From the very beginning, the components of the supernatural and the fantastic, were a part of literature. The first ever introduced fantastic literature was done by some famous authors like George MacDonald (1824 –1905). As we moved on towards the 20th century, author J. R. R. Tolkien published the very famous ‘The Lord of the Rings’, which had a great influence on fantasy literature. These publications were an important contribution in bringing developments in the fantasy genre, and establishing them as being commercially viable and distinct. And now fantasy has developed to such an extent that we see different kinds of sub-genre within it, such as: magical realism, sword and sorcery, high fantasy, dark fantasy (horror) and fairytale fantasy.
Early and Modern Fantasy
If we talk about the Victorian era, tales comprising of fantastic elements continued to be told, and not believed in. ‘A Christmas Carol’ is an example of a novel written by Charles Dickens, who used novelistic characterization in order to make this ghost tale credible. The tradition of fairy-tales then continued by authors following the same concept. However, one author named ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ gave a completely new idea to the fairy tale fantasy where he seriously described original tales. Some of the other popular content from this era includes: ‘The Rose and the Ring’ by William Makepeace Thackeray and ‘The King of the Golden River’ by John Ruskin.
The modern fantasy genre began to take its form in the late 19th and early 20th century. William Morris was the other major author in fantasy literature during that era.
The modern fantasy differs from the earlier fantasy literature in a number of ways.
The modern fantasy genre is portraying an entirely different reality in the present time. They either portray a fantasy side that’s been hidden in our world, or a completely different fantasy world (separate from reality). On the contrary, the traditional fantastic literature was taken from something that had happened in the past, or the tales that take place in this world. You might have observed that they rarely describe the timings or location of anything with accuracy, and often just include statements like “it happened a long time ago”.
Another difference is supernatural content. The traditional fantastic literature included supernatural content taken from legends which were considered to be real. The modern fantasy is not entirely based on reality, mostly myths.
Furthermore, the content on fantastic literature also relied upon the author’s concept. In previous times, if any traditional tale had even the slightest difference, they were considered to consist of variance from the main theme.
The introduction of magazine-based fantasy fiction was one significant enhancement in the genre of fantasy. The German magazine Der Orchideengarten, was the very first publication in this area. Many prominent authors of the fantasy genre began their careers from the magazines.