The Allure of Fantasy

I love the fantasy genre – it’s epic, noble, and beautiful, with larger-than-life characters who, though perhaps complex, are often represented by archetypes that have resonated with us for centuries.

The fantasy genre perhaps more than any other paints the world in black and white terms, which I guess is really how most of us see the world, even if we like to think of ourselves as nuanced or morally relativistic. Stained glass is the same way – shapes of solid color sharply divided by black boundaries. For that reason, I sometimes think of a good fantasy novel as having the ability to be summed up by a series of stained glass window scenes.

A good stained glass captures our attention. It’s simple enough to be immediately understood – for example, a dark forest, a captive princess, a devilish witch, and a tortured prince – but complex enough that our eyes keep darting back and forth, trying to make sense of it, asking questions, wondering.

If you have a writer’s mind, you begin to ask . . . what if? What if the prince is trying to rescue the princess? What if the witch is the ancient keeper of the forest? What if the princess doesn’t even know she’s imprisoned? And what if the forest has eyes in the most unlikely of places?

So many young people dream of rocketing to fame by penning an epic seven-book fantasy. They imagine that the populace will be enchanted by the setting, enamored of the characters, transformed by the sweeping themes and profound philosophy, and both ravished and devastated by the plot’s cunning twists. Fantasy captures our souls like no other genre.

Looking at the stained glass, you can see the unadulterated emotion in the character’s faces – the princess’s anguish, the witch’s glee, the prince’s hope, and even the forest’s brooding mystery. The heightened drama in each of their hearts tugs at our own heartstrings.

Stained glass, and all static art for that matter, captures a moment, allowing us to return to it whenever we want. Real life never stops, so cherishing a moment instead of watching it be swept away in the flow of time is meaningful.

Just like stained glass, fantasy evokes a strong sense of sehnsucht in me. C. S. Lewis described sehnsucht as the “inconsolable longing in the heart for we know what not.” Does fantasy evoke this feeling in you, too?

What do you think of when you hear the word “fantasy?”

19 thoughts on “The Allure of Fantasy

  1. FANTASY… the most exotic, beautiful, magical and capable word in my dictionary. It takes me to a different world altogether. I can be anything I want to be, I can do anything that I like. It makes me the most powerful being. Great post..

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  2. Fantasy plays out like a fairy tale to me. There is always a lesson learned that lasts a lifetime. Actually, I prefer science fiction to fantasy as I like some degree of realism in my fantasy,

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  3. The fantasy genre has never been a favorite. It too easily evokes within me a sense of foreboding, and unfamiliarity that causes me to recoil. That is, until I was introduced to CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia at a time in life when I needed their story. Aslan showed me the immense, powerful love of Jesus. The children turned warrior royalty enchanted me and invited me to fight with them, and gave me a sense of victory as they involved me in winning over great evil at great odds. I understood their growth, their fear, and sense of awe in the victory, and could relate. I’ve never enjoyed any other fantasy writings, but I consider this series a favorite.

    I do love, however, how you describe fantasy writing as stained glass. Wonderful imagery! An excellent post! Thank you once again for a wonderful read!

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    • I love the Narnia series, too! I read it when I was a kid, but I didn’t clue in to the allegorical and spiritual aspects of it until I was reading The Silver Chair. I think Aslan said something like “You know me in this world, but not your own world,” and everything finally clicked for me. Cool! Thanks for your comment.

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  4. I am always looking for themes to use as chapter graphics. I thank you for this inspiration: Stained glass windows. Of course, now I shall have to write something that such a theme will perfectly encapsulate (and that wasn’t what I was intending next)

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