C.S. Lewis on Misunderstanding Fantasy Essay

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C.S. Lewis on Misunderstanding Fantasy

“Good stories often introduce the marvelous or supernatural and nothing about Story has been so often misunderstood as this.”

On Stories—C.S. Lewis

The early decades of the last century saw the loss of credibility of fantasy literature among the academic elite who ruled it a popular genre with little to no scholarly merit. Little that had had the misfortune of being dubbed fantasy had escaped the blacklist cast upon the field. Many critics had also labeled the fantasy genre as largely cliché, full of shallow characters, and as having no value beyond being purely escapist entertainment. These generic labels, applied wholesale to fantastic literature, had pushed it off the
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Accomplished science fiction and Fantasy author C.S. Lewis saw the defamation of the Fantasy genre beginning during the early decades of the Twentieth century. Lewis was well aware of the strengths of the genre; from his youth he had been enchanted by fantastical stories of paranormal phenomena that included Norse mythology. Upon reaching adulthood and becoming a noted member of the English faculty at Oxford College, Lewis published a science fiction trilogy dealing with the clash between science and religion and between good and evil. He followed the well-received series with the Chronicles of Narnia, seven Fantasy novels written for children bearing large motifs of Christian mythology. And along the way, he managed to defend Fantasy, science fiction, and myth from its critics in a series of explicative essays dealing with literary theory.

Similarly, Lewis’ colleague at Oxford, J.R.R. Tolkien also defended Fantasy, or as he called it, “fairy-stories.” Tolkien was known for his fantastic works that included The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and an assortment of companion books to the series. He was also well known for his criticism of Beowulf, “The Monsters and the Critics.” His Fantasy series have had broad implications on the fantasy genre as a whole since publication, influencing the current generation of writers with the firm grasp of history
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