Sometimes fantasy is written off as the unwanted step-child of “real” literature. Practical persons may consider fantasy as merely escapism, a way to ignore reality and its inconvenient laws of nature, and therefore a waste of time. However, the best fantasy, and any fiction, is not so much about escapisms as offering a lense in which to view the real world, so that when they return from the pretend world they’ve occupied for however many hours and days, they have greater understanding of their own world. Comparisons and metaphors are powerful tools in revealing truth.
Take Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland…
It is not only about a girl having adventures in a bizarre world that defies logic, but also about that hazy line between childhood and adulthood, work and play, and the difficulty of making decisions and choosing paths in a world that makes no sense, particularly to children who have not yet been conditioned or resigned to social expectations. I think our world is more bizarre and fantastical than most adults are consciously aware of, even outside of social structures. Giraffes anyone?
Fantasy jolts us into new ways of thinking, so we can reconsider our own world and various social, political, familial, or personal issues. While a child may read the book for entertainment, at some point they make comparisons to their everyday experience, and perhaps discover certain truths or conflict that they might not otherwise had they not slipped into another world. If the fantasy makes us dissatisfied with our real world, hopefully we can endeavor to change it for the better. I for one am dissatisfied with current modes of transportation and would really like to learn how to apparate.