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Who Invented Fantasy?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Lancasrer, Oct 10, 2020.

  1. Lancasrer

    Lancasrer Closed Account

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    HOW far does fanasty go back?
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    To the first prehistoric person sitting around a fire trying to explain the noises in the dark :)
    Other than that, you take your pick from a dozen places, starting with the Greek mythos or Gilgamesh
    "Modern" fantasy [maybe] started with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in 1818. But that has probably started a huge new debate :whistle:
     
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  3. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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    Tolkien.

    Man, that one was easy!
     
  4. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

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    'Modern fantasy' I might argue begins with William Morris's 'The Wood Beyond the World,' from the 1890s. But it very much depends on how one defines 'modern.' He certainly wasn't Modern in the cultural sense (Modernism begins around 1910), but he was the first to create a completely self-standing fantasy world—world building as we understand it today—with no references to our world, no 'it's all a dream,' no attempts at 'scientific' (no matter how far fetched) explanations. Or maybe we could move back a little further in time and look at George MacDonald's books, which are certainly fantasies as well. Anyway, there is a pretty long tradition of modern fantasy before Tolkien came along and a much, much longer fantasy tradition behind that. Back to when mankind first used its imagination.
     
  5. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    I like to think it goes back to when we first made contact with the faerie realm and decided it was safer to tell the stories as "made-up" cautionary tales.

    Portal 4 MB.gif
     
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  6. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Ever notice that cave art is often not exactly on par with the real world? I think it goes back far enough to tell stories with the stars as you desperately try to keep the fire alive. Somewhere in the darkness is a noise you don't know, and from it comes another story.
     
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  7. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

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    It's the first genre of fiction.
     
  8. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Hard to say if that's speculative fiction or romance. World's oldest profession engenders the world's oldest genre. And the oldest fantasy tales very often involve romance.
     
  9. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

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    I am biased :)
     
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  10. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

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    This reminds me of a Nabokov quote:
    Literature was born not the day when a boy crying wolf, wolf came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels. Literature was born on the day when a boy came crying wolf, wolf and there was no wolf behind him.
     
  11. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    I think Frankenstein is actually a science fiction novel. It's about technology and the impact of that technology on society. Yes, it's fantastical technology, but it's still technology. So, SciFi.

    As for who started it, I think telling stories is what makes us human and able to live and work together in larger groups. And many of the first stories told were religious / fantastical in nature. The illiad by Homer has a lot of fantasy elements in there, and he was part of a long tradition of story tellers. So it's hard to say who was first.

    As for modern fantasy, I have no idea. Define modern fantasy first and then we know where to start looking.

    Or just go with Tolkien... ;)
     
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  12. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I’d say fantasy started with dreams. I think it’s probably safe to say most dreams would fit more neatly into that category than thriller, realism, sci-fi or what have you.
    So fantasy predates humanity, language and all other genres, I guess.

    I think a better question would be when did folklore/mythology become what we now know as fantasy fiction. It seems to me like it was a pretty gradually shift.

    To me L. Frank Baum was the first modern fantasy writer as he was arguably the first to create a unique constructed world in which he set multiple and often unconnected stories. He published his first Oz book roughly 20 years before Tolkien “officially” got Middle-Earth started.
     
  13. Nighty_Knight

    Nighty_Knight Scribe

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    Nobody invented it, just changed the way they told the stories. modern day guys like William Morris, Robert Howard, and of course Tolkien all changed fantasy for the better. By going back we have Beowulf and the King Arthur tales which are all much much older. Then there were Greek plays and Authors like Homer. And I almost forgot to mention word of mouth folktales, such as the stories the Brothers Grimm gathered or Hans Christian Anderson wrote stories on.
     
  14. S J Lee

    S J Lee Sage

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    Either Homer or the writer of the book of Genesis, or Gilgamesh? Or whatever came before that?
     
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  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    LancasrerLancasrer, how far back do *you* think it goes and why do you think that? As you can see from the replies, much matters on how one defines fantasy as a literary genre.
     
  16. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    I've been thinking about this, and I think the oldest genre would be horror. Things which go Boo! in the night. Stories about the terror lurking just beyond the light of the fire or outside the cave at night.

    Just look at kids. You don't have to tell them to be afraid of the dark, but they still are (some of them at least). And they still get nightmares.
     
  17. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    If we look at the earliest literary forms, they're mostly adventure stories. Plenty of fantastical elements (think Odyssey), but for the most part they're not what I would classify as fantasy.

    I wouldn't call it fantasy as a genre until we have novels. Parzival or the Niebelungenlied are as much history as fantasy, or maybe call them morality plays. Njal's Saga and related works are in much the same vein--great heroes on epic quests, all larger than life but still closer to Alan Quartermain than to John Carter.

    But it really does depend on definitions, for what we're doing here is trying to find a line of demarcation between stories with fantastical elements (which do go right back into pre-history), and a literary genre (which I wouldn't put any earlier than the 17thc because there were no novels earlier than that). With room for fudging all round.
     
  18. S J Lee

    S J Lee Sage

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    A fantasy short story is still fantasy. It doesn't stop being fantasy just because it's not a novel. If the novel dies, the genres will still remain....?
     
  19. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Just going to pick on you for a second. The Tale of Genji, by Lady Murisaki and which I still need to read all of, dates back to the 11th? century.
     
  20. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Ooh! Ooh! Was it me? Memories not as good as it used to be!!!

    Yes I remember now. I went back on my time dragon and started telling my stories to the smelly beardy guys sitting around campfires - though I think it was actually a travelogue at the time. But always happy to take the credit!

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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