Updated: Dec 31, 2022
Like the many possible flavors of scrumptious cupcakes, fantasy is a genre that does not appeal to everyone. While I am a fantasy junkie, many people can't wrap their heads around mysterious, supernatural, or made up topics in which the laws of nature bend at the will or the literary creator. After all, why go through all the fluff of magic and superpowers when you can just get to the point of the story? Hear me out. What is Cinderella without the Fairy-God-Mother's help? It’s a story about a kind girl who suffered at the hand of her stepmother, and who gained a life of prosperity in the end. What about something modern, like Thor? It is a story about two brothers, one jealous for being in the other one's shadow.
Has there been Cinderella stories that exclude the magic? Yes, for example, Drew Barrymore in Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998). The only magic in that movie was the magic of karma, haha. Likewise, there are many sibling rivalry stories drifting in this universe and have nothing to do with magic.
Why then, do writers incorporate magic into their stories?
1. It’s intriguing!
In the fantasy genre, anything goes! You can create multiple dimensions, realms, magical objects, different intelligent species that might or might not have magical abilities (depending on your rules), and so on! You can even mix this genre with other genres like mystery, romance, and drama! Why? Because the people living in your fantasy world will go through the same problems that us humans go through, just with a little more flair.
Symbolism in fantasy literature is a beautiful representation of human afflictions. Like a poet, fantasy authors illustrate their philosophies through the supernatural happenings in their novel
The author of An Interview with a Vampire, a book published in 1968 and adapted into a major motion film in 1994–with a-list actors, Tom Cruise, Brad Pit, and Kirsten Dunst– is a perfect example of symbolism. Author Anne Rice chose vampires to symbolize lost souls.
We all know Animal Farm symbolizes the Russian Revolution in 1917 against communism.
In Coraline, a novella by Neil Gaiman published in 2002, and later turned into a movie in 2009, also has great symbolism. The button eyes on the three souls symbolize that those children have become the other mother’s toys or playthings. Coraline is given the same choice between freedom and staying with the other mother, giving her full control over Coraline’s life.
In the Lord of the Rings, the “One ring to rule them all” represents pure evil. Likewise, Sauron embodies the devil.
Shakespeare over thought everything to such great length that every line he wrote was constructed with immense symbolism, all the way down to the syllable count. In his play, Macbeth, the three witches represent evil and darkness. The blood on Macbeth’s wife’s hands represents their guilt for killing Duncan.
All these symbols are timeless as they showcase the struggles we go through. It goes to show that any person, despite the era, religion, culture, or world they belong to goes through the same pains.
As we know, superheroes do not need to have powers. But isn't it interesting how relatable fictional characters with magical powers are? In every fantasy we watch the main character find that they have the potential to be great. They might enter a world of problems with the special ability to fix them. After processing their situation, the main character might put up a fight or selflessly put themselves in jeopardy. They will go through some trial, error experiences to harness their powers and gain more control over them. More often than not, their powers are linked to their emotions, so essentially, they are maturing and learning what battles they need to fight for. Afterward, a series of problems arise, in the form of chaos or a person standing in the way of morality. The main character might feel swayed by evil, or not, depending on their personality and the weight of their circumstances. But in the end, they will remember that whether or not they will be rewarded, good must prevail.
Not everybody has this amount of strength, but to witness the developing strength of a character and go through their struggles with them, gives one a sense of not being alone in the world. An inspiring display which everyone, anywhere, can relate to and benefit from. By using these fantasy tropes, we showcase the inner power we all have, and the responsibility to make a difference in the world.
That is why fantasy is important.