Fantasy in literature is a subgenera of speculative fiction, though it is distinguishable from the genres of science fiction and horror by the general absence of scientific or macabre themes, however these genres do overlap. Additionally, settings, characters and/or occurrences within fantasy texts often don't abide by the laws of science or nature, further setting the genre apart from science fiction and horror.
Texts within Fantasy Genre are often based on real world myths and folklore. Most fantasy texts use magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme or setting. Magic and magical creatures are either common to the world of the main character or their introduction is used in the central plot.
Symbolism often plays an integral part in fantasy literature, often through the use of figures inspired by earlier texts and folklore. Additionally, Ursula K. Le Guin presented, in her essay 'From Elfland to PoughKeepsie', the idea that language is one of the most crucial elements of high fantasy because it creates a sense of place. Le Guin analysed the misuse of 'olden-day' style language, saying that it was often a dangerous trap for fantasy writers as it was ridiculous when done wrong. She warns that language that is too bland or simplistic creates the impression that the setting of the text is merely the modern world in disguise, presenting examples of clear, effective fantasy writing in excerpts from Tolkien and Evangeline Walton.
Fantasy writers often include similar constructs or characteristics within their texts:
- Magic - magic can often take many forms, witches, wizards and fairies are often depicted to use wands to cast their spells. However, an important element of fantasy is that words have power, being used in The Chronicles of Narnia as the witch destroys the secondary world by speaking 'the deplorable word'.
- Adventure - adventure within fantasy texts is a common (and often essential) trope. Adventure entails deviations from ordinary life, full of new discoveries and often danger. Characters are often depicted to take new risks and/or confront their foes.
- Place/Setting - a key aspect of the fantasy genre. Some writers choose for their setting to have been created by magic, others depicting theirs to be the birthplace of the magic itself.