Some of the earliest books ever written, including The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Odyssey, deal with monsters, marvels, extraordinary voyages, and magic, and this genre, known as fantasy, remained an essential part of European literature through the rise of the modern realist novel. Tracing the history of fantasy from the earliest years through to the origins of modern fantasy in the 20th century, this account discusses contributions decade by decade—from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and Lewis’s Narnia books in the 1950s to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It also discusses and explains fantasy’s continuing and growing popularity.
Farah Mendlesohn is a reader in science fiction and fantasy literature at Middlesex University, a former reviews editor for Quaker Studies, and the author of Rhetorics of Fantasy. She is the recipient of the Hugo Award for Best Related Book. Edward James is a professor of medieval history at University College in Dublin, Ireland, and the author of Britain in the First Millennium: From Romans to Normans and Europe’s Barbarians AD 200–600. He is the recipient of the Eaton Award for best critical work on science fiction and the Hugo Award for Best Related Book.