Archive for March 15, 2014

The Grandfathers of Fantasy

Every fantasy reader and writer recognizes and, on the main, reveres the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings trilogy especially is often held up as the definitive work of the high fantasy genre. I certainly consider Tolkien to be one of the masters of fantasy–a Grandfather of Fantasy, if you will.

But who else would you put up on such a lofty pedestal? What other writers would you consider a Grandfather of Fantasy? For me, there are two other greats, individuals who broke new ground in their genres, who do not get the credit they deserve.

The first must be Robert E. Howard. A man who took pulp stories to new heights, who has been called the father of sword and sorcery, reached the pinnacle of fantasy with his character Conan of Cimmeria. Yet though Howard’s works have inspired so many modern works, and though he has been lauded for his writing throughout the twentieth century, recognition of this Grandfather of Fantasy has fallen by the wayside. It is difficult to find more than one or two Howard books in modern bookstores, while cheap schlock crowds the shelves. This is a shame, since Howard, through Conan and other classic characters like Kull and Solomon Kane, helped make fantasy the genre it is today.

Finally, Fritz Leiber is one of the masters of the field, a Grandfather of Fantasy who has been set aside for some unknown reason. When Michael Moorcock (another great in his own right) sought to name the genre created by Howard with Conan, Leiber responded and named the sword and sorcery fantasy subgenre. Aside from this, Leiber penned a series of stories surrounding two iconic characters, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Their adventures were certainly not high fantasy, nor were these characters heroes in the traditional sense. I consider Leiber the master of low and weird fantasy, where the characters are as debauched and strange as the world they live in. Their motivations were base, their adventures a window into the weird. Sadly, Leiber’s writings find even less recognition today than do Howard’s. Still, through Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and other works, Leiber established himself, in my view, as a Grandfather of Fantasy.