Sunday, 5 September 2010


Once upon a time, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my parents would read me fairy stories. Often the hero was a child,just like me, except that maybe they had wings or superpowers.

When I was old enough to buy my own books, my favourite by far was 'The Borrowers' by Mary Norton. These were stories about people, just like human beings, except that they were only a few inches high and lived under the floorboards. They would 'borrow' things from the 'Ooman Beans' who lived above and I loved the illustrations which showed their living rooms with cotton reels as tables and sardine tins as beds. The main characters were a family consisting of a father, mother and daughter named Pod, Homily and Arriety their names too having been borrowed from muffled names they had heard from above.

As a young adult I was captivated by Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' which told wonderful tales of adventures had by people very similar to us except that their feet were bigger and hairier. I can remember lying flat on my bed for hours and hours as I turned the pages, eager to find out what would happen next.

In mid-life I discovered the 'Duncton Wood' books by William Horwood. These very adult books which dealt with characters who, just like mankind, were capable of love, kindness and heroism and others who were capable of murder, wickedness and rape. But they were not mankind, they were moles. Yes moles, some of whom I came to love, some of whom I came to hate. For some long while, my imagination was confined to dark, underground tunnels.

Now that I am an older man, I still enjoy tales of fantasy. It is sheer escapism which transports you from the humdrum everyday life into realms of exotic and fantabulous fauna and flora. I am currently reading the George R. R. Martin's 'A song of ice and fire' books in which he takes us into a world of heroes and villains just like those of Arthurian legend, except that their names, like the Borrowers' names, are slightly different from ours; Petyr instead of Peter, Eddard instead of Edward, Jeyne instead of Jane and so on.

So in my opinion, the secret of successful fantasy is to create it very close to our lives and understanding and yet just slightly different so that we know that we have left reality safely behind us so that now, anything can happen.

1 comment:

  1. My hubby loves Lord of the Rings - I used to love reading Enid Blyton - I read every single one of her books when I was younger. I dont think children read enough these days.