Fantasy stories are a modern addition to adults’ reading lists

By Katherine Stanley | Staff Writer

In 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, a book that completely changed the fantasy genre. Before him, books telling tales of fairies and elves were regarded as children’s stories, but now books such as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones dominate the books stores.

Looking back to the 1800s, the most popular authors of the time were Leo Tolstoy, The Brontë Sisters and Charles Dickens. While some of these authors would occasionally dabble in magic, the prime example being A Christmas Carol from Charles Dickens, they for the most part worked in the real and respectable world. A Tale of Two Cities told of the French Revolution, Jane Eyre the life of a governess, and Anna Karenina of a fallen woman, for simplified plot descriptions. One thing that they all have in common is that they deal with real-life situations, not of the fantasy nonsense.

“There has been a great variety of change over the years, and because of this, for example, readers in 18th century England read of different issues and worlds than we do now,” freshman Annalise Beardmore said. “So, it changes every century, and sometimes it’s a good change and sometimes it’s not.”

According to, nowadays out of the 10 most-read books in the world, four are fantasy novels, namely Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist and The Twilight Saga.

This is also seen to a lesser degree in the world of television, where two out of the top 10 TV shows are classified in the fantasy genre, according to

Harry Potter, especially, is a book that has continued to engage many generations, dominating the literary world like no other fantasy novel before. “The Harry Potter series is extremely popular,” Pearce librarian Marley Mercker said. “New generations are loving it.”

While Tolkien did begin his writing career with a tale that resembled the tales of old, even at the start he made his tales deeper and more complex than other fantasy novels at the time. “Tolkien is brilliant. Tolkien created his own language,” Ms. Mercker said.

And with Lord of the Rings, Tolkien took his experiences from WWII and incorporated them into the novel, creating a deeper and richer tale that, as an unexpected twist, was aimed at adult audiences. “He completely changed the game,” Ms. Mercker said.

Before this time, fairy tales written by the Brothers Grimm and the like were the only fantasy novels on the shelf and were seen fit only for children. This mindset did not leave much room for the extraordinarily dark Game of Thrones or the fascinating Harry Potter series that are so popular today. “We almost always have one of the Harry Potter novels checked out,” Ms. Mercker said.

“Even the boys check out a lot of fantasy novels,” Ms. Mercker said. The addiction is unstoppable.

And even if popular tastes change once more, readers will find themselves addicted to fiction for years to come. “Types of novels come and go,” Annalise said, “but fiction possesses a perennial power to enlighten as well as entertain, and that’s always been the case.”

Categories: Entertainment

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