If I were to ask who the father of modern fantasy is, who would you name? People will have their choice, but I think most people will reach back to the man who penned The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien. While I certainly believe him to be the father of modern fantasy, there are some who have a decenting position, such as Ed Power of the Boston Globe.
Now Mr. Power makes some points. However, they are based purely upon the content of the fantasies that are prevalent in the world today. Unfortunately, I have to argue with his premise, it is far too simplistic of a view. To merely make this determination based solely upon the content inside of the covers of various books. Yes, I will agree that today’s fantasies are predominantly filled with flawed characters that would be lost trying to find their way through Middle Earth, at least compared to Tolkien’s iconic paragonic characters.
It just does not matter for this topic. The reason Tolkien is considered to be the father of modern fantasy has nothing to do with the content of fantasies. The question Mr. Power should have asked was why are fantasies so popular today? Back around the time, Tolkien introduced the world to the fictional land of Middle Earth fantasy was a far less mainstream genre than it is today. A point Mr. Powel himself made in his article:
“Tolkien may overshadow other fantasy writers in name recognition, and his high-handed purity and saintly protagonists may define fantasy in the popular imagination.”
– Mr. Ed Powel
The very paragonic characters that Mr. Powel dismisses as nonexistent in modern fantasy paved the way for the various storytellers and authors that came after. The reason J.R.R. Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy is that he captured the world’s imagination and wonder with those characters and tales. He inspired the countless others who followed to reach into their imagination and craft their own stories whether they were drawing upon those races from Middle Earth or not.
This simple fact is J.R.R. Tolkien is considered by many, even Wikipedia, to be the father of modern fantasy. And contrary to Mr. Powel’s opinion it has nothing to do with happens on each of the pages, and everything to do with how popular the genre became after his works were brought into the world.