How fantasy can inspire us to live in the real world
by Anna Bradley
I found this interesting article via How fantasy can inspire us to live in the real world | Children’s books | The Guardian
Remember the days when your average children’s book was populated by dragons and magic? You could whisk off to a far away land, have an adventure, battle an evil dark lord – and all before bedtime.
Now, the popular destinations are worlds that are a little bit closer to home. Dystopian imaginings of our future and stories about child cancer patients are firmly on the menu and guess what? They don’t seem like they’re going anywhere.
These books are appealing because they teach us about our everyday lives, or warn us about our possible future. But fantasy books can do that too, even if it’s in a sligthtly different way. Removing characters from a familiar everyday setting can make those lessons and warnings even more obvious. Here’s some of the things we can learn from fantasy books:
Hope isn’t stupid
The battle between good and evil is continuous in the fantasy world and more often than not, good wins. No matter how small or insignificant the forces for good seem, they have a fighting chance of trumping the bad guys. Just look at the quartet of schoolchildren in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. They are young, they find themselves in a strange world and they begin the tale with few allies, but ultimately they triumph. When individual characters fight against the system in dystopian novels, there is a sense that they will simply be overwhelmed.
Size doesn’t matter when it comes to bravery
Hobbits are regularly defying expectations in Middle Earth, despite their somewhat diminutive nature. They are shown to be resilient and brave in the face of very grave danger, particularly when contrasted with the bigger races. While Denethor flees responsibility and Boromir is corrupted by the ring; Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry all help to successfully save Middle Earth. They show that they are brave, loyal and worth just as much as elves or men.
Power is not necessarily a good thing
President Snow from the Hunger Games may use his power in morally ambiguous ways, but at least he himself benefits from it. Fantasy novels show us a world in which power can be dangerous even for those who wield it. In Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, the father has the power to pull characters from their literary worlds into the real one, but this power costs him his wife. It’s a good reminder that power is not everything – and having it may not make you happy.
There is magic in the world
Granted, it may not be the result of a flick of a wand or a draught of potion and consequently it’s easy to forget. But fantasy reminds us that weird and wonderful things can and do exist, even in the real world. If you’re looking, you might just begin to find them.