Fantasy vs. Reality


“For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I picked up a very pretty illustrated copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at Barnes and Noble yesterday, and I’m only on page twelve but I’m already enjoying the imaginativeness. It’s going to be a fun little read. When life is boring or difficult, I guess it’s nice to be able to jump down a rabbit hole and into a world that is not better than your current one, but perhaps more entertaining at the moment.

On that note, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about fantasy and escapism. I wonder about the merits and purposes of a good story. What does escapism really accomplish? I wonder if it’s right to run away from our lives and troubles instead of facing up to them immediately; if it’s okay to replace reality with imagination sometimes. When I’m lonely, I want to read or write stories about good friends or romance, when I’m sad, stories about happy people, and when I’m bored, stories about adventure. I suppose there’s no harm in it but I wonder sometimes if it’s really the best thing for me, or for anyone, to mentally run away from reality when it gets to be a little difficult.

J.R.R. Tolkien said:

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape? . . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” (

But does fantasy help us deal with our problems, or prevent us from doing so?

The thing is, I want to publish stories that help people escape, but also I want to remind my readers that reality really is incredible, and its problems are not always easy, but endurable. I don’t want to do any injustice to that fact. Just study a little science; step back and take a look at the world, the universe, and it’s obvious that we live an awesome existence. But the boring ruts we fall into in life make us forget how great it all is. Maybe good stories help remind us of that.

I suppose good, helpful fantasy reminds us that reality should be lived honorably and right. Maybe it helps us become better people. If it doesn’t, then I don’t guess it has any real purpose. I think that fantasy must honor reality and reality must assist fantasy. Perhaps we need both, or God wouldn’t have given us imaginations. Our imaginations are pretty powerful, and it’s kind of a big responsibility to use them the right way.

Anyway, I’ve been kicking these thoughts around in my head for a little while now, and I’d like to know what other people, especially writers, think about it. Do feel free to comment.

 “Too much fantasy loses reality, too much hope may seem somehow empty.”

~ Akira Toriyama (

~ by Sara on August 6, 2013.

9 Responses to “Fantasy vs. Reality”

  1. I enjoyed this post because I sometimes think about the same thing. I read a lot of fiction and love it, but part of me feels that fiction is unnecessary because reality is so incredibly awesome. Why make stuff up if the real world itself is full of fascinating characters, adventure stories, and complex issues? And yet, fiction (and the fantasy genre, by extension) is so important because it does stretch our minds and force us to think beyond the confines of what’s actually possible. It’s an outlet for readers like myself who like to dream.

    • That’s true, it is a great outlet. I think you’re right about how fiction stretches our minds. Maybe it helps us understand ourselves better.

  2. Fairy tales are true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
    ~ G. K. Chesterton

  3. Interesting post. I have kicked around a similar idea recently; that fantasy isn’t simply escapism, it’s an escape into reality, or an escape from a small reality created around ourselves to a greater reality that seems unreal.

    • That’s a really metaphysical take on it. Kind of puts a different spin on the idea of escapism. Besides, reality itself is pretty unreal sometimes. 🙂

  4. I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote “I think that fantasy must honor reality and reality must assist fantasy”. Interesting piece! Enjoy the rest of ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

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