The Power of Fantasy



I’ll warn you in advance; it’s late, I’m tired, and I’ve been thinking. That’s never a good combination for a coherent blog post, but that said…

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe in everyone else’s version of “reality.” Granted, that’s more of a reactionary stance than anything. But let me explain.

One of the main accusations I hear against fantasy is that it is just a waste of time. “It isn’t even real,” they say. A lot of times people accuse readers and writers of “escapism.” And while there is a level of truth to Dumbledore’s quote:

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

It also proves the point I’m intent on making. I just quoted a fantastical character to make a point about reality. The point of fantasy is that it is a lens through which we view the world. Some lenses are dark, others are dim, others are rose-tinted. I would argue that people who don’t read fantasy because it’s “a waste of time,” also have their own lens, they just don’t realize it.

The point of life isn’t survival. It isn’t. Survival is necessary for life, but without beauty, and art, and love it would be pointless. Doctors keep people living. Writers make life worth living. Now, of course, that’s a bit simplistic, and there are many other forms of art and beauty that bring meaning to life, but fantasy is one of them.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been scared of doing something, then remembered Bilbo Baggins in his Hobbit Hole heading out on adventure to the Misty Mountain. The courage of a make believe hobbit in Middle Earth has often propelled me into the unknown. Or when I do something silly in public, I think of Fred and George, and how much worth and value there is in humor and light-hearted mischief. I think of Percy Jackson when I’m reminded of my own troubles when I was in school. I think of Seth and Kendra from Fablehaven whenever I go to my Uncle’s Farm in Pennsylvania. I think of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden whenever I’m faced with suffering or pain or a struggle for something I believe in. The list could go on for hours and hours, years and years. I’ve read thousands of novels over the course of my life. Each one has given me a window into another world, a cast of characters, and a world view. I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes in make believe.

But here’s the rub. It doesn’t stay in make believe. It comes into reality with you. You take all of those fictional experiences, and then use them to shape the world around you. What does love look like again? Ah, right; how Lupin and Sirius treated Harry. How Lily and James were, how the Duke from Brent Weeks’ Night Angel series acted after his redemption. What does it not look like? Dursleys. Got it. What does forgiveness look like? I think of Columbus Ghould. What does poor and happy look like? I think of Judah’s family. So, when I say I don’t agree with everyone else’s version of reality, I mean it. We all live a narrative. Fantasy readers just have more options to choose from. We can shape the world easier, because we have thought it out in our books. I’m not arguing that you should make public policy or run politics based off of the latest Rick Riordan novel. But I am saying that in your day to day life, you’ll find moments where you don’t know what to do. Or you’ll find moments when it is easy to be angry or hateful or bitter, because the world around you acts like that all the time. And in those moments, you’ll find the voices of heroes and villains, mentors and sidekicks, best friends and families running through your head, providing a chorus of alternatives to the stubborn patterns of familiarity found in the “real world.”

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