Fantasy sinks its figurative talons into us all. Its origins are ancient, with roots in the epic Icelandic Eddur and Old English poems like Beowulf. It owes a debt to Shakespeare, to the adventure narratives of the eighteenth century, to the Gothic movement, Romanticism, the medievalism of the Pre-Raphaelites and to the fin de siècle. But perhaps it didn’t begin to be shaped as a distinct genre until authors such as George Macdonald (1824-1905), William Morris (1834-1896) and Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) popularised the creation of fantasy worlds. Among others, they mined the imaginative concepts that J. R. R. Tolkien would later forge into the first real commercial epic fantasy.
This short summary alone reveals how deep fantasy runs in the human psyche, how it drives human creativity. It is an elemental force, a willing immersion in the mythic. We – and the stories we write – are shaped by its archetypes, allegories and emotions. So what attracts us to fantasy? What rough magic compels us to walk in the footsteps of heroes?