No, Not All Fantasy Fiction Is Medieval

Updated on August 11, 2018
Disastrous Grape profile image

Disastrous Grape is from a dimension of sentient exploding fruit, and is author of the novels The Thieves of Nottica and Time's Arrow.

Is this automatically medieval because . . . floating islands? Only Europeans had floating islands, right?
Is this automatically medieval because . . . floating islands? Only Europeans had floating islands, right?

In fact, medieval fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy, but people tend to confuse it with epic fantasy or fantasy in general. Epic fantasy (or "high fantasy") actually takes place in a secondary world (not our real Earth), and while it might be influenced by real cultures, it is largely made up gobbledygook.

This secondary world operates by its own rules while remaining consistent (as in, not breaking those rules), meaning its inhabitants speak, dress, and act just the way the writer imagined.

So Why Is Most Fantasy Fiction Medieval?

A lot of people tend to ask this question.

First, it's not. I wouldn't call The Edge Chronicles "medieval." (By the way, those are fantastic books. Check them out!)

Second, the simple answer is that the dominate culture is Eurocentric, and so Eurocentric history is romanticized above all else. This is largely done through films and books based in medieval history and lore and includes damsels in distress, dragons, elves, and magic.

As a result of this continuous vein of nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses, most people look at any epic fantasy story that has elves and dragons and swords and assume it must be "medieval."

Dragons And Elves And Swords -- Oh My!

For writers like me, who don't write Eurocentric fantasy, this is really annoying.

Most people seem to be laboring under the delusion that Europeans invented dragons and swords and elves, when in fact, these fantasy elements are prevalent in various cultures across the globe. Ancient Africans told stories about dragons, (which they referred to as "serpents"), and China has an entire mythos revolving around them.

Believe it or not, other cultures also had their own version of elves! And swords were not even invented by Europeans. Though most people will try to tell you otherwise, the Iron Age began in Africa and swords were invented by ancient Egyptians, who evolved them from daggers

They Didn't Talk That Way "Back Then."

This is something most fantasy writers will hear from those dozen or so people who believe our story is automatically medieval and thus, should adhere to "thous" and "thees," with all our characters speaking poetically in English Romantic Verse.

In reality, there is no "back then" and our characters are not speaking "anachronistically" because our story is not based in the Middle Ages.

Even when people don't assume our epic fantasy novel is medieval, there still seems to be this notion that characters in fantasy books have to speak in a certain way.

Since when? Who set these rules? And why in hell should I have to follow them?

Fantasy doesn't and shouldn't adhere to some arbitrary set of rules.

Fantasy is literally just some made up shit.

Isn't It Time For Something New?

I tried thinking of an epic fantasy book that wasn't influenced by medieval Europe (aside from The Edge Chronicles, that is), and . . . I drew a blank. Maybe the Earthsea Cycle? That's about it. Everything else I thought of was children's portal fiction (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland), which is not epic fantasy but low fantasy.

That's . . . really depressing, actually. Don't people ever get tired of reading the same damn thing? I know I do. Around the age of nineteen, I decided to quit reading because I was tired of the same hero riding off to do the same thing over and over. My own weariness is probably the reason I write epic fantasy novels that are anything but "medieval."

In the end, the only way to stop the screams of "anachronism!" is to enlighten people to the fact that other cultures and myths exist that aren't European, and thus, not all fantasy automatically takes inspiration from medieval Europe.

This obviously isn't something that's going to happen overnight, but I do see people out there trying to discover books by authors who write outside the themes that have dominated our fiction for so long.

I mean, why not? As readers, it was our intellectual curiosity, our hunger for stories in their many forms, that led us to read in the first place.

Why not seek out as many voices and perspectives as we can?

© 2018 Ash Gray

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hobbylark.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hobbylark.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)