It’s interesting to speculate what exactly is a fantasy story. The dictionary tells us that the word fantasy means a mental image, especially fantastic, or a vision. In literature, a fantasy story is one involving magic, imaginary worlds, and wondrous creatures.
Fantasy tales have been around as long as human beings have walked this earth. Myths and legends are a part of story telling, and in some cultures they taught important life lessons. I can think of several Native American stories, such as the Phoenix (or Thunderbird) that fall into this category. Chinese Mythology, Greek, and other cultures of the world have stories that include fantasy elements. Myth is certainly the beginning of modern day fantasy genre and often times the same creatures and worlds found in ancients myths are used in contemporary fantasy fiction.
C.S. Lewis used Greek centaurs and Roman fauns in his Narnia series, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson stories are based on Greek mythology. Elves are from Norse mythology and dwarves German. Tolkein created Middle Earth for the purpose of giving England it’s own mythology. Wizards are referred to in the bible as those who pretend to have supernatural powers.
Tales of vampires have been told since ancient times throughout the entire world. Blood sucking creatures found a place in India, Persia, Babylonia, as well as Greek and Rome. Greek, Roman, Indo-European and even Hungarian legends all tell of werewolves
I think you’ll find dragon mythology in just about every country that ever existed.
So you see, fantasy is not a new thing, nor is it just child’s play. It isn’t always placed in a world similar to medieval Europe either. Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, are proof that fantasy stories can include all these elements and be in completely different worlds than your usual epic fantasy.
I’ll be exploring some of these origins from time to time as I find folklore and mythology fascinating. My soon to be published novel Altered, includes a touch of Mesoamerican mythology and Hopi legend, even though the world I’ve created is a futuristic dystopia.