Is Fantasy Necessarily Medieval?

When we think of the fantasy genre, it’s almost always in a swords-and-sorcery way. Knights, enchanters and mythological beings dominate fantasy stories, whether in books (such as a Song of Ice and Fire), TV shows (such as Merlin) and video games (such as the Final Fantasy series). Even fantasy stories set in modern day often betray medieval influences (e.g. Hogwarts castle and the Sword of Gryffindor in Harry Potter). But is this always the case? Are there any high-profile fantasy stories that are not based on/heavily inspired by medieval Europe? Is the fantasy genre branching out into different cultures/time periods, and is this successful?

  • Great topic! I'm wondering if one of the differences between science fiction and fantasy has to do with this question that you're asking. Fantasy seems often (nearly always?) to look back to the Middle Ages whereas science fiction seems often (nearly always?) to looking forward and to the future. – JamesBKelley 6 years ago
  • Urban Fantasy like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the anime Bleach, could be a good reference for alternative fantasy! Both these shows have their roots in traditional (eastern and western) fantastical roots, but they adapt the old stories and concepts to the 21st century which is actually really refreshing. – Dimitri 6 years ago
  • Interesting question. A quick Google search tells me that fantasy genre is primarily defined by magic or supernatural elements. I think that, because the Medieval age has been historically associated with witches, alchemy and whatnot, it's naturally become the basis of most fantasy stories. It seems almost inescapable, that relation between fantasy and medieval. That being said, the TV show Charmed includes morally good witch sisters in a modern setting, the show being a huge success. So maybe fantasy isn't necessarily medieval so much as it borrows medieval concepts, like witches and knights and whatnot. – Starfire 6 years ago
  • I think mostly this comes from our association of magic with the medieval period a la Merlin/King Arthur, etc. But I think more and more we're seeing people with 'super powers' that we would consider magical in science fiction. This probably isn't the best example but Doom is a video game about space marines but involves opening a portal to Hell. I think much of this depends on how you define 'fantasy', but I would say this is definitely leaking into more modern sci-fi books, but perhaps we don't call it 'fantasy.' – tolkiensocietykc 6 years ago

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