Note: This was originally posted in Narrative Reflections as a blog post for an undergraduate honours module, Narrative Structures.
Fantasy stories and films, just like any other fiction, is a product of someone’s imagination. The difference is in the setting. While fictions of other genres are set in the real world and linked tightly to reality, the fantasy genre can be set in another world, the future, or even the real world, with mystical or science-fictional elements in it. Such stories have always appealed to humans, as evident by mythologies of the past and “horrid novels” of lurid tales, a prominent example being Frankenstein.
This appeal to people may be due to several reasons, and it probably varies from time to time, age group to age group. Mythologies, especially those pertaining to gods and the like, are used to explain the natural phenomenon that our ancestors could not explain and therefore attributed to supernatural entities like deities and gods. One example is the mythological Greek god, Apollo, who drives he chariot, as a story to explain the sunrise and sunset. This appeal of fantasy arises out of a need to explain phenomenon they do not understand.
This appeal today probably arises out of a need to escape from the realities of life. With a fast-paced and stressful work life in today’s world, it is no wonder that some would prefer to relax by immersing themselves in a world filled with tales of courage, loyalty, valour and other symbolisms of heroism. This is particularly so after a day of backstabbing in office politics, suffering from it, or other ugly realities of life.
Children and teenagers too, would revel in such tales as they imagine themselves as the usually moral, upright and powerful hero that they would like to be. The appeal of fantasy lies in allowing one to imagine oneself as the hero in the tales, especially if you are not happy with what you are doing in your real life. Such fantasy stories and films often symbolises what one wants to pursue and thus it is not surprising that fantasy stories such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings revolving around the development of a hero are so popular that they have been made into films.