- Published on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 09:15
- Written by Katy Scott
Fantasy is not supposed to stimulate rational thinking; we don’t need lessons if we’re reading books to escape reality.
Is our mundane existence impacted by the trials and triumphs of hungry children, sexy blood-suckers and scar-faced wizards? Do our dearest protagonists have important messages to bestow upon their impressionable readers? With an extensive amount of fantastical bestsellers-turned-blockbusters pervading our world, it is important to consider what (if anything) these fantasy books are really teaching us.
Stephen King famously said: "Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to find a boyfriend."
King makes a valid point here (especially with regard to Twit-light), yet it is not often that one puts down a book blissfully sighing, "Wow, I really learnt a great deal about the human condition, injustice and tackling one's demons from that!"
Unlike Shakespeare's heavily laden works, it is highly unlikely that modern-day authors are consciously pumping their books full of "meaning". Quite honestly, I'd toss aside any book with moral messages, no matter how craftily disguised they are. Fantasy is not supposed to stimulate rational thinking; we get enough of that in our academic discourse.
Rather, literature rouses imaginations and quenches internal longings through empathic, involved reading. It is impossible to articulate the awestruck sensation we feel when putting down a good book or numbly watching credits roll, and it most certainly isn’t owing to any trivial life lessons we may have attained.
Some may argue that it is the reader's duty to extricate the wisdom an author has unthinkingly sprinkled on their work. However, I do believe we have moved beyond high-school English, where our teachers milked obscure “intended meanings” out of texts.
Let's get real. Fantasy writers' main motive is to tell a darn good story. Any life lessons gleaned from their works are either purely accidental or conjured up by a pious little teacher's pet. As an author, I'd probably be offended if my mystic works were reduced to such “human understanding.”
We indulge in the fantastical purely to engross ourselves in epic conflicts, lose ourselves in a surreal setting and live vicariously through authentic, riveting characters.Surely that is enough for the reader to handle without the added necessity of learning something?
As soon as fantasy fiction has a take-away value, the consumer is sent to sleep. Yes, the battles do delineate good and evil and allow the virtuous to be victorious,but –let's be honest – who really cares? I for one am most enthralled by the subjects of my worst nightmares: the heinous villains fantasy writers dream up only to annihilate in the most spectacular of fashions. Who honestly cares for all the virtues when the vices are so sweet?
Ultimately, it's the rush we crave, the exhilarating escape to an alternate universe. Anything we may happen to “learn” on our journey will have no hold upon our return to reality.
Furthermore,The Hunger Games , Harry Potter and Twilight all featured on the American Library Association's Banned and Challenged booklists, making it rather incongruous for them to be teaching us anything ethical at all.
It's refreshing to lose ourselves once in a while and enjoy living in the fantasy, without having to learn anything from it.