In this topic guide we outline the fantasy genre and its characteristics. Fantasy is a common topic in written assignments like English literature, as well as in your daily classes. 

We first give you a glossary and a definition of the genre, before taking you through its development from its origin till today. We then explain how to analyze works of fantasy, focusing on terms such as primary world, secondary world, and portals. We also give you a list of fantasy texts, movies, and series.

If you want a brief overview of the fantasy genre, you can find it here.


Here you can read an extract from our study guide:

Subgenres of fantasy

Below, we list some of the most common fantasy subgenres. Note, however, that a work of fantasy might include elements from more than one subgenre. 

High fantasy 

High fantasy is also called epic fantasy. It is often told by an omniscient narrator and contains many of the characteristics that people most often associate with fantasy:

The setting is typically a fictional world, which in fantasy-terms is called the secondary world. The protagonist is most often a child or teenager, who is somehow an outsider in society and an unlikely hero. However, as an evil villain threatens to take over the world, the protagonist is forced to realize that he/she is the chosen one meant to save the world. This might be seen from a physical mark, such as the scar on Harry Potter’s forehead. 

The role as the chosen one usually results in a dangerous quest for the protagonist who must make great sacrifices to overcome the villain. A common theme in high fantasy is the battle between good and evil.

One example of high fantasy is J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series (1954-1955). Young Frodo becomes a reluctant hero in the battle between good and evil.

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