by Alma A. Hromic
Page 2 of 3
Fifty years after the publication of the "Lord of the Rings", the great
trilogy is being released as three full-length movies directed by New Zealander
Peter Jackson. The interest has been phenomenal, with countless articles and
multiple websites being devoted to the subject. When the production company
released the first "Lord of the Rings" preview trailer on the Internet,
millions of people downloaded the short film clip into their computers; the
movie itself has broken box-office records and gathered praise from both fans
and critics in the aftermath of its long-awaited release in December 2001.
Whether the films meet fansí expectations or not, one thing is for certain -
there is a whole new cadre of devotees just waiting out there to be wooed with
a good strange new world.
But why does fantasy touch such a deep chord? What is it about the human
spirit that responds to the "unseen"? The same reaction has fuelled fans of
Tolkien, and of the X-Files; of Guy Gavriel Kayís rich world of Tigana and of
Neil Gaimanís Sandman; of Frank Herbertís "Dune" and of George Lucasís "Star
Wars". Weighty tomes of novels and series of novels, TV series, graphic novels
and cartoons, motion pictures - the medium is irrelevant. It is the fantasy
within that calls.
Tolkien, the Grand Master, wrote an essay on fantasy and on what he called
the process of "sub-creation", the invention of an alternate reality in a
fantasy world. He scorns the label of "escapism" which is so often slapped on
fantasy in all its incarnations, and trenchantly says that the only people who
could possibly be so vicious in the application of the term "escapism" are
This may be part of the key to fantasyís charm. One way or another we have
made our reality an incredibly complicated (as opposed to complex),
problem-ridden, frightening and sometimes arbitraily vicious environment. When
daily news bombards one with constant images of people dying through various
inventive and unpleasant methods, and ways of justifying that dying from the
side of one or the other adversary involved in any given conflict where the
"raison du guerre" is often murky and rather random in nature, it is not
inconceivable that the mind and the spirit recoil and seek another
This is not to say that fantasy is unicorns and fluffy bunnies all the way.
Indeed, fantasy literature is often violent - but the salient point is that the
violence is defined and justified, and has an end. When the just war has
been waged and won, justice prevails. In the real world, things are a lot less
reliable. Alliances shift, and we turn on our friends because in the politics
of the day they are expendable. We cannot agree on the definition of
"terrorism" for the simple reason that those on the receiving end of it call it
a crime and those who risk their lives to perform such acts do so for what
often seem to be very good reasons from their point of view. When the ANC was
fighing to come to power in South Africa, for example, they were terrorists to
a man. When they achieved their aim they were reborn as freedom fighters who
fought to liberate their country from oppression. And you know what? Both are
right. Depends whether youíre holding the gun or staring down its barrel at any
t in time.
People are flocking in their thousands, in their millions, to see films like
"Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone" and part one of the "Lord of the Rings"
epic. Itís a respite, a cause, a reason to believe in a definition of Good and
Evil that does not require dictionaries or encyclopedias or biased history
books written by winners of wars and thus telling only one side of the story
for all posterity. You do not have to decide. All you have to do is cheer for
the Light, and watch the vanquishing of the Darkness, in whatever shape or form
these have been presented in the fantasy world you are visiting.Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Alma A. Hromic, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.