Why We Read Fantasy

Why is fantasy so popular? Ask a hundred fantasy readers and you’ll likely get a hundred different answers.

Years ago, Joseph Campbell tried to answer this question in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In the book he describes the hero archetype. He explains that a thousand stories of heroes are really one story and about one, the hero with a thousand faces. We connect with the story at a very deep level because we are all on our own hero’s journey.

The stories we read are the hero’s journey writ large. They face incredible odds and dangers. Their triumphs are legend.

But you and I live the same story, only writ smaller. Our day to day lives and struggles can be understood through the lens of the hero’s journey. We take our cues from those stories, they bolster our courage and help us endure the pains of life.

I’m keeping the blog post short because later today I have an appointment with an oral surgeon. He’s going to extract three teeth. Two are wisdom teeth, I’ve had other wisdom teeth out and I’m not nervous about that. But the other tooth, let’s just say the oral surgeon used some scary phrases like “might have to cut the gums” and “might need some bone grafting.” I’m pretty freaked. Luckily, I will be under for most of the work.

Oral surgery is a far cry from charging a dragon or carrying the one ring to the fires of Mordor. It won’t be the end of the world, the zombie apocalypse or armageddon.

But even so, I will recall the great fantasy stories I’ve read. I will recall the courage that Mary must have in The Mage Chronicles or Amanda in Bear Naked. I will draw strength from that, to keep myself from running screaming from the surgeon’s office today.

I will write more when I’ve recovered. Until then, keep reading fantasy.


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