Sunday, 22 May 2016


Workshop: The Origins of Fantasy with Helen Hagemann @ the Fremantle Arts Centre, Friday, 27th May, 1pm-3pm.  This workshop will look at the history of fantasy and how this relates to understanding the modern genre of fantasy writing. Writers will read  excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Aladdin's Lamp and The Lord of the Rings, and will work on two writing exercises to inspire new tales.
Venue: Fremantle Arts Centre,
Time: 1-3pm. What to bring:  Notepad, pen, laptop or ipad

Cost:  OOTA $20  - NON-OOTA $25 (ask for membership form to save). Please note: New attendees who arrive without the class fee will be asked to leave. 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF FANTASY LITERATURE 

Fantasy fiction can trace its roots back to ancient mythology, in particular Homer's Odyssey written in the 9th century BC. It chronicles the fictional adventures of a hero returning to Ithaca after the capture of Troy. Beowulf (ca 700AD), the earliest surviving epic poem written in English, is another early work containing fantasy elements - such as witches, monsters and dragons. Perhaps more recognisable to modern audiences, the legend of King Arthur has been told and re-told many times over. Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur (ca 1470; printed 1485) is recognised as the earliest definitive account of the legend.

William Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595-96) depicted a wild and fantastical world of fairies, while Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726) is a biting social satire told in four distinct parts - each set in their own fantasy world. Also of note is the literature of German origin, probably beginning around 1785, focusing on the caricature of Baron Münchausen - an aristocratic scoundrel known for telling tongue-in-cheek lies and incredible stories. Many children's fairy tales, particularly those published from 1812-15 by the Brothers Grimm, have also contributed to the development of the fantasy genre. The Brothers Grimm travelled from village to village for thirteen years collecting fairy tales such as 'Cinderella', 'Snow White' and 'Rumpelstiltskin' - and prided themselves on making accurate transcriptions of the stories they were told.

Although many stories containing large doses of fantasy were published in the interim, the next that was to have a major impact was Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The young heroine finds herself in a bizarre world of pure imagination, full of surreal characters and nonsensical events. The genre well and truly came of age with the publication William Morris' The Wood Beyond the World (1894). A simple romance set in a medieval never-never land, the hero flees his loveless wife and eventually ends up battling a dwarf to free the maiden he loves. Also of note from this period, although far less typical of the genre, is the seminal gothic horror Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker.

Whilst a handful of fantasy greats were published in the early-20th century, fantasy truly came of age in 1937 with the publication of The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien, followed by the landmark Lord of the Rings in 1954. Along with C S Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and Ursula K Le Guin's Earthsea series, Tolkien's books helped forge a distinctive identity for the fantasy genre. Fantasy short fiction, often regarded as an adjunct in sci-fi magazines, also got a boost with the first issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1949.

By 1977 with the publication of Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara, fantasy novels were finally making an impact on bestseller lists. Throughout the late-80s and early-90s sword & sorcery books by David Eddings, Robert Jordan and George R R Martin continued to sell well. In more recent times authors like Guy Gavriel Kay, the boundary-shattering China Miéville and humorists Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman are helping to ensure that fantasy literature will have plenty of life left in it for years to come.

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