Why Fantasy?

Most of us are guilty of having lived in a fantasy world at some point when we were children.  We had imaginary friends, played under blanket forts, conquered dragons, and made a mockery of reality while protected by the innocence of youth.

And then we turned into adults.

Bills, school, jobs, and children stood in our way.  Life became, for some of us, a repetitive game of a lack-a-day workweek, followed by a rushed weekend trying to get everything done in two short days (or sometimes only one short day) that we couldn’t do during the week.  It became the same old story day in and day out, the simple oatmeal breakfast of our humdrum, everyday existence.

Don’t get me wrong, oatmeal is great, but by itself it can be rather bland.  Life can be too sometimes.  But life, like oatmeal, can be changed to be more palatable.  I personally love to throw a bunch of brown sugar and cinnamon on my oatmeal.  It adds a little sweetening, flavor and variety to my breakfast routine.

Fantasy novels are that spice and seasoning on everyday life.  All good fantasy novels tell you a tale about life.  There is a point to the story, themes that are explored which make a statement or teach a lesson (consciously or unconsciously) about things we encounter from day to day.  In Harry Potter, we were taught about how to treat other people, and how your station in life is made, not from who your parents are, but who you end up becoming on your own.  These are things learned in the drudgery of life’s lessons, but told with enough spice and seasoning that it becomes an interesting experience.  Give a boy a magic wand, an evil wizard to face, and you can teach lessons about morality and what is right and wrong while masked under the guise of entertainment.

Brandon Sanderson often tells the tale of how he first realized a valuable life lesson from fantasy novels.  He read a novel where a witch had to choose between her budding powers and her family life, a tale made interesting to a teenage boy because it involved magic and witches (which is cool to a teenage boy – I mean, MAGIC!).  What the novel really taught was how a middle-aged woman could go through a mid-life crisis and come out stronger for it, and experience that his mother was going through at that time.  Teenage Brandon was able to learn what his mother was going through and understand her better because a life lesson was taught with a little extra spice and sweetening.

Fantasy novels are the well-seasoned meals we lovers of fantasy can still claim as adults.  We read them, we devour them, we revel in them because we enjoy the mental, wide-ranging palate we gain through their consumption.  We enjoy being taught, learning, experiencing life in a manner different than the often-repetitive lives we live as normal human beings.  They give us hope and understanding in a world where darkness and misunderstanding are the far more prevalent experiences.

Everyone can eat oatmeal and be satisfied with it, but for me, I’ll throw in a little cinnamon and brown sugar.  It makes the meal (and the life in general) that much more enjoyable.

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