What Is a Fantasy Narrative?

A popular genre, the fantasy narrative is often a linear tale told by a third-person narrator, according to fantasy author L.B. Gale. Simple as that may sound, many elements make up the fantasy narrative, a genre owing to historical and literary influences dating back to classical antiquity. Understanding these numerous elements and influences makes for a much richer reading experience.


Dating back to the Greeks, the fantasy narrative takes many of its most prolific influences from classical works. Specifically, the fantasy narrative style can be drawn back to the way the ancient world portrayed religion, fantasy races, mystical settings and the hero's quest. However, the classical world has not been the only significant influence on the fantasy narrative. The Gothic, Romanticism and Victorian imaginations and literary genres such as the classic fairytale have all been central to the formation of the fantasy narrative.

Narration and Point of View

Today, most fantasy narratives are told from either the first- or third-person point of view. First-person narration limits the readers to seeing and knowing only what the character sees and knows. This can be poignant when the fantasy narrative is a hero's tale as it allows readers to connect with the hero intimately. Third-person narration, the more common of the two narrative styles in fantasy, is told from the perspective of an omniscient outsider. In both cases, it's significant to remember that narrators are notoriously unreliable, though third-person narration is less so.

Heroes and Villains

The most popular fantasy narrative trope, the hero's quest is central to much of the fantasy narrative. Dating as far back as stories of Hercules and Achilles in the classical works to such memorable modern characters as J.R.R. Tolkien's Frodo Baggins and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, the fantasy narrative is often powered by the will of a character or group of characters in their quest to overcome great odds.

Settings and Races

Settings and races are often a defining feature of the fantasy narrative. While it is possible to encounter fantasy narratives set on Earth, most are set against the backdrop of fantastic worlds where high-fantasy races, such as elves and hobbits, exist. This is yet another feature of the fantasy narrative owing to classical works, where such fantasy races as the sphinx and lamia existed.

Religion, Magic and Mysticism

Much fantasy narrative, because of its fantastic settings, include such elements as magic and mysticism. In the fantasy narrative, both good and evil characters are often capable of wielding great power toward their purposes. Often, however, because these are elements that teach a moral lesson, the use of these powers comes at a cost to the characters and the world. Additionally, most fantasy narratives includes polytheistic or naturalistic religions where these feats of magic and mysticism are possible.

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