Fantasy Monarchies

hannibal at hannibal at
Tue Feb 4 09:09:10 EST 2003

Jacob wrote:

"So if you want miserable, oppressed people to be saved by the actions of an
individual (or even a small group of individuals), you're structurally
looking at a dictatorship/monarchy.  You just can't move a democracy far
enough, fast enough to make the story payoff."

This exposes an even more fundamental 'given' of fantasy - the assumption that the object of the exercise is to Save the World, or at least some hefty chunk of it. This is another part of the JRRT inheritance, perhaps - though not original to him. I'm often struck by the mismatch, especially in children's lit (which is all I really know anything about) between the ambitions of fantasy (Saving the World) and the ambitions of Realism (Saving, say, One's Parents' Marriage or the Local Donkey Sanctuary from Closure), and feel there's a middle ground that's not been sufficiently exploited. Why should fantasy take high politics, rather than more domestic matters, as its territory anyway?

And BTW, in children's literature this political emphasis provides one extra motive for keeping the monarchical system - because it's only through hereditary (rather than democratic) institutions that child protagonists are likely to find themselves anywhere near the centre of political power. Unless - as often happens - they find themselves the subject of a convenient prophecy...


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