Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Fantastic Voyages

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Travellers' Tales are among the oldest forms of narrative discourse. Journeys of discovery play a crucial part in Folklore, Mythology, epic poetry and medieval Romance, and similar Allegories of maturation remain central to modern fantasy. It can be argued that the principal value of Children's Fantasy is its ability to provide a sentimental education appropriate to those who do not yet possess an adult consciousness of the world; in this view, the FVs of children's fantasy mirror and provide counsel for the child's problematic progress to adulthood.

Two basic patterns of the FV, the former most familiar in the stories of the Argonauts (see Golden Fleece) and Sinbad (see Arabian Fantasy) and the latter in the tale of Odysseus, are the expeditionary Quest and the peregrinations of an Accursed Wanderer unable to reach his destination. Fairytales often use a variant in which a son leaves home to "seek his fortune". The imaginary voyage became an important instrument of Satire following the example set by Utopia (1516) by Thomas More (1478-1535), and still remains a useful satirical strategy. Many Visionary Fantasies also take the form of FVs, often incorporating elements of satire and allegory.

Classics of fantasy cast in this mould include Dante's Divine Comedy (written 1307-1321), The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (circa 1360) (see Mandeville), Amadis of Gaul (circa 1450), Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1516), The Pilgrim's Progress (1678-1684) by John Bunyan, Gulliver's Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift, Rasselas (1759) by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), The Princess of Babylon (1768) by Voltaire (1694-1778), Vathek (1786) by William Beckford, She (1886) by H Rider Haggard, The Well at the World's End (1896) by William Morris and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L Frank Baum. Outstanding later works in a similar vein include A Voyage to Arcturus (1920) by David Lindsay, The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster and The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972) by Angela Carter. [BS]

further reading: The Imaginary Voyage in Prose Fiction (1941) by Philip Babcock Gove.


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.