The Treatment of Mythology in Children's Fantasy

Dave Berry


Fantasy stories trace their roots back to far older tales: the myths and legends of various cultures, which grew from oral storytelling in the days when myths were the only explanation for the mysterious workings of the real world. To a fantasy author mythology is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the themes and characters of myth have enthralled audiences for hundreds or even thousands of years, and they are likely to retain their appeal for many generations to come. On the other hand lurks the problem of creativity: how can a writer come up with new variations on stories that already exist in hundreds of different versions? This study posits that, with the dawn of the scientific revolution, myths lost their power to explain the workings of the real world, and myth-like stories became merely a form of entertainment. Nevertheless, fantasy and mythology are two games played by similar rules. The difference between them rests as much with the reader as with the author—marking the line between "real" and "fantasy" can be as much a matter of taste as a literary convention.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680