I’ve been familiarizing myself with the library here at World Weaver Press, and have y’all seen how much incredible fantasy, urban fantasy, and fairy tales they have? Of course, after doing a write up on 11 Sci-Fi novels for the Modern Sci-Fi Reader, I figured: why not continue the trend? Keep reading for some fun facts about the genre of fantasy, and for a short list of some of my favorites
Fun fact: it’s actually really, really hard to trace the fantasy genre back to its origins. Fairy tales are a common example of magic and supernatural elements being used across cultures for generations; Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream is a well-known example from the late 1500s; and for all you Middle English fans, Sir Gawain and the Green Night is one of many examples of the fantastical in literature dating from the late 1400s. Want to go back even further? The epic poem Beowulf is considered the oldest written English narrative (keep in mind: Homer’s The Odyssey was an oral folktale long before being written down). It dates back to the eighth century; the elements it uses, however, are even older, considering the tale is thought to have been compiled from multiple ancient Scandinavian folk tales (source; I promise y’all, I’m not making this up).
This all means that the fantasy genre as we know it today is older than, well, everything. And it’s broken into a number of sub-genres (urban fantasy, high fantasy, epic fantasy, etc.). Did you know there are even two categories of fiction based on the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy? Not kidding: it’s Pre- and Post-Tolkien Fantasy.
Basically, if you’re looking for some classic fantasy…well, there’s a lot out there, and it’s definitely not hard to find. It also means that compiling a list of only eleven of my favorites is really, really hard. I’ll do what I can, but I’ll probably cheat by putting entire series of books. So sue me.
- The Iliad/Odyssey, Homer (~700)
- Beowulf, Unknown author (~900)
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Unknown (1390)
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare (1596)
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the Brother’s Grimm (1812)
- The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald (1872)
- The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)
- A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (1962)
- The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (1966)
- The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, Terry Brooks (1979)
- The Song of the Lioness Quartet, Tamora Pierce (1983)
What are your favorite fantasy reads? Leave us a comment below!
Rae Oestreich has a B.A. in Creative Writing from New Mexico State University and a self-expressed love of all things literature. She’s addicted to drinking coffee, and she focuses her time on writing YA speculative fiction and reading anything she can get her hands on. An admitted grammar nerd, she edits for REUTS Publications and interns for World Weaver Press, and can normally be found talking about books and writing on her website or Twitter.