Using a broad definition of fantasy to include myth, folklore, legend and fairy tale, Mathews shows how fantasy uses the elements of enchantment and the supernatural to explode everyday reality and create profound insights into essential human realities. "Fantasy" gives us an appreciation of the genres roots in antiquity and an understanding of its history. The reader becomes a witness to how it later evolved into a reaction and counterpoint to the tradition realistic rational fiction in western literature. Further, we see how fantasy is related to but distinct from such genres as gothic horror and science fiction.
While giving the reader a solid sense of the genres characteristics and history, Mathews also looks at particular exemplary works like Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle in detail. This text will be of inestimable value to anyone seeking to apprehend the nature and almost unlimited creative possibilities of a genre with a deep history and a long future. A chronology of significant events, works and figures from the genre's history, notes and references and an extensive bibliographic essay with recommended reading round out the volume.