Myths, legends and fantasies: why do we read them, why do we watch them?

By Hannah Burgess. Hannah, 15, studies at Kings College Guildford, United Kingdom

At fifteen years old, I’m reaching the age where it is seen as ‘not cool’ to be engrossed by genres such as fantasy. However, I find myself drawn to books such as the Harry Potter, Inheritance Cycle and Percy Jackson series, alongside hit TV shows Merlin and Charmed.

In all honesty, and without trying to point out the obvious cliché, it is about an escape from the world we know; being able to believe that there is someone out there living a more adventurous and exciting life than us is much more appealing than the daily struggles we have to face in the real world. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of someone saving the world from mythical creatures gives you a chance to live a more thrilling existence than just sitting around at home, school or work, filling in whatever the next item of paperwork on your list is.

But, aside from the cliché, wrapping yourself up in a good fantasy book is all about the enjoyment. Fantasy novels and television shows, in particular, hold that level of excitement that you just won’t achieve in a crime thriller or an autobiography. Because, no matter how exciting your real life is, it never really compares to that of a warlock travelling unknown lands, or an ancient hero tracking down a beast of legend. The idea that the tables could turn with the click of a sorcerers fingers brings a sense of mystery to any form of entertainment and makes it much easier for any writer, be it for a novel or a television show, to surprise their audience. In turn, this surprise creates further interest and interest is essential for any member of the audience to become engaged in the story.

Alongside my points regarding an escape and the enjoyment of the fantasy genre, I’d like to add the fact that, whilst myths and legends often get rolled up to become a part of ‘fantasy’, they offer another appealing aspect for the audience: the possibility that it could have happened in real life. The Greek myths and legends may seem far-fetched with their mythical creatures, but the ideas and underlying morals of the stories still ring true. Many of them are about love, or personal struggles, something that we all have to deal with in real life; putting these ideas into a mythical tale with magical creatures and renowned heroes gives us the much needed silver lining when facing similar difficulties in life.

Finally, to a lot of people, particularly teenagers who try to stand out from the crowd and not get involved in the mainstream trends, the idea that the fantasy genre isn’t particularly liked and is seen as ‘not cool’, makes it far more appealing. The reverse psychology involved makes the genre more entertaining to those who want to set themselves aside.

In conclusion, we read and watch fantasy series and shows because of the overwhelming differences between our fictional worlds and our real lives. The excitement of a fantasy adventure is an escape from the pressures of reality and the idea that it could have happened in real life, in some way or form, is another appealing aspect. Like the Jazz Age of 1920s America, fantasy worlds always produce something new and exciting, along with the fact that many people find it stupid, making the genre even more exhilarating. Finally, the sheer enjoyment of getting lost in a world of magic and mystery makes fantasy the perfect genre for all the family and produces a kind of happiness that nothing else can.

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