Personal Enrichment and Discovery Through Fantasy Literature
David Waldorf
Excelsior College
The primary reason for readin...
to self-examination on topics critical to our worldview. Melissa Thomas (2003) lists some these
“critical topics addressed...
Sources:
Abanes, R. (2002). Fantasy and your family: Exploring The Lord of the Rings, Harry
Potter, and modern magick. Cam...
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Personal Enrichment and Discovery Through Fantasy Literature

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Personal Enrichment and Discovery Through Fantasy Literature

  1. 1. Personal Enrichment and Discovery Through Fantasy Literature David Waldorf Excelsior College The primary reason for reading books of fantasy or science fiction is, ostensibly, to be entertained. Richard Abanes (2002) said “Reading fantasy can be a wonderful experience, in which a child (or adult) can live vicariously through the adventures of fictitious characters” (p. 54). Beyond the entertainment value of such books, there is potential for gaining a greater measure of self-knowledge, through the opportunity the stories provide for thinking abstractly about concepts we may not otherwise be inclined to think about. People are quick to recognize the value of fantasy for children. Susan Cornell Poskanzer (1975) argued that “it is useful to examine the functions of fantasy and, in effect, to build a case for its use with children” (p. 473). Yet adults can especially benefit from the richness in thought material that some of the better fantasies have to offer. J. R. R. Tolkien (1966) asked “Is there any essential connexion between children and fairy-stories? Is there any call for comment, if an adult reads them for himself? Reads them as tales, that is, not studies them as curios” (p. 33). Tunnel, Jacobs, Young and Bryan (2012) stated that Some adults dismiss all fantasy—traditional fantasy, modern fantasy, even science fiction—as peripheral fluff. It is simply too whimsical for those who want reading for young people to be grounded firmly in reality. Yet these adults miss the point that good fantasy actually tells the truth about life. It clarifies the human condition and captures the essence of our deepest emotions, dreams, hopes, and fears (p. 126). These conclusions should be applied to adult readers as well. We all, from time to time, need to rediscover who we are, and what our place is in the world, and fantasy can serve as a springboard
  2. 2. to self-examination on topics critical to our worldview. Melissa Thomas (2003) lists some these “critical topics addressed in fantasy literature” (p. 60), which include “Mythic Structures and Heroic Cycles” (pp. 60-61), “Religious Commentary” (p. 61), “History in Fantasy” (pp. 61-62), “Gender Roles” (p. 62) and “Social Commentary” (pp. 62-63). The issues raised in fantasy can make us take a second look at issues we thought we’d made up our mind on long ago. To the perceptive reader, then, fantasy literature can be a rewarding exercise of intellectual self-discovery and understanding. Robert Crossley (1975) said “the freedom of fantasy is simply the prolegomenon to the discipline of reason” (p. 288). The genre acts as a stepping stone from the concrete world around us to the theoretical world of ideas and concepts; once we are there, it is a simple matter to move from contemplation of the story’s plot to an exploration of our own views about good and evil, the existence of beings higher than our own, the meaning and purpose of life, and all of the other elements of human experience that cannot be seen or touched, but only expressed in words.
  3. 3. Sources: Abanes, R. (2002). Fantasy and your family: Exploring The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and modern magick. Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc. Crossley, R. (1975). Education and fantasy. College English, 37(3), 281-293. doi: 10.2307/375658 Poskanzer, S. C. (1975). A case for fantasy. Elementary English, 52(4), 472-475. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41592650 Thomas, M. (2003). Teaching fantasy: Overcoming the stigma of fluff. The English Journal, 92(5), 60-64. doi: 10.2307/3650426 Tolkien, J. R. R. (1966). Tree and leaf. In J. R. R. Tolkien (pp. 3-112). In The Tolkien reader. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. (Original work published 1964) Tunnel, M. O., Jacobs, J. S., Young, T. A., & Bryan, G. (2012). Children’s literature, briefly (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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