Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.
Fantasy is a genre known for its out-of-this-world imagination. Fantasy works often feature make-believe creatures like elves, trolls, unicorns, dragons, and so on, populating mythical places like Middle-earth, Hogwarts, and Westeros. You know, your run of the mill magical beasts in standard magical lands. Want a whole new world? Fantasy is the genre for you.
As a genre, it's been around for quite a while, but J.R.R. Tolkien is the guy who made it wildly—and we mean wildly—popular. His The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a towering classic in the genre, and just about everything that came after it falls under its shadow. Just watch one episode of Game of Thrones and you'll see what we mean. Or, you know, read the book.
Anyone who's ever heard of Harry Potter (and that's everyone by now) knows that fantasy is a big hit in the bookstores. But the truth is, fantasy has been around for, well, ever. Long before there were bookstores, or even—gasp!—books, there was fantasy.
Much of the stuff of fantasy—the dragons, the magic, the wizards, the fun—comes from myths and legends that date back to the way-back days of humans. And those myths and legends have been incorporated into literature since its very beginnings. The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, has all kinds of crazy stuff going down. And the more people wrote, the more fantasy found its footing. Just look at our learning guides on The Odyssey, Beowulf, and Le Morte D'Arthur for early examples of magical mayhem.
So while we may think of fantasy as the hottest new trend in young adult fiction (thanks, Twilight!), just remember that the roots of fantasy run deep.