FANTASY IRISH TALES FOR CHILDREN


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During the next few decades writers turned increasingly to specialism in children's books, and many used the worlds and images of the fantastic for their settings. Jean Ingelow visited fairyland in Mopsa the Fairy , which is far more than a simple fairytale, but the author who cornered the children's market was George MacDonald , who also produced the first Adult Fantasy — thus demarcating the two genres.

There is no way that Phantastes can seriously be regarded as CF, yet it was included alongside "The Light Princess" and other fairytales in the volume set of Macdonald's Works of Fancy and Imagination coll Some of those stories had earlier appeared in Dealings with the Fairies coll , but it was with At the Back of the North Wind that Macdonald made the switch from fairytale to fantasy, and this was further strengthened by The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie During the period the CF still struggled to separate itself from the fairytale. It was necessary for the CF to remove itself from a discrete Otherworld for it to claim an identity and avoid classification as a fairytale.

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By this token other such books are regarded as CFs for the purposes of this entry. Transformation is a key to CFs: the ability to experience either a transfer of self from place to place or through Time , or a change in being from poverty to riches or from beast to beauty. The latter process is particularly important as it allows the child to come to terms with its own change from child to adult. The next major writer of CF was E Nesbit. Like Anstey's work, Nesbit's was aimed at older children and the stories were more sophisticated. Nesbit allowed the storyline to be dictated by the children's actions, not the parents', and gave them some influence over the supernatural events but not enough to stifle adventure.

Even earlier than Kingsley or Carroll, C P Cranch had written The Last of the Huggermuggers and Kobboltzo , stories inspired more by the voyages of Gulliver than by the fairytale tradition. Popular though they were, they did not have a lasting influence. The work of Julian Hawthorne and Howard Pyle tended to be derivative of folklore or the fairytale tradition, although Pyle's The Garden Behind the Moon is a moving Allegory of an Afterlife , while that of Charles E Carryl — in particular Davy and the Goblin , inspired by Carroll — is little more than harmless fun.

With this work the CF could claim to have dominated the fairytale for, in a complete role-reversal, the story became regarded as a modern Myth , with Peter Pan as the icon for eternal childhood, thereby looping back to fairytale. Also belonging to this period are Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies coll by Rudyard Kipling , both of which relied on interaction in Time , a theme that would later dominate much CF. CFs dominated children's fiction during the s and, to a lesser extent, the s. These last two books saw a return to a genuine Secondary World involving Quests , in true fairytale tradition, but by now the acceptance of CFs had ensured that they were not classified as fairytale but recognized in a category of their own.

After WWII fantasy as a whole was generally ostracized, but it was sustained better for younger readers than for adults; CF thus maintained a continuity that Adult Fantasy lost. As CF organized itself after it began to establish a thematic approach that would later influence adult fantasy. CF can be broken down as below into the following primary subgenres: worlds in miniature, secret gardens, time fantasies, otherworlds, wish fulfilment, and animal stories. Worlds in miniature The extension of the little-people motif from the earliest days of CF, this may include stories of Wainscots or Polders , though there can also be Secret Gardens.

The particular charm of these books is in the creation of a small world ideal for children to share. In books inspired by this theme the Lilliputians are either real people or their fantasy equivalents or animated Dolls. With The Borrowers and its sequels Norton developed the definitive Wainscot fantasy. The seminal modern fantasy in this class is Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce , about a garden one can access only when the clock strikes thirteen.

Also in this category are: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende , where a boy escapes to a Book -inspired world; The Magic Spectacles UK by James P Blaylock , where the glasses of the title open up a window to a faerie world; and arguably Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Dahl, where a child wins a chance to indulge in his personal fantasies.

Time fantasies A natural step from the Secret Garden is to a secret world in Time. The past 50 years have seen an increasing growth in stories where children either travel directly to another era — not by scientific means but in Dream by Timeslip — or people from other times enter our century. Associated with this theme is that of the Sleeper Under the Hill. There are also stories set entirely in the past which may include some supernatural elements by association usually linked with myth or legend and are, in fact, often recreations of legends or hero tales.

Finally there are stories of Alternate Worlds. These verge close to Science Fiction , though in CF the scientific element is normally absent and the alternate world is created like some Otherworld.


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This and its six annual sequels not only established a fantasy world complete with its own history and Mythology but debatably implanted more effectively than any other work including J R R Tolkien 's The Lord of the Rings [ ] the Secondary World as a primary motif in CF. During the re-emergence of adult fantasy in the mids, especially following the paperback reprinting of LOTR , many books were marketed as Adult Fantasy which might otherwise have been classified as CF.

Richard Adams 's Watership Down was published in UK paperback by Penguin in both its main adult imprint and in the Puffin children's imprint. Wish fulfilment In such books, often in the style of E Nesbit , children discover a magical item, the unleashing of whose properties results in a series of adventures — usually, but not necessarily, in our world and time. A variant concerns stories where children find things happen to them without any necessary explanation, such as in The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide, where a boy finds himself shrinking, but no one notices.

The Treehorn series continued with two novels much closer to the Nesbit formula: Treehorn's Treasure , where money really does grow on trees, and Treehorn's Wish with a more traditional Genie in a bottle.


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Probably the best-known Nesbit imitations are those by Edward Eager , which began with Half Magic and included the particularly clever Knight's Castle Related to this category are those stories where children possess Talents rather than find them. This is a motif used more in adult fiction to show the frightening potential of Children with uncontrolled power.

The theme is used sparingly in CF, perhaps because it is thought too corruptive; consequently some stories depict children who want to be rid of their powers and be like other people, such as in Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. Others seek to make light of occult powers, as in The Worst Witch and sequels by Jill Murphy Animal stories This is one of the biggest categories of CF.

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It is no surprise that children would want to have adventures with animals. In a wide range of fantasies, the animals either interact with humans usually Talking Animals in a manner derived from Rudyard Kipling or the stories are wholly about anthropomorphically endowed animals, in either Beast Fables or Animal Fantasies. Most of the early stories of this sort were for younger children, the best-known being the Peter Rabbit stories by Beatrix Potter ; their modern equivalents include the Paddington Bear stories by Michael Bond , which began with A Bear Called Paddington Laura M. Hughes Goodreads Author.

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