Most lovers of fantasy fiction are well-acquainted with such classic works as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. But what are some of the lesser-known but important works of fantasy literature as well as some modern classics?
- The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris is considered by many to be the foundational novel of modern fantasy due to its skillful creation of a fantasy world with elements of the supernatural. Its faux-medieval style was archiac even when Morris wrote it in the late nineteenth century and this makes it offputting to some modern readers, but patient readers and writers seeking to understand the roots of the genre will be rewarded.
- The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison also presents some linguistic challenges to its readers, but both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were greatly influenced by this classic of high fantasy that is greatly influenced by Eddison’s studies of Norse myth.
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin is a more modern classic and the first in renowned writer LeGuin’s series of five books about the boy wizard Ged and the Earthsea world he inhabits.
- The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle is another modern classic of the genre. Written in prose so eloquent that it nearly becomes poetry, the book deals with the journey of a unicorn and a magician and their quest to stop an evil king. Many contemporary fantasists were influenced by Beagle’s work.
- The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is a feminist retelling of the Arthurian tale from the point of view of the women including Morgan le Fay, Guinevere and others and puts them front and centre in stories where they are normally both one-dimensional and confined to the margins.
These are but a few of the classic fantasy books, and every avid reader and writer in the genre has one or two unmissable favourites. If you love fantasy, join the Now Novel fantasy writers’ group and get helpful feedback on your work in progress.
What do you consider some fantasy classics, and why?