Critical Eye for the Fantasy Guy

Power Point Notes

Critical Eye for the Fantasy Guy

English 12 CP/ English102 Research Paper

March 2004

Literary Phenomena:

Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings

The Harry Potter series has sold over 101 million copies between 1997-Nov. 2003.

11 million copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, all hardcover books, sold in the first 12 weeks of its release (June-Nov. 2003)

The 3 films based on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings book series have smashed box office records


Why now?

What do I need to do?

Choose a fantasy book written between 2001-2004. Parents and your instructor must approve of your choice.

Before you commit to the book, make sure critics’ reviews are available on the book AND the author. Check Alabama Virtual Library and news magazines (TIME, NEWSWEEK). Check with librarians for book review sources.

Write a 5-7 page (typed) paper analyzing the fantasy novel, which incorporates critical reviews of the book

Minimum of 6 sources: books, periodicals, AVL. Avoid non-AVL internet sources for this assignment. No encyclopedias.

Make sure you analyze why fantasy novels have gained the attention of the reading world, why their popularity continues to grow, and why your chosen novel has attracted attention.

Due Dates

Rough Draft:

March 31, 2004

Final Draft:

April 2, 2004

Fantasy Versus Science Fiction


Imaginative world

Unusual creatures

Rules of magic integral to story

Very unusual places

Looks inward where wonder and wishes overcome knowledge

Belief rules over science

Magic replaces natural laws of science

Deals with good and evil; right and wrong

Science Fiction

Extends already exisitng natural laws

Turns science on its edge

Pushes and twists limits to create new futures or otherworlds that remain connected to our real world by reasoning

Key Aspects of Fantasy


Key aspects of fantasy


Recovering the power to see the world magically, much as we did as children


Leaving behind the restraints of the modern mechanistic world so that we can momentarily converse with animals (for example) as in the Garden of Eden before the fall.


At the end of the fantasy story, to be able to return to the normal world

Purpose of Fantasy

As we step through Alice’ inWonderland’s

looking glass or gaze into the mirror of Erised

(desire, reflected) in Rowling’s books, when we

don the enchanted rings of Tolkien or dodge

the dragons of Le Guin and Stephen King, we

are reminding ourselves that some things are

too important to be kept in the silver

cage of reason. ---Philip Martin

Five Golden Rings of Fantasy

High Fantasy

Adventure Fantasy

Fairy Tales

Magic Realism

Dark Fantasy

High Fantasy

Is about lofty purposes and great noble causes

Views evil as a great force, sometimes personified

Often a social misfit with destructive powers

Feature the hero’s journey or quest pattern: review your notes on this

Small band of foolhardy and oddly matched characters who become heroes forced to battle with forces far more powerful

Contemporary high fantasy often runs to multiple volumes (3, 4, or 7 are common)

Adventure Fantasy

Accepts notion of adventure for its own sake

Escapades are shaped mostly by the internal struggles of the protagonists rather than epic struggles between good and evil

Popular in America where we promote self-made adventures

Usually have male heroes with females relegated to stock roles

Animals and children are sometimes the story’s heroes

Adventures usually end with a happy return to home but readers are left with a suspicion that the characters will soon venture out again.

Chaos appears more often than evil

Strong moral codes keep forces of chaos at bay

Heroes are honest, charming, chivalrous, and willing to sacrifice to helper the weak

Teach positive codes of behavior

Fairy Tales

Tend to deal with personal transformation

People and creatures change in dramatic and often miraculous ways

Explore the invisible boundary between the safety of home and the dangers that lie beyond

Set mostly at home or out in the everyday world

Offers a practical lesson, usually learned the hard way

"We have met the enemy, and he is us." -deal with choices individuals make every day.

Magic Realism

Produces stories in which magical things happen; often unexpectedly, in the midst of very realistic, everyday settings and events

Protagonists do not change the world; instead they, themselves, are changed

Offers Tolkien’s "consolation"

Amazing return home to normalcy throughout the story, not just at the story’s end

Line between reality and fantasy is blurred as are the lines between history and story, reality perceived and actual

Sometimes asks the question: What if the world we believe is reality is really some sort of dream?

Believes magical transformation is from outside, mysterious powers

Dark Fantasy

Encircles historic core of horror and gothic fiction

Includes monster stories and ghost stories

Often questions the finality of death

Fantastic creatures are usually evil to the core

Evil appears early, usually after a brief opening scene of calm

Evil intensifies as story continues

Morality plays: often plot hinges on the unraveling of a mystery of what was done wrong by someone AND on discovering the manner in which this can be corrected or revered

Explores consequences of misguided actions

One constant moral: "Don’t go out into the dark alone."

Questions for Critical Eye for the Fantasy Guy

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