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?”