Do you find it fascinating to explore the extraordinary diversity that is fantasy fiction? Since I wrote my first few fantasy novels (Swords of the Six, Offspring, and Key of Living Fire) the Christian market for this genre has grown and is growing at an impressive rate. At first we saw many new authors creating their own story worlds reminiscent of Tolkien and Lewis, some original and some straight up rip-offs.
So is this a new fascination, or not? Do we see fantasy fiction as a continued tradition from hundreds of years ago, or do we see it as the material predominantly introduced just prior to Tolkien? Certainly he is viewed by many as the master of the genre, but I was recently reminded of just how far back this kind of storytelling goes.
I have two children under four years of age and often before sending them to bed I will read books to them. I do not hold to reading only the material written at their level, so sometimes I will change up the picture books and read from something more literary. A few nights ago, as my little ones sat on the couch and I searched through my books for that night’s stories, I pulled out a volume printed in the 1870’s. I love books from that century and from the early 1900’s and this particular volume was given to me by my grandmother. It is in beautiful condition and, the best part, it is chock full of stories told in poetic, rhyming verse.
The book is broken into sections and illustrated throughout in colorless sketches that nevertheless add great artistic flavor to the pages. That particular night I turned to the “Old Tales and Ballads” section of the book and read a story I had never heard before. (It seems that many of these pieces I have never heard, which makes me think that many of these stories have been lost to the literary world).
The story followed a young man who lost his way in a forest and was taken in by a strange man. The young man served him faithfully in his castle in return for taking him in. From time to time the young man heard strange groans coming from the Master’s wings of the castle, but the Master warned him never to enter there.
Of course as the story continued the young man disregarded the Master as soon as the Master left him alone in the castle, and he made a discovery both strange and fascinating that led him on a journey of mystery, romance, and magic.
The story was a fantasy tale and both I and my wife were fascinated by it. By the time it ended the kids were sound asleep, but after putting them in their beds, I remember thinking that I wonder how many other fantasy tales lie on a dusty shelf just waiting to be discovered by readers who don’t bother to look for them in old books.
A hundred years and more before Tolkien and Lewis were born, children were reading fantasy stories. Stories of magic. Stories of the very evil versus the innocent or the very good. And stories of epic battles between men and strange creatures.
Will the real fantasy Master stand up? Or, should I say: In which grave can we find the real father of modern-day fantasy fiction? Truly I doubt we will ever know for sure.
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Scott Appleton has authored four novels and numerous short stories. He lives in Connecticut with his wonderful wife and their children. His first three novels are Swords of the Six, Offspring, and Key of Living Fire.
You can learn more about Scott and his books at the following:
his website www.TheSwordoftheDragon.com