Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Children's Fantasy

A genre that is clearly separate from Adult Fantasy at the extremes but which also overlaps. This entry explores first the origins of CF and its discrete emergence, and then considers the main themes in modern CF.

1. Origins For centuries before the early Victorian period, fantasies for children were regarded as immoral and subversive. No fantasies were written specially for children, and those few which became children's books by adoption were morally improving works – best-known was Pilgrim's Progress (1678) by John Bunyan. Similarly, the Fables of Aesop (6th century BC; 1484), among the first books printed by William Caxton (1420-1491), were regarded as suitable for children because of their moral and spiritual lessons. Folktales endured in the oral tradition but were not written down. Perhaps the only subversive fantasy to receive any continued support was the anonymous Beast Fable Reynard the Fox (12th century; 1481 UK), though editions specifically adapted for children did not appear until the 1840s. Reynard's history epitomizes the fact that stories in which animals feature were not readily perceived as subversive, and were also believed to appeal especially to the child mentality; to this day they remain among the most popular of CFs.

Also suitable were heroic tales drawn from old Sagas and Romances which demonstrated valiant and chivalrous attributes. Many were in written form from the 11th century and, though not intended for children, were doubtless retold to them. Most popular in England must have been tales featuring Arthur; likewise on the European mainland, stories from the Charlemagne Cycle – particularly those featuring Roland – must have prevailed.

It was only by degrees that Fairytales appeared in print and became accepted as reading matter for children, although they were still generally decried by moralists throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. It may be no surprise that the earliest known in print linked themselves to the Arthurian Cycle, namely The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little (1621 chap) attributed to Richard Johnson (1573-?1659), which, while starting in a ploughman's cottage, soon moves to Arthur's court, and Jack and the Gyants (?1708; vt The History of Jack and the Giants ?1711), which is almost certainly a simplification of Celtic legends which had contributed to the Arthurian Cycle (see also Estates Satire; Jack).

The development of the literary Fairytale in France in the 1690s also resulted in adaptations of the stories for all ages. Charles Perrault's tales were translated as Histories, or Tales of Past Times (1729 UK), but by 1768 (probably earlier) the title had been superseded by Mother Goose's Tales (coll 1768). Likewise Madame d'Aulnoy's stories, translated as Tales of the Fairys (coll 1699 UK) – thereby giving the name "fairytale" to the genre – devolved into the children's volume Mother Bunch's Fairy Tales (coll 1773 UK), and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) was reduced to a child's book by the 1780s. The primary publisher of children's books in the 18th century, and himself an occasional author, was John Newbery, who established a family firm in 1740 (it was for him that the Newbery Award for distinguished works of children's literature was named in 1922). He popularized the moral tale for children, epitomized by his most successful volume, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765 chap), which many believe was by Oliver Goldsmith (?1730-1774).

The general antipathy to any fantasies or fairytales for children likely to corrupt their morals continued unabated into the 19th century. The UK was still under the heady influence of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), whose The Family Shakespeare (coll 1818) had sought to "purify" Shakespeare even more than had the adaptations by Mary and Charles Lamb in Tales from Shakespear (coll 1807). Even though the publisher Benjamin Tabart had commenced a series of Popular Stories for children in 1804, including the seminal Popular Fairy Tales (coll 1818), it was not until the translation of German fairytales, starting with the Grimm Brothers' German Popular Stories (coll 1823) – where the stories were presented as serious academic research – that the folktale became partway respectable. This allowed CF, as a separate subgenre, to begin to detach itself from the fairytale. [MA]

2. Establishment of CF It did not happen overnight. Phantasmion (1837) by Sara Coleridge may be regarded as an extended fairytale, and was the first original CF in novel form in English. The real split began with Holiday House (1839) by Catherine Sinclair, which broke with the didactic tradition of the moral tale and presented a story for children as children. This allowed an adult to enter into the world of make-believe and, in one chapter, Uncle David tells the children a Nonsense story. Although regarded with severe caution by many parents, this novel – not a fantasy overall – became extremely popular, and was influential on later CFs. The Hope of the Katzekopfs (1844) by Francis Edward Paget is a blend of the moral tale and fairytale, wherein a spoilt prince in Faerie learns self-discipline. Other stories from this period, notably King of the Golden River (written 1841; 1850) by John Ruskin and The Rose and the Ring (1855) by William Makepeace Thackeray, still betrayed the influence of the German fairytale. It was not until the 1860s that two books radically changed the field: The Water-Babies (1863) by Charles Kingsley and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll. The first highlighted the transition: it called itself a fairytale and was intensely moralistic, but also portrayed children in a "real" world and recognized their problems. Carroll's Alice stories flouted all past tradition and presented clever Satires dressed up as Nonsense in exactly the form that appealed to children. These two authors changed the world of children's literature and allowed the growth of CF.

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 (1869), 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 (1858) can seriously be regarded as CF, yet it was included alongside "The Light Princess" and other fairytales in the 10-volume set of Macdonald's Works of Fancy and Imagination (coll 1871). Some of those stories had earlier appeared in Dealings with the Fairies (coll 1867), but it was with At the Back of the North Wind (1871) that Macdonald made the switch from fairytale to fantasy, and this was further strengthened by The Princess and the Goblin (1871) and The Princess and Curdie (1883).

During the period 1870-1900 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. Moreover, even after a child is able to distinguish fancy from the mundane, s/he will regard a fantasy set in our Reality as being as much a story of an imaginary world as one set entirely or partly in a Secondary World. Thus many adults recall The Secret Garden (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett as a fantasy even though it is devoid of overt supernatural trappings (see Secret Garden). 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 emergence of CF was encouraged by Mary Molesworth in The Cuckoo Clock (1877) and The Tapestry Room (1879), both of which transport children to dream of fantasy worlds, Carlo Collodi in Pinocchio (1883), F Anstey in Vice Versa, or A Lesson to Fathers (1882; rev 1883) (see also Identity Exchange) and The Brass Bottle (1900) and Selma Lagerlöf in The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (1906) – all stories of transformation. 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. Her first full-length CF was Five Children and It (1902); then came The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904), The Story of the Amulet (1906), which took the children to various periods of ancient history, The Enchanted Castle (1907) and others through to Wet Magic (1913). 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). This became the model for the many CFs that followed, in particular the form where children discover something strange which takes them into a world of magical adventure (see Portals).

In the USA, CFs took longer to extricate themselves from the image of the fairytale. Even earlier than Kingsley or Carroll, C P Cranch (1813-1892) had written The Last of the Huggermuggers (1855) and Kobboltzo (1856), 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 (1895) is a moving Allegory of an Afterlife, while that of Charles E Carryl (1841-1920) – in particular Davy and the Goblin (1884), inspired by Carroll – is little more than harmless fun. Frank R Stockton showed more originality in his stories, especially those included in The Bee-Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales (coll 1887), but it was left to L Frank Baum to establish CF in the USA.

Probably the best known CF in the world is not a book but a play, J M Barrie's Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (performed 1904; rev 1928); the novel based on it was Peter and Wendy (1911). This was based on the story-within-a-story in The Little White Bird (1902) that had been published separately as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906). 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. It encouraged at least two other fairy plays: L'Oiseau bleu (play 1908; trans as The Blue Bird 1909 UK) by Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949) (see also The Blue Bird) and The Starlight Express (performed 1915) adapted by Violet Pearn (1880-1947) from Algernon Blackwood's A Prisoner in Fairyland (1913) – plus many fairy-plays by Netta Syrett.

Also belonging to this period are Puck of Pook's Hill (1906) and Rewards and Fairies (coll 1910) by Rudyard Kipling, both of which relied on interaction in Time, a theme that would later dominate much CF. Kipling's Jungle Books were unique for their day and established the theme of children forging a bond with animals (see also Talking Animals; Wainscots). The enduring popularity of the Animal Fantasy The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame led to many Sequels by Other Hands. The ability to converse with animals was the Plot Device behind the Doctor Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting, and a similar ploy was used by A A Milne in the Christopher Robin stories.

CFs dominated children's fiction during the 1920s and, to a lesser extent, the 1930s. Works include: The Boy Apprenticed to an Enchanter (1920) by Padraic Colum, The Marvellous Land of Snergs (1927) by E A Wyke-Smith, whose hidden Polder-land influenced J R R Tolkien; Bambi (1923; trans 1928 UK) by Felix Salten; The Midnight Folk (1927) and The Box of Delights (1935) by John Masefield; The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930) by Elizabeth Coatsworth; Mary Poppins (1934) and its sequels by P L Travers; and the first of the Worzel Gummidge stories by Barbara Euphan Todd, Worzel Gummidge, or The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook Farm (1936). There were also the reprinting in 1921 of Walter de La Mare's The Three Mulla-Mulgars (1910; vt The Three Royal Monkeys 1927) and the publication of The Hobbit (1937) by Tolkien. 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. The period also saw such excellent collections as Broomsticks and Other Tales (coll 1925) by de la Mare and My Friend Mr Leakey (coll 1937) by J B S Haldane (1892-1964), plus the first appearance of Rupert the Bear in Comic strip in the Daily Express in 1920.

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 1945 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. [MA]

3. 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. Soon after WWII came Mistress Masham's Repose (1946) by T H White, wherein an orphaned young girl finds a family of Lilliputians on an old ancestral estate. This story was not especially popular, but its successor firmly established itself as a classic: The Borrowers (1952) by Mary Norton (see also The Borrowers [1973]). Norton had previously provided the only significant fantasy books of the WWII years, The Magic Bed-Knob (1943 US) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947) – assembled as Bedknob and Broomstick (omni 1957) and filmed much later by Disney as Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) (see also Animated Movies); both were written in the style of Nesbit. With The Borrowers and its sequels Norton developed the definitive Wainscot fantasy. Other stories of little creatures and wainscot worlds are in Stuart Little (1945) by E B White, about a Tom-Thumb-size boy, the Moomin series by Tove Jansson, The Doll's House (1947), Impunity Jane (1954) and other doll stories by Rumer Godden (1907-1998), the Noddy stories by Enid Blyton (1897-1968), Loretta Mason Potts (1958) by Mary Chase, where wicked Dolls try to dominate a little girl, James and the Giant Peach (1961) by Roald Dahl, where a boy travels the world in a huge peach inhabited by giant insects, The Secret World of Og (1962) by Pierre Berton (1920-2004), where little green men exist under a children's playhouse, The Twelve and the Genii (1962; vt The Return of the Twelves 1963 US) by Pauline Clarke, which brings back to life the toy soldiers which were once owned by and inspired the Brontës, The Little People (1967) by John Christopher, though the origin of his midgets is given a scientific basis, the eco-friendly Wombles created by Elisabeth Beresford, Mindy's Mysterious Miniature (1971) by Jane Curry, where a dolls' house is the home of real people shrunk years before by a mad professor, The Carpet People (1971) by Terry Pratchett, Fungus the Bogeyman (graph 1977) by Raymond Briggs and the Omri series by Lynne Reid Banks that began with The Indian in the Cupboard (1980). Another series about little people, the Minnipins, although set entirely in their world, began with The Gammage Cup (1959; vt The Minnipins 1960 UK) by Carol Kendall; Kendall repeated her success with the similar The Firelings (1981 UK). [MA]

4. Secret gardens This category (see also Secret Garden) overlaps with the Wainscot and Polder themes, particularly in the sense of a hidden world. The seminal modern fantasy in this class is Tom's Midnight Garden (1958) by Philippa Pearce, about a garden one can access only when the clock strikes thirteen. There was the very personal world created for herself by the heroine of Pippi Långstrump (1945; trans as Pippi Longstocking 1950 US) by Astrid Lindgren. Other examples of escape within our own world include: The Enchanted Wood (1939) by Enid Blyton, the first in a series where children escape to a world of Faerie (see also Into the Woods); The Valley of Song (1951) by Elizabeth Goudge, where a valley is a manifestation of the Earthly Paradise; The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster, where a child enters a Nonsense world; Beneath the Hill (1967) by Jane Curry, with its long-deserted fairy City; the transcendental A Walk Out of the World (1969) by Ruth Nichols; The War for the Lot (1969) by Sterling E Lanier (1927-2007), where a boy helps various Talking Animals save their remaining woodland from the city rats; A Castle of Bone (1972) by Penelope Farmer which, along with the moving Bridge to Terabithia (1978) by Katherine Paterson, about a secret world in the woods from which the children must build a bridge back to Reality, acknowledges a debt to the Narnia books; The Perilous Gard (1974) by Elizabeth Marie Pope, where a Faerie world is discovered in the north of England; The Beginning Place (1980; vt Threshold 1980 UK) by Ursula K Le Guin; and the evocative Midnight Blue (1990) by Pauline Fisk, where a girl escapes our world via balloon to come to terms with her problems in a Mirror-world. Also in this category are: The Neverending Story (1979) by Michael Ende, where a boy escapes to a Book-inspired world; The Magic Spectacles (1991 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 (1964) by Dahl, where a child wins a chance to indulge in his personal fantasies. [MA]

5. 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. Escape to a world of the past had previously been used by Alison Uttley in A Traveller in Time (1939). Similar examples include: the various Magic books by Andre Norton, starting with Steel Magic (1965), where children find some magical artefact which transports them to different eras; Jessamy (1967) by Barbara Sleigh, with a timeslip to 1914; The Green Hill of Nendrum (1969) by J S Andrews (1934-    ), where a child travels back to 10th-century Ireland; Charlotte Sometimes (1969) by Penelope Farmer, where the contemporary Charlotte swaps places with a girl in 1918; Over the Sea's Edge (1971) by Jane Curry, with its Identity Exchange between two boys, one in the 11th century and the other in the present day; Red Shift (1973) by Alan Garner, where a stone axe creates a link between its owners spread across 2000 years; the Claudia and Evan stories by Betty Levin, where children are transported back to different stages of Celtic history; The House in Norham Gardens (1974) by Penelope Lively, where the house is a vortex of all time periods; The Night Rider (1975) by Tom Ingram (1924-2007); and two books by Helen Cresswell, The Secret World of Polly Flint (1982), where a girl makes contact with the inhabitants of a long-lost village, and Moondial (1987), where a moondial opens a door to the past.

Stories where the travel is from the past to the present include: Stig of the Dump (1963) by Clive King (1924-2018), where a Stone Age survivor is found in a rubbish tip; Over the Hills and Faraway (1968; vt The Hill Road 1969 US) by William Mayne, where a girl from the Dark Ages exchanges places briefly with a girl from today; The Vision of Stephen: An Elegy (1972) by Lolah Burford, where a boy escapes from the brutality of the Dark Ages to the England of 1822; and The Philosopher's Stone (1971) by Jane Little, where a 12th-century wizard seeks a treasure in the 20th century, a story somewhat reminiscent of the Catweazle stories by Richard Carpenter (see Catweazle). Associated with this theme is that of the Sleeper Under the Hill. Some timeslip stories are also treated as ghost stories (see Ghost Stories for Children).

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. The primary writer in this field is Rosemary Sutcliff, though it is also worth mentioning Roger Lancelyn Green and Rosemary Harris.

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. Best-known in this subgenre are the stories by Joan Aiken, starting with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1962). Other alternate worlds are found in the Changes trilogy by Peter Dickinson and the Chrestomanci sequence by Diana Wynne Jones. [MA]

6. Otherworlds The first and one of the most famous otherworld CFs to appear after WWII was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C S Lewis. 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 [1954-1955]) the Secondary World as a primary motif in CF. It had its imitators, of which the best was Alan Garner's Elidor (1965), although the influence may be seen also in Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960), The Moon of Gomrath (1963) and The Owl Service (1967). The Arthurian theme evident in the Weirdstone sequence also influenced Susan Cooper in her The Dark is Rising sequence.

During the re-emergence of adult fantasy in the mid-1960s, especially following the paperback reprinting of LOTR, many books were marketed as Adult Fantasy which might otherwise have been classified as CF. The classic example is Ursula K Le Guin's Earthsea sequence, whose first volume, The Wizard of Earthsea (1968), was published as an adult fantasy in the USA and as a CF in the UK. Richard Adams's Watership Down (1972) was published in UK paperback by Penguin in both its main adult imprint and in the Puffin children's imprint. The following includes many such borderline examples: the Prydain sequence by Lloyd Alexander; The Search for Delicious (1969) by Natalie Babbitt, set in a Nonsense world; Mrs Discombobulous (1969) by Margaret Mahy, where the Portal to another world is via a washing machine; Red Moon and Black Mountain (1970) by Joy Chant; Garranane (1971) by Tom Ingram (1924-2007); The Dragon Hoard (1971) and East of Midnight (1977) by Tanith Lee; The Throme of the Erril of Sherill (1973) and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (1974) by Patricia McKillip; the Dalemark books by Diana Wynne Jones; the Wirrun trilogy, based on Australian aboriginal myth, by Patricia Wrightson; The Last Days of the Edge of the World (1978) by Brian Stableford; the Ash Staff trilogy by Paul R Fisher; the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett; the Damar series by Robin McKinley; Talking to Dragons (1985) and other books by Patricia C Wrede; and any number of books by Jane Yolen. It is in this category that many fantasy Games books belong, including the Fighting Fantasy series by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons titles and spinoff books by Gary Gygax, and the Lone Wolf books by Joe Dever (and their novelizations by John Grant). [MA]

7. 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 (1971) 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 (1981), where money really does grow on trees, and Treehorn's Wish (1984) with a more traditional Genie in a bottle. Probably the best-known Nesbit imitations are those by Edward Eager, which began with Half Magic (1954) and included the particularly clever Knight's Castle (1956). Other imitations include: the irregular but long-running Eleanor and Eddy series by Jane Langton – The Diamond in the Window (1962), The Swing in the Summerhouse (1967), The Astonishing Stereoscope (1971), The Fledgling (1980) and The Fragile Flag (1984) – where the children undergo magical adventures with the help of the enigmatic Prince Krishna, though the fantastic element weakens in the later books; Carbonel (1955; vt Carbonel, the King of the Cats 1957 US) and its sequel, by Barbara Sleigh, in which a girl acquires a Witch's broom and familiar; Awkward Magic (1964; vt The Magic World 1965 US) and later books by Elisabeth Beresford; The Apple Stone (1965) by Nicholas Stuart Gray, where a stone inside an apple allows children to talk to inanimate objects; The Sea Egg (1967) by Lucy M Boston, where two boys find an egg on a beach which hatches into a merman (see Mermaids); Magic in the Alley (1970) by Mary Calhoun, where a box found in a junkshop contains various magical objects; What the Witch Left (1973) by Ruth Chew, where children find a number of magical objects in an old trunk; William and Mary (1974) by Penelope Farmer, where children discover a shell that allows them access to any pictures or poems of the sea; The Talking Parcel (1975) by Gerald Durrell (1925-1995), where children find a parcel containing creatures from the land of Mythologia; Stoneflight (1975) by Georgess McHargue, where a girl befriends a stone griffin, which comes to life; and most of the books by John Bellairs, especially The Figure in the Shadows (1975) and the Johnny Dixon series. Arguably Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1964) by Ian Fleming is Nesbitesque, though here the magic is invented rather than discovered (see also Chitty Chitty Bang Bang [1968]). Helen Cresswell paid tribute to Nesbit in her continuation of the Psammead stories in The Return of the Psammead * (1992), based on a BBC children's tv series.

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 (1955) by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. Others seek to make light of occult powers, as in The Worst Witch (1974) and sequels by Jill Murphy (1949-2021). Yet others find children uniting with those possessed of talents to work on the side of good or ultimate redemption, as in The Witch Family (1960) by Eleanor Estes, Wilkin's Tooth (1973; vt Witch's Business 1974 US) by Diana Wynne Jones, and The Changeover (1984) by Margaret Mahy. [MA]

8. Animal stories This is one of the biggest categories of CF. 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 (1926-2017), which began with A Bear Called Paddington (1958). Of more relevance to older readers in the 1950s were The Hundred and One Dalmatians (1956) by Dodie Smith, and The Rescuers (1959) and its sequels by Margery Sharp. Mice are popular in children's stories (and in the movies – Mickey Mouse is the prominent example) and reappear in The Mouse and His Child (1967) by Russell Hoban, a book for older children (if not for adults) which considers the gradual maturity and possible transformation of a pair of Toy mice; the altercation between the mice and rats is masterfully handled. A similar but less transcendental story is Manxmouse (1968 UK) by Paul Gallico, in which a toy mouse comes to life, while Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1972) is a Science Fantasy by Robert C O'Brien (real name Robert L Conly; 1918-1973). More recently mice have dominated the world of the beast fable in two popular series: Redwall by Brian Jacques and the Deptford Mice stories by Robin Jarvis. The most significant "mouse movie" is probably Don Bluth's An American Tail (1986), which again is difficult to classify as a children's rather than an adult fantasy.

There were other animal stories in the 1950s. Gallico produced a number of Cat books, including The Abandoned (1950; vt Jennie 1950 UK), in which a young boy is turned into a cat (see also Transformation), and Thomasina: The Cat who Thought She was God (1957). Still popular is E B White's Charlotte's Web (1952), a rather idiosyncratic fantasy in which a spider saves a pig's bacon. It may be partly derivative from Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell. Pigs, like mice, have ever been popular in children's fiction, at least since the start of the Freddy picture-books by Walter R Brooks; possibly destined to be one of the most popular of all pig stories is The Sheep-Pig (1983; vt Babe) by Dick King-Smith, filmed as Babe (1995), about a pig with aspirations to be a sheepdog. The book's sequels include Saddlebottom (1985) and Ace: The Very Important Pig (1990).

The increase in the number of animal CFs can be counted from the success of Watership Down (1973) by Richard Adams; it inspired a host of imitations including: The Animals of Farthing Wood (1979) and sequels by Colin Dann; Duncton Wood (1980) and sequels by William Horwood; Run With the Wind (1983) and sequels by Tom McCaughren; The Cold Moons (1987) by Aeron Clement; Hunter's Moon (1989) and Midnight's Sun (1990) by Garry Kilworth; plus Adams's own variation on the theme, The Plague Dogs (1977). [MA]

9. Movies The topic of CF in the Cinema is huge, not least because, outside movies concerning Dark Fantasy and Horror, most filmed fantasies – and almost all Animated Movies – are regarded as primarily children's fare. This is a ridiculous view, since some of the best, most innovative and most sophisticated fantasy appears on screen rather than in books; but it is one that we are, for the moment, stuck with. Movie fantasies aimed purely at children are comparatively few and far between: most aim for the "family audience". Movie Supernatural Fictions, by contrast, are generally aimed at adults, although there are plenty of exceptions – Hocus Pocus (1993) is an obvious example.

The major purveyors of CF in the movies have of course been Disney. Leaving aside the studio's animation production, Disney has released rafts of fantasies – usually Technofantasies – whose standard has not always been high, though often they have been commercially successful; the Herbie Movies are a prime example. Animated shorts from Disney, Warner Bros., MGM and others are often filled with fantasy notions, and are for the most part intended for children. The same goes for Saturday-morning Television animation, most of which is dire; only Disney and Hanna-Barbera can regularly be relied upon to produce acceptable fare. For a fuller coverage of CF in the movies see Cinema. [JG]

10. Conclusion The above categories do not exhaust CFs. There are, for instance, a number of Monster stories, such as The Giant Under the Snow (1968) by John Gordon, and the remarkable The Iron Man: A Story in Five Nights (1968; vt The Iron Giant 1968 US) and The Iron Woman: A Sequel to the Iron Man (1993 chap) by Ted Hughes. There will always be different and challenging stories for children, for CFs capture and broaden the imagination of a child. Whether they be subversive or instructional, it is by reflecting our world through the imagination that a child can prepare for reality. [MA]

further reading: Tellers of Tales (1946; rev 1953) by Roger Lancelyn Green; Written for Children (1965; 3rd rev 1987) by John Rowe Townsend (1922-2014); Down the Rabbit Hole: Adventures and Misadventures in the Realm of Children's Literature (1971) by Selma G Lanes; Pipers at the Gates of Dawn: The Wisdom of Children's Literature (1983) by Jonathan Cott; The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (1984; rev 1985) by Humphrey Carpenter and Mari Prichard; Secret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children's Literature (1985) by Carpenter; "Twentieth-Century Children's Fantasy" by Mary E Shaner in Masterworks of Children's Literature, Volume 8: The Twentieth Century (1986) ed William T Moynihan and Shaner; Not in Front of the Grown-Ups: Subversive Children's Literature (1990) by Alison Lurie (1926-2020).

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.