High Fantasy Issues: What is “High” Fantasy JK Rowlings and Harry Potter
What is “High Fantasy”? Key reading: CW Sullivan, (2004) High Fantasy, in The International Companion Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, ed. Peter Hunt, vol href INTE
What is “High Fantasy”? What is Fantasy? Stories with events/episodes/happenings not consistent with accepted reality (Huck) Primary world/Secondary world Balance of “the extraordinary and the probable” Butts (2004) Mimesis – desire to imitate, to share reality Fantasy – desire to extend, to alter reality Hume (1984)
What is “High Fantasy”? What is “High” in the fantasy? Scale of story – epic, grand, world-shattering - thus, scale of issues Literary elements – tone, writing style Characters – noble and base, good and evil Philosophies – morality, lifestyles and choices Reference and allusions - Links to other grand or famous stories Suggests a real hypothesis about humankind’s future or about the nature of the universe (and our place in it).
What is “High Fantasy”? Is more serious and demanding Complex narratives characterised by certain recurring themes and motifs Conflict between good and evil often the focus. Scale is worldwide or universal Frequently take place in created worlds or imaginary kingdoms – secondary world is distinct and complete – cosmology is often a key to the resolution
What is “High Fantasy”? Characters may call upon powers for good or evil Often a quest to fulfil. Major character is often “super”-natural and key to resolution Goodness, truth, courage and wisdom prevail. Ancient powers: Nargun and the Stars, Wirrun trilogy, Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen Struggle between good and evil: Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Over Sea Under Stone Quest and adventure: The Hobbit; A Wizard of Earthsea; Beowulf; Odysseus/Ulysses Or both: Arthurian cycle, Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Biog. info on JK Rowlings Born 1965 in Chipping Sodbury Keen writer at school Studied French at Uni, taught in Portugal Developed Harry character and story outlines then, and returned to England Initial rejection, then boom bestseller Use of initials for boy readers Style of books (and plots) “grows up” with Harry Books are planned in great detail as a sequence Draws heavily on legends and history
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Literary elements (borrowings from past texts) Myths & legends: stereotypes of witches and wizards, broomsticks, owls, cats etc. History: Nicolas Flamel and alchemy, Latin spells Other writers: Dickens – streets of Victorian London, Blyton – Malory Towers / Famous Five / Magic Faraway tree
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Censorship Magic and the Occult is magic promoted as an active mechanism to solve the key problems or reach the resolution? Death and Violence Are they necessary to establish the themes, or the details gratuitous Are the likely readers able to make such moral judgements?
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Popularity vs critical accord Appeal of books: for children – “at least they’re reading” – literature or literacy? for adults – escapism What is a “good” book? Bridge to other literature
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Harry as High Fantasy High does not necessarily mean Best The main events happen to Harry because they have to, not because he chooses to act Great questions of Good and Evil, of world threatening events As a literary creation, Harry Potter has introduced so many readers to fantastic worlds