary fiction to dystopian to sci-fi—but I think fantasy is probably the richest of all of the genres I read, not only in terms of writing style, but regarding worldbuilding and even characters as well. There’s just a certain feeling of being invested in a whole world that you can’t really get in another genre. And getting lost in the magic of a fantasy realm is extremely refreshing every now and then!

    As for it being real, well…”Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” Besides, there’s so much that’s extraordinary in our world—who’s to say that there aren’t fairies and hobbits and portals to alternate universes we haven’t discovered yet? You know what they say: Never say never. 😉

    • nevillegirl says:

      Thank you! (And what are your favorite fantasy stories, especially any that are lesser known? I always like to have suggestions for books to read, if if my to-read list is already huge!)
      The only genres that I’ve found to come close to such great descriptions are science fiction and historical fiction. I’ve read historical fiction that was good but focused more on the facts and figures (as much as is possible to do in fiction), not worldbuilding. Also, I think older science fiction tends to have better worldbuilding. I don’t particularly like Ray Bradbury’s books, but am forced to admit that he has good worldbuilding. (On the other hand, I enjoyed The Hunger Games but there’s hardly any description of concrete things. It’s all description of action.)

      I keep hoping that the stories I love are real. Especially the ones that aren’t too outlandish – I don’t know if you’ve read the Kiki Strike series, but they’re set in a world almost identical to our own. The only difference is this huge network of tunnels which the main characters explore and have all sorts of adventures in. It’s so similar to our world that it’s easier to imagine it actually happening…

      • Taylor Lynn says:

        Hm, suggestions…let’s see. Aside, of course, from the obvious ones like Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Eragon, LOTR, Inkheart, Narnia etc, some of my absolute favorite fantasies are:

        – – – the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray. (They’re historical fantasy–the three books are A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing, and they comprise one of my all-time favorite fantasy trilogies! Libba Bray’s writing and world-building and characterization is AH-MAZ-ING. <3)
        – – – Any of Kristin Cashore's Graceling Realm books. (They're high fantasy, and there are three of them–Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue. They're all companions to each other, so they could be read with or without each other. Kristin Cashore's books are some of the richest fantasies I've ever read, both in terms of prose and in terms of worldbuilding, plot, characters, etc–if you haven't read them, you should!)
        – – – Anna Dressed in Blood and its sequel, Girl of Nightmares, by Kendare Blake. (Contemporary fantasy/paranormal; these are a bit creepier, dealing with murderous ghosts and voodoo and the like, but if you don't mind that then you should read them–they are purely AWESOME and I love lovel love them!)
        – – – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. (I can't remember if you've talked about this book here or not before, but if you haven't read it it's one of the most gorgeous and elegant fantasies I've had the privilege to read…and Le Cirque des Rêves is the kind of thing you wish was real so badly it hurts!)
        – – – the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. (You've probably heard of this one, even if you haven't read it–the three books are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass–but if you haven't read all three, you really should give them a try. The universe Philip Pullman creates in his trilogy is one of the most creative and unique I've read yet! Plus I'm fairly certain people have at least attempted to ban it; it's quite controversial, which is always fun, haha. ;D)
        – – – The Scorpio Races, and The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. (I think I remember you reading at least The Raven Boys, but at any rate, The Scorpio Races is my favorite Maggie Stiefvater read, and both of these books are among my favorite fantasies.)

        Also, I'd suggest Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst and Witchlanders by Lena Coakley. Some of these are the starts of series or trilogies, some are standalones, but they're all awesome and definitely recommended! Sorry I went on so long, though…once I get started on books, it's hard for me to know when to stop. 😉

        As for Ray Bradbury, I tried reading Fahrenheit 451 once and just didn't get into it. Historical fiction is great, though; and historical fantasy is possibly the best genre mix-up ever! And I haven't read Kiki Strike, but I've been seeing that name around recently, so I'm thinking I may need to give the books a try… 🙂

    • nevillegirl says:

      -I LOVE the Gemma Doyle books! And got a total crush on Gemma because she is awesome. I like the combination of historical fiction and fantasy. Have you read Beauty Queens by the same author?

      -I have not yet read Cashore’s books but they’re on my reading list because I’m reading this book called Ash by Malinda Lo (it’s an amazing retelling of Cinderella) and when I read stuff about it online, Graceling was mentioned a lot too.

      -I haven’t read/heard of the Blake books.

      -I’ve heard that The Night Circus is good.

      -I found His Dark Materials to be rather slow going, but it was good once I got into it. Confusing, though… >.>

      -I ADORE The Raven Boys and The Scorpio Races! I’m so excited for The Raven Boys’ sequel, it’ll be published in just a few weeks! 😀

      It’s OK; I love book recommendations and talking about books in general.

      • Taylor Lynn says:

        I know, aren’t the Gemma Doyle books fantastic?! I seriously think it’s one of my top favorite fantasy series, and the historical aspect is so richly portrayed, too. And yes, I have read Beauty Queens…too bad you don’t live closer, my friends, sisters and I just actually discussed it at our last book club meeting, you could’ve joined us! 😉

        Ash is fantastic! And you HAVE to read Graceling, it’s such a gorgeous and original fantasy. I do see what you mean about His Dark Materials being slow going, but once I got into them I was able to appreciate the unique storyworld…and of course, the plot is pretty awesome, haha. 😉

        GAH I KNOW I’m so excited about The Dream Thieves! Which, FYI, did you know if you preorder The Dream Thieves from a certain independent bookstore, EVERY preordered copy is signed and doodled on by Maggie Stiefvater?! Details here: http://maggiestiefvater.com/blog/the-dream-thieves-tour-signed-books-post-that-goes-on-forever/

        Malinda Lo is doing sort of the same thing; if you preorder a copy of Inheritance (the sequel to Adaptation) from a certain independent bookstore, you get a signed copy–plus you’re entered to win a giant prize pack of her books! http://www.malindalo.com/2013/07/pre-order-inheritance-get-swag/

    • nevillegirl says:

      I think Harry Potter is amazing (obviously) but sometimes I wonder why people haven’t moved on. There are sooo many great fantasy books like the Gemma Doyle series and they’re only medium-ish well-known.

      Ahhhh those copies look so cool!

      • Taylor Lynn says:

        Yeah–I will always adore Harry Potter, but there’s definitely so much more in the world of fantasy to appreciate beside that one series. I mean, just take a look at my list and you can tell I love a wide variety of fantasy, haha! 😉

        I KNOW RIGHT?! I want to at least order a signed/doodled copy of The Dream Thieves, possibly Inheritance too if I have the money…I’ve got a lot of things on my to-buy list right now, haha. 😉

    • nevillegirl says:

      Speaking of slightly fantasy-ish things, do you watch/like Doctor Who?

      • Taylor Lynn says:

        My sisters and I tried watching the first episode on Netflix, but it didn’t grab our attention. I know just about the entire internet loves it, though, and I’ve been told the first episode is pretty cheesy anyway and it improves as time goes on, so maybe we’ll try it again at some point. At the moment, though, we’ve already got a slight obsession with the show Supernatural, so we can’t really add in another, haha!

        I’m assuming you’re a fan of the Doctor??

    • nevillegirl says:

      A very new fan… I only started watching about a month ago. It just seems like the sort of geeky thing you’d like. 🙂
      Series one takes a while to get going, series four is probably a better starting place.

      • Taylor Lynn says:

        A new fan is still a fan! Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂 Out of curiosity, are you a fan of Sherlock or Supernatural, too? I know there’s a bit fandom known as Superwholock that combines all three, but I only belong to a third of it, being a fan of Supernatural. 😉

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yep, I know of Superwholock. They share some of the same writers, don’t they? (I think the guy currently in charge of Doctor Who does Sherlock..)
      But I’m not fans of them, because I haven’t seen them. Supernatural doesn’t really seem like my thing. I should probably watch Sherlock because A) I know a ton of people like it, B) I like the original Conan Doyle stories, C) there’s only a few episodes so I would be easily caught up, and D) it’s hovering in the row below Doctor Who on Netflix, tempting me. 🙂

      • Taylor Lynn says:

        I don’t know about the writer’s side, I hadn’t heard that part; all I know is my friend told me that if my sisters and I like Supernatural, we should try Doctor Who, and if we like them both we should try Sherlock to boot. 😉

        I haven’t actually read the original Sherlock series yet, but it’s on my to-read list for me to eventually get to. Keyword “eventually”…that to-read list is pretty long. 😉

    • nevillegirl says:

      Aaaah, you have to! If nothing else, read the novella “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and the short story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”. They’re fabulous.

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