Fantasy is a genre that employs otherworldly or mythic elements. A fictional world where magic dwells is a common theme. Numerous authors have contributed to the variety of fantasy genres and subgenres popular today. Each category possesses common settings or themes, including the classical, epic, contemporary, historical, sword and sorcery, humorous, fairytale, and dark fantasy genres.
Classical fantasy is one of the oldest fantasy genres. Roman and Greek mythologies are well-known examples of classical fantasy. Homer’s epic works, which feature strange creatures, heroes, and quests, contain all the elements of the classical fantasy genre.
Some of the fantasy genres overlap. For example, the classical and epic fantasy genres share the theme of a hero who must go on a quest and overcome great challenges. The epic hero typically starts out as an ordinary person and evolves throughout the story, acquiring traits or powers that transform him into a heroic figure. Epic fantasies often take place in medieval settings with castles, magicians, and unusual creatures. The high fantasy and sword and sorcery fictional genres employ the same magical themes.
Historical fantasies usually take place during a certain period in earth’s history and contain some fantastic elements. They are sometimes set on a fictional world that resembles a historic era. The Arthurian legends have been a common theme for numerous authors of historical fantasy. Mary Stewart’s popular Merlin trilogy, for example, combines the elements of a sword and sorcery fantasy with historical fiction.
Humorous fantasies are written in a lighthearted tone. They frequently satirize others works of fantasy. A well-known example is Bored of the Rings, which satirized J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, one of the most beloved fantasies of the 20th century.
Fairytale fantasies written for adults usually have a much darker flavor than the fairytales that have been popularized for children. The fae in adult fantasy may be evil and cause irreparable harm to human characters. People in fairytale fantasies aimed at adults do not always live happily ever after like they ultimately do in children’s modern fantasies. The fairytales read to children today have been purged of many of the darker elements featured in the original tales.
Dark fantasy includes creatures such as zombies, vampires, and werewolves. This genre is closely related to horror fiction, but is generally less scary and with supernatural elements. The vampire books written by Ann Rice are dark fantasies, and the Dark Shadows television series, which was very popular in the latter part of the 20th century, is another example of this genre.