Talk:Low fantasy

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Untitled[edit]

Can anyone provide references or examples of the usage? The only ones I've found in the print world are in Gary K. Wolfe's Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Clute & Grant Encyclopedia of Fantasy, both of which in turn point to a single 1977 introduction by Boyer and Zahorski, where the definition ("Narratives in which the fantastic element intrudes on the 'real world,' as opposed to fantasies set all or partially in a Secondary World") is not the same as that proposed in the article. The term is not otherwise in common use in literary criticism and is clearly a back formation from "high fantasy." The meaning in the article, on the other hand, seems to be formed by analogy with "low comedy." It might be useful to separate the areas where the term is actually used--in literary discussions, it is rare enough that I've never seen it used in 35 years work as a teacher and critic. RLetson 01:01, 7 April 2006 (UTC)

The objection about Harry Potter is right but for the wrong reason, the whole point of the morality section is to end the circuitous debate you can see at the top of this very page... Having fantasy races does not make it "High Fantasy", and being in an "alternate Earth" doesn't make it "Low Fantasy", but the moral dicotomy of good v. evil that is clearly defined and completely static DOES push it into the high fantasy realm.
The point of the "morality" argument is clearly defining one bellweather that can cut though all the "how much magik is too much magik" or "its an alternate earth, BUT WITH ELVES!" arguments, one clear and concise criteria with which to judge, or at least the "final" judgement if other points are too grey to decide upon. Sturmrabe 04:19, 9 August 2007 (UTC)


The February 2006 issue of White Dwarf magazine has a whole article on playing the Warhammer Fantasy Battles miniatures game with a "low fantasy" theme

This will probably only worsen your confusion, but I have never seen it used outside the internet, where it is used mostly about fantasy role-playing games, and only occassionally as a way to describe fantasy books. I mostly agree with Boyer and Zahorski's definition, though I would also like it to include some works set in fantasy worlds.

"The meanng in the article, on the other hand, seems to be formed by analogy with "low comedy."

That was not my intention. I will see if I can find a way to make the article better.sindreman

Allow me to make a suggestion: Start with the fact that the term has different senses in different contexts or subcultures and outline what they are. The Boyer-Zahorski sense seems to be the only one operating in the print/literary-critical world. (And I emphasize that it is a very rarely used term there, though "high fantasy" is pretty well established.) If the gaming world uses it in a different way even when talking about books or films or TV shows, document that usage separately. A possible dividing-point might be that the term seems to be constructed in contrast to "high fantasy," but with different elements or aspects of highness/lowness being emphasized.
Something like this:
Low fantasy is a term coined in opposition to various aspects of the older term "high fantasy." It has different senses in different contexts. As a literary term it originated with [cite Boyer-Zahorski], who see is as a subgenre of fantasy literature in which "the fantastic element intrudes on the 'real world,' as opposed to fantasies set all or partially in a Secondary World" [in-line citation of Wolfe and Clute & Grant]. [para break] In the world of role-playing games, however, "low fantasy" indicates [plug in whatever the most common usage is, along with citation]. The term is also sometimes used to describe comic fantasy [insert citation/authority/examples, along with note that this may be a relatively minor usage].
Just a suggestion, but one that might allow the various senses to be laid out without too much confusion. RLetson 18:57, 14 April 2006 (UTC)

Rewrote the article to emphasize the umbrella nature of the "low fantasy" concept. Added several types that I had run across that were not included. OTOH, many of the meanings may overlap, and I did not develop that fully. Goldfritha 02:20, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

Just goes to show; I need to du my edits quicker instead of planning them for a long time.Just kidding. Goldfritha, you've done a wonderful job. Sindreman (UTC)

I'm not sure if "Darklands" should be listed as an example, considering it's set in C14th Germany. It certainly includes fantasy elements, but is generally considered a historical RPG.

Real, including historical, settings are one criterion that has been held to be a mark of low fantasy. I'm not surprised that the term isn't often used, since it's so confused, but being in a real setting doesn't disqualify it. Goldfritha 23:04, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Original intent[edit]

I reverted an unreferenced claim that the "original intent" was "a story lacking a clear cut dichotomy of good versus evil." There have been a lot of original intents. Without references -- and for the claim that this was the original intent, and whose intent it was, and why this person's intent trumps all other usages -- this is not a valid cliam. Goldfritha 23:42, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

Moral Dichotomy and Low Fantasy[edit]

Although I agree the claim of that being its "original intent" oversteps its bounds, the ideas of what qualifies something as a Low Fantansy tale has only one overarching consistancy: the moral "greyness" of the setting or the main character (I refrain from using the term hero).

Some say its the lack of fantasic races and creatures, but you CAN have gritty, impure, self centered Elves/dwarves/whatever.

Some say its the use of magic, but like in Robert E. Howards Hyboria, magic is there, but its a horrible dark thing that corrups men and steals their soul.

But all agree that a hallmark of high fantasy is the Pure Good v. unredeamable Evil, and Low Fantasy ALWAYS lacks it...

So Harry Potter is clearly NOT low fantasy.

--Who are your "some" that "say" and your "all" that "agree"?  I'm dying to know.  —Preceding unsigned comment added by 174.155.177.155 (talk) 09:10, 22 July 2009 (UTC) 
I don't see pure good and unredeemable evil in Middle Earth. Certainly Tolkien didn't. Solri (talk) 13:30, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Harry Potter is NOT Low Fantasy, even by the definitions advanced in this very article[edit]

I'm sorry, I don't want to vandalize this article, but it is clearly wrong, even by its own definitions.

If Harry Potter is judged by the very criteria of low fantasy advanced here-- that it is morally ambiguous, that it has no fantasy races, that it de-emphasizes magic-- well, Harry Potter fails on every one of these. Harry Potter doesn't qualify as low fantasy just because it is (partially) set in the real world. So are the Narnia books, for gosh sakes; are those 'low fantasy' too? Obviously not. Harry Potter is a series that revolves around the use of magic, that has fantasy races and that has no moral ambiguity-- Valdemort is bad, Harry is good.

The original article needs to be changed to reflect this.

Request has been made

70.65.143.201 16:12, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

I've removed Harry Potter.
(From the History tab - I think you should have just deleted it. It was adding a comment into the body of the article that caused the reversion, not the comment itself).
AdamBMorgan 17:10, 7 August 2007 (UTC)
The "low fantasy" denomination is really a problem. First, by using the word "low", which do has an unconscious derogatory connotation, it will cause people to try to circumvent the classification; also, since it is a category of opposition to "high fantasy", and as such a definition only in the negative (and that of something quite vague to begin with!), something does not have to be "low fantasy" because it is not "high fantasy". Harry Potter is absolutely not high fantasy, and I doubt it is low fantasy. Then again, the definition of low fantasy used in this article is pure original research, so who knows... Miqademus (talk) 03:24, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Peer review[edit]

I created the subpage which is necessary for the article to be peer reviewed.-gadfium 20:04, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

The Witcher[edit]

Could the Witcher be considered low fantasy- gimodon —Preceding unsigned comment added by 209.204.160.88 (talk) 02:14, 17 February 2008 (UTC)

Massive Anonymous Edits[edit]

Some anon edits completely removed all references to the ambiguity of morality in Low Fantasy tales, this has been added back. I see a lot of butchering going on on this page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Sturmrabe (talkcontribs) 19:08, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Morality Definition Issue[edit]

I have an issue with the "morality definition" of low fantasy that seems so popular. Actually, my issue is more with the claim that "a hallmark of high fantasy is the Pure Good v. unredeamable Evil." This is quite simply not true, and is demonstrated by The Lord of the Rings itself, which this article claims possesses a "stark black and white separation of good and evil that locks it into the "High Fantasy" realm." Lord of the Rings, in fact, has no "pure good" characters, and the question of redeemable evil is one Tolkien explores (Saruman, Gollum, Denethor, and even Frodo are called upon to repent and be redeemed, and succeed to varying degrees). Even the orcs have moral sensibilities (Gorbag's disapproval of abandoning allies, a "regular elvish trick"). All this is quite apparent, and documented by Tolkien scholars (see: Tom Shippey). Therefore, to claim a book with the moral complexities of The Lord of the Rings as a hallmark "Pure Good v. unredeemable evil" is A.) false, B.) absurd, and C.) horrendously unhelpful for defining "Low Fantasy." There may indeed be serious moral differences between High and Low Fantasy, and LoTR may be interesting in revealing them, but as it stands, the article is exceedingly innacurate and unhelpful. The first step toward fixing it may be to remove all references that patronize the moral sophistication of High Fantasy. Agreed? Nurambar (talk) 16:23, 10 September 2008 (UTC)

If having an epic battle between good and evil were a defining feature of high fantasy, then Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be high fantasy. Solri (talk) 17:52, 20 October 2012 (UTC)

100% Original Research[edit]

Wow. This entire artical is pure Original Research. The description of the subject matter here may be valid, in its author(s)' opinion(s), but that doesn't make it any less O.R. Please, give at least a few external references to this term in use and convince me that you're not trying to coin/define a term that you think needs coining/defining. Especially the part about a Judeo-Christian, good vs. evil worldview as a defining factor. Anyone know how to tag an article for swift deletion, pending a few citations? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 174.155.177.155 (talk) 09:02, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

I have to agree with this. Perhaps if someone could just provide a few acceptable sources for this term? Personally I've never heard of it, of course that don't mean much, but still it shouldn't be too hard to verify "low fantasy" as a notable term within the opening paragraph, if in fact it is one (which I don't think it is). Conceptually it seems similar to Sword and sorcery with a few ambiguous differences, and despite the fact that the idea of separating the fantasy genre into yet another amorphous and utterly ridiculous sub-genre appalls me, if "low fantasy" is a notable term then by all means give it an article. But first, please cite the term according to WP standards, because it seems this one is raising more than one eyebrow and does smack of phrase coining and OR. If so, this article should be wiped, or at the very least put up for AfD discussion. --Trippz (talk) 05:42, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure what you mean; the article is currently thoroughly referenced throughout. The Low/High classification of fantasy is fairly standard and used extensively (although not the only classification). There are probably more references available but the article clearly verifies the use of the term itself. (The beginning of this thread appears to reference a previous version of the article which was indeed WP:OR, I've since changed it and cited sources. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 20:07, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps it would be helpful to find a specific ref that clearly defines this term. Currently the only cited definition is found in the sentence, "Low fantasy can be described as non-rational events occurring in a rational setting", for which there are three refs. This is a very ambiguous definition and could be applied to an array of sub-genres that could be argued are not "the opposite of high fantasy" as the article also states, and perhaps even outside of the traditional Fantasy genre as a whole. Many works found in other sub-genres such as Sci-Fi, S&S, Horror, ect. all exhibit these qualities as well, not to mention a few outside of Fantasy. In essence this term as being used seems to attempt to separate High Fantasy from all these other sub-genres, when in fact High Fantasy is just another sub-genre, and saying Low Fantasy appears to be just another way of saying "not High Fantasy". Definition by negative. While I can understand the spirit of term, I'm not too sure it is in fact an actual sub-genre itself, but rather a collection of sub-genres that aren't High Fantasy, and therefore not a distinct classification itself. Understandably, defining sub-genre is no easy task and open to interpretation, and it's not our role to define terms here. Unfortunately I do not have access to the refs being used to confirm how they are being used to define this term, and though I have no problem taking them on good faith, surely an easily accessed ref for "low fantasy" can be found if this is in fact a notable term as being claimed. Unfortunately even doing a quick Google comes back with dubious results, none of which necessarily define the term as applied here, and others themselves even apparently questioning the use of the term itself [1] (see title ?). "Gritty" or "Brutal" fantasy has long been applied to Sword and sorcery, (i.e. Conan, a work that pre-dates most High Fantasy works), in which the focus is on personal conflict and not epic conflict, and/or concepts of good vs. evil are not absolute. Additionally, applying the term to works that only have a marginal use of fantasy (or "magic") would include a limitless host of sub-genres, and again, is just another way of saying "not High Fantasy". Here is an interesting websource that might be helpful [2], in which some good arguments are placed forth, but even found there is the mention that it is not an "agreed upon" genre onto itself, but rather an umbrella or collection of sub-genres, going so far as to to state, "Attempts have been made to clarify the term, but so far none of these have gained a dominant position". As a term, it is clear that it open to interpretation and far from consensus. Maybe some removal of the use of sub-genre replaced with "collection of sub-genre" would be more appropriate. Or perhaps a section within the High Fantasy article would be more appropriate? This may actually be a situation where an AfD could help clean up the article or suggest a merge to pre-existing articles. Conceptually I see what the term is attempting to define, but I don't believe "low fantasy" is an actual sub-genre as the article claims, nor do I believe it is a widely used term, and may actually already defined by a number of other pre-existing sub-genres. --Trippz (talk) 08:41, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
How is "low fantasy" distinct from "magical realism"? It seems to me that the definition of "low fantasy" is sufficiently vague as to encompass works by Thomas Pynchon and Umberto Eco as well as less complicated works such as Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. Sbeitzel (talk) 20:08, 15 January 2010 (UTC)
The article is more of a description than a definition, and there probably isn't any coherent definition for the term. I would say that it's much like other literary subgenres in this. There's a body of work which is thought of as "low fantasy" because of some combination of its style, subject matter, author, publishing house, genre association, social context, chronological context, and so on, and when people try to talk about what "low fantasy" is, they wind up naming some attributes that the body of work called "low fantasy" has in common rather than coming up with rules that clearly delineate it. This is probably not actually a terrible thing. —chaos5023 (talk) 04:38, 16 January 2010 (UTC)
I've attempted a rework of the opening paragraph to include mention of the vagueness of the term and address the idea that various works could be categorized under the umbrella term. The previous content seemed to suggest Low Fantasy as a distinct sub-genre, which may not be entirely accurate. --Trippz (talk) 09:21, 16 January 2010 (UTC)
I'm afraid I've reverted your edit. The ref you gave is a copy of this Wikipedia article, albeit an old one. That won't work as a reference anyway but the old article was horribly bad and riddled with WP:OR. I removed everything, not just the reference, as it comes close to Self Referencing: stating that there is no consensus in an article due to a lack of consensus in the talk page is against policy. I have, however, added Google Books links to those sources that are available through Google (limited views but it should be enough). I have also added the search tool at the top of this page to help with finding information about the subject. I think this will show that there is academic consensus about the meaning, and existence, of the term. Sorry I didn't do this earlier. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 01:40, 17 January 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, I have to defend this. I'm sure you believe your standpoint, but I have to disagree. Thanks for providing the additional links, it is helpful to see where your definition is originating. However, I'd point out that in none of these refs is it stated that "low fantasy" is a sub-genre. This is the point that is causing problems. Nothing found there indicates that Low Fantasy is a distinct subgenre, but rather it actually appears to support the idea that it is a collection of sub-genres. It's a TERM (and arguably a notable one) used to describe a type of work, which is what I attempted to make clear in my edits. As I stated before, the definition found in the article is itself vague and easily applied to works even outside of Fantasy. Please cite a ref indicating that "Low Fantasy" is a sub-genre. The closest the refs you provided comes to supporting your argument is in "Worlds of Wonder" and even then it is stated that it is a "strain" in Children's fantasy. Children's Fantasy is itself a sub-genre of Fantasy. Please relook over my edits, and objectively consider that perhaps your interpretation of the term "Low Fantasy" may be in error. Please indicate and cite the "academic consensus about the meaning" you have mentioned and please ask yourself if it is a sub-genre or rather just a term. As for citing this discussion for "non-consensus", that was not my intention, but rather something that was stated within the ref I provided. That ref may be in question, that I don't know (I'll have to look through archives to see), but to claim the term "Low Fantasy" represents a distinct sub-genre as stated in the article appears to be original research. You may be inadvertently assuming it is a distinct sub-genre, instead of a type of fantasy storytelling. They are different things. If I go to the book store and ask for High Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Fantasy Horror, etc., I will likely be directed to a particular area. The same may not be said if I ask for Low Fantasy. Sorry, I'm reverting the article back, though I will retain your links to the google books. If you are having a problem with the "non-consensus" statements, I will leave them out until I find another supporting ref, though the existing one may still hold up provided it is not a verbatim copy/paste of an older edit. I'm willing to work with you and it is not my intention to enter a revert war. If you can cite a source that legitimately indicates "Low Fantasy" as a distinct sub-genre it would be helpful. Please remember we are both trying to increase the quality of content on WP, and please remain objective. I believe you may be confusing a descriptive term with a sub-genre. --Trippz (talk) 07:32, 17 January 2010 (UTC)
It is worth noting that SF signal used the term "low fantasy" in their graphic of the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books, and I believe that this page provides a valuable contrast to the high fantasy page.

References[edit]

I have added three references and changed the lead to fit the information given. These all come from Google Books but there are some relevant books in my local libraries, which I will check and add to the article as time allows. I haven't found anything so far about the morality of Low Fantasy and the examples section is just a start. If any further examples are added, providing a valid reference will help to prevent original research creeping any further into the article. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 12:33, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

As part of this, I have removed the following from the article. All of this is currently unsourced. I am placing this here so that it can more easily be returned ot the article as soon as citations become available. This also allows me to remove the maintenance teplates from the article. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 16:55, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Though a vague term, some features that may indicate low fantasy are: downplaying of epic or dramatic aspects, de-emphasising magic, real-world settings, realism, cynical storytelling and dark fantasy. An archetypal example of low fantasy might take place in a quasi-historical setting where the protagonists lack a clear moral initiative, are haunted by dark pasts or character flaws and where conventional fantasy elements (such as magic, elves, or dwarves) are lacking or absent.

There are many arguments about what constitutes the line between Low and High fantasy, but invariably in High Fantasy there is a moral dichotomy of altruistic good and irredeemable evil, and in low fantasy there are many shades of gray, where the "main character" is often an anti-hero.

Shadowrun, and the lore behind Shadowbane, are both examples of fantasy that includes elves and dwarves, in a setting without a clear good/evil dichotomy. Many of the White Wolf role-playing games would also be considered low fantasy, while including magic and/or "fantastical" races and themes because of the moral ambiguity of the setting.

The sword and sorcery genre is the style of fantasy writing most associated with Low Fantasy.

LotR classification: contradiction[edit]

The lord of the rings gets classed here as "primary world doesn't exist" (so only secondary world exists), while in the High Fantasy topic it gets classified as "alternative timeline in primary world" (so no secondary world exists). 94.169.249.202 (talk) 09:58, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

That's OR on the High Fantasy article. The source material only has the first three classes; "alternative timeline" was added by a wikipedian. I'll try to fix it. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 12:09, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

Total rewrite and additions needed badly[edit]

This isn't an article on low fantasy, it's an article on high fantasy with a few lines about low fantasy written in. Can't we add more examples? Perhaps modern L.A. with a werewolf clan or two? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 173.189.11.224 (talk) 23:47, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

I totally agree. I read this article after just reading the one about high fantasy, and there's absolutely no new information antwhere. This article should be rewritten by someone who actually KNOWS what low fantasy is, and not someone who's only read the high fantasy article. Unfortunatley I don't qualify, so I can't do it. Kalligrafi (talk) 08:01, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
The original comment-poster checking in and seeing that this article still lacks a coherent and carefully-researched point of view. The problem remains: "low fantasy" is not a common, let alone standard term in the literary realm, no matter how common it is in on-line discussions among readers and gamers. If it were a common or standard term, it would show up in the standard reference works (Encyclopedia of Fantasy, the Jessesword OED site), and if there were disagreements or discussions of shades of meaning (as there are with, say, "hard SF"), you would find them in the scholarly literature. If it's primarily something that fans and amateur commentators argue about, then that's what the article should say. Literary taxonomy is not an exact science, but it does have some rules. RLetson (talk) 03:54, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm not sure what you're talking about. The article has a lot of referenced information from published sources; I added a lot of them myself. The "on-line discussions" problem existed in previous versions of this article, before I rewrote it, in which "low fantasy" was used to mean "grimdark" (a different, modern phrase for the same thing) rather than the literary term regarding the primary world. I made the rewrite to resolve disagreements over the article; hence the use of published sources to reference the article once I researched teh correct meaning. There will always be some overlap between the high and low fantasy definitions because they are the two classifications possible under the primary/secondary world system; they share a commons definition. This system is not the only one in use and some sources ignore both high and low fantasy in favour of one of the other systems. Farah Mendlesohn's system ("portal fantasy" etc) seems most popular these days but that doesn't invalidate the older low/high system as far as a Wikipedia article is concerned (doing so will introduce recentism and systemic bias into the encyclopedia). There should be articles about the other systems but they won't affect this article. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 12:22, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
While I am now convinced that "low fantasy" has some currency outside on-line forums and fan discussions--primarily, from the evidence offered in the article, in the children's literature field--this treatment still strikes me as reaching, more than a little OR-ish, and in need of a clean-up of its research and references. For example:
In the "Definition" section," paragraph 2 refers to a section of the Magill reference set, "Contemporary Theories of Fantasy," by Gary K. Wolfe, and nowhere on the page cited (nor on the ones immediately preceding and following) do I find mention of either "low fantasy" or "ontological security." Is the actual passage elsewhere in that volume?
Gamble & Yates do explicitly define "low fantasy" in contrast to "high fantasy," though I note that while the "high" label is clearly derived from Tolkien studies, they don't provide a source for their use of "low" and cast the sentence in the passive voice. I'm still curious about just where the usage in this sense originates.
Is the connection between "low fantasy" and Mendelsohn's taxonomy made by Mendelsohn? Or is it a comparison made by a WP editor and thus OR? Or is there another critic who makes the connection? Similarly, I don't see a source for the connection between low fantasy and magical realism, nor do I recall ever seeing them equated in the manner the paragraph asserts. I could be missing something, but a solid source would nail it down.
The reference to Worlds of Wonder would seem to be to Judith Saltman's "The Ordinary and the Fabulous: Canadian Literature for Children" (pp. 189ff), not to the Leroux essay that precedes it.
The "Distinguishing between subgenres" section seems to be full of OR applications, particularly of the Gamble & Yates model.
There might be more, but you get the idea. In the case of a term which has emerged relatively recently (I'd estimate in the 25 years since I stopped teaching SF/F) and that has a range of meanings, it is useful and even necessary to trace it to its origins as understood by the critics who actually use it. RLetson (talk) 22:56, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't have access to all of these books at the moment but Google Books provides some back up. RE: Magill and "ontological security", see this link and search for "ontological security" in the "From inside this book" field. The line in question is "In 'low fantasy' the supernatural is used to carry the onslaught against reason by showing as possible what is impossible, thus disrupting the ontological security of the world order." RE: The comparison to Mendelsohn's taxonomy, this sentence is referenced. Please see: The A to Z of Fantasy Literature. RE: "Magical realism", this is also referenced in the article. Please see: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales.
RE: The source, I don't know but the names Zahorski and Boyer are frequently cited (for example, in The A to Z of Fantasy Literature). It is possible they coined the term. The earliest date Google shows for this is 1978 in the intoduction to Fantastic Imagination II. WorldCat shows this is a collection of fiction. There are lots of references to the pair and their definition throughout the 1980s.
Sorry--I must have swapped a couple of digits in the Magill page numbers. But a conventional reference format (with the title and author of the actual entity being cited, in this case "European Theories of Fantasy," by Franz Rottensteiner) would have alerted me to my mistake. There are limits to the kind of research that can be done via the internet alone. I've gotten spoiled myself (I own the Magill set, and it's tedious work to eyeball-scan hard copy for a phrase instead of hitting "Search"), but the library techniques and protocols I learned a half-century ago remain the basis for getting reliable results. The starting point is always the standard reference books, and Google--even Google Books--will not necessarily identify which of the search hits those are (though the top hits might give a clue). Gary K. Wolfe's Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy is one such standard, good for the period up to 1978. The Clute & Grant Enclopedia of Fantasy is current up to the late 1990s. Prucher's Brave New Words (2007) and its associated website are based on dated exemplars of actual usage, and the website is about as current as one could reasonably expect. And so on. Literary taxonomy, particularly as it applies to living forms and traditions, is neither simple nor fixed, and treatments of emerging terms will not always yield clear-cut results. RLetson (talk) 19:33, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Low fantasy as grim and gritty[edit]

It is common for "low fantasy" to be used online to refer to fiction that is grimmer and grittier than average. This is not the technical definition of low fantasy and may have come from gaming. The English language is ever-changing and I think this definition should be mentioned even if it isn't technically correct. I would like to add something about this to the article but I cannot find a reference for it that wouldn't be original research. If someone can find a suitable reference for the grim and gritty definition, please add it to the article or list it here for someone else to use. It would be especially helpful if it describes where this new definition came from (gaming as the source is just my impression, or original research, after trying to find such a reference myself). - AdamBMorgan (talk) 12:41, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

It probably occurs because there is a large overlap between low fantasy and dark fantasy. They are, however, different sub-genres, or, more importantly, different types of sub-genre. Low fantasy is a genre of matter, dark fantasy of mood. Solri (talk) 14:57, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

Absolutely, completely wrong[edit]

This entire thing is completely nonsense. "High fantasy" refers to a setting in which only the elite have magic/power. "Low fantasy" refers to a setting where everyone has magic/power. Middle fantasy, obviously, is where it falls in between. Allow me to explain why the current asinine definition is worthless.

Consider Xanth. Xanth is unabashedly based on Florida, and is a world where everybody has magical abilities. By both the correct and the stupid definitions, this is low fantasy. But there is absolutely no reason why this needs to be the case. Xanth could just as easily have been based in a theoretical world that happens to have a large peninsula, and there would be no difference at all in the stories. By the stupid definition, this would mysteriously become high fantasy, a distinction which therefore would be absolutely worthless.

Similarly, consider the Lord of the Rings, which is often considered the epitome of high fantasy. Unfortunately, Middle Earth is England. (Valinor is the Isle of Wight.) Stupid people might never have realized that, but no proper Englishman would write about anything else. So by this retarded definition, LotR is low fantasy, while by the proper definition, it is high fantasy. Again, arbitrarily changing this setting in insignificant ways would change the distinction. In what fucking way does that make any sense?

Now consider fantasy role playing. If you have a gaming session, and you say, "This is high fantasy" it should tell your players that magic is rare and special, and they shouldn't expect to find magic items in every dungeon and village they encounter. Likewise, if you specify that it is low fantasy, they know that magic is easy to find, and they shouldn't be surprised if the random farmhand they encounter has some magical ability. This is a useful thing to understand, and has a consistent and meaningful definition across settings.

I hope you will all consider this, and pull your collective heads out of your asses.

While you could argue that this ought to be the difference between high and low fantasy, I've never come across the terms used this way. BTW, insulting the writers doesn't any good in getting your opinions accepted. Solri (talk) 08:39, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
I apologize for using inflammatory language; I shouldn't have done that. But I'm not going to change it now. You have in fact always heard these definitions being used this way, you just haven't realized it. It's the reason that when someone calls some settings high or low fantasy, it just seems wrong. The definition people have come up with and placed here just doesn't always fit with what people really mean. Just review the fantasy settings you know, and you'll see how the correct definitions just make more sense. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 99.17.244.46 (talk) 22:30, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
To date I have only seen low fantasy defined in two (contradictory) ways: as fantasy taking place in the real world, and as a synonym for sword and sorcery. If you have examples of other definitions, feel free to cite them. Solri (talk) 13:08, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

Fictional but rational world?[edit]

Could someone explain what is meant by "a fictional but rational world" in the opening section? Solri (talk) 08:42, 17 March 2013 (UTC)

Dark Fantasy[edit]

I notice dark fantasy is conspicuous by its absence here. Not all dark fantasy is low fantasy, of course, but many of its most popular examples are. In particular, the vampire romance (Stephanie Meyer, Charlaine Harriss) and supernatural investigation (Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison) sub-genres are low fantasy. Solri (talk) 15:06, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

Sword and Sorcery[edit]

The recently-added paragraph on sword and sorcery is problematic, not because it's necessarily wrong (some people do describe sword and sorcery as "low fantasy") but because it uses a different definition to the rest of the article. We need to indicate this ambiguity of the term "low fantasy" somewhere in the introductory paragraphs. It's clear that there are two definitions of low fantasy going around: 1. fantasy set in the real world or a familiar variation of it; 2. fantasy about "low-level" characters. This parallels the ambiguity in the term "high fantasy" which means 1. fantasy set in a secondary world, or 2. fantasy with epic themes. As far as I can tell, definition #1 is dominant in literary/academic circles, while #2 has some traction in fandom, and in particular in the RPG community. Both are thus worthy of mention, but they need to be kept separate. By definition #1, Conan the Barbarian is high fantasy and Supernatural is low fantasy; by definition #2, Conan is low fantasy and Supernatural would logically though counter-intuitively be high fantasy, given all those archangels. Solri (talk) 12:19, 27 March 2013 (UTC)

I've removed it. I found a book that actually gives an RPG definition of low fantasy, GURPS Fantasy, and used that for a separate section. I've also adapted this example for the lead. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 20:32, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

Marvel, DC, Supernatural, Buffy are low fantasy, now?[edit]

By the primary discriminating factor between high and low fantasy--primary world vrs. second world--laid out in this article, then the Marvel and DC comic universes, and the shows Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are all low fantasy. The Marvel comic universe takes place in the real world, with some additions (such as non-terrestrial inhabited planets). Several of the best known characters inhabit New York City. A setting with Norse gods, nigh-omnipotent pyrokineticists, entities who can recover from as little as a single unharmed cell and literally unstoppable literal juggernauts is somehow low-fantasy because it uses our real world and geography with bits tacked on. Ditto DC, save that it uses fewer real cities. Supernatural doesn't even have inhabited alien planets, just a couple of extra metaphysical realms. And yet it has invisible hellhounds, angels, demons, and monstrous things which take human form and are only susceptible to borax in water. Which is to say nothing of the first couple of seasons worth of Monster of the Week. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it's spinoff, Angel, has Heaven, multiple hell realms, all manner of demons, witchs, werewolves, vampires (which are demons possessing corpses), and technomancy. And it's low fantasy because a place called California exists?

The way this article tells it, I could write a story where every person on earth can call fire from the sky and carries a sword capable of felling mountains in a single stroke, and so long as I didn't create my own world, it'd be low fantasy. 76.250.3.254 (talk) 11:41, 23 July 2013 (UTC)Korbl

Supernatural and Buffy are definitely Low Fantasy. DC and Marvel I'm not sure about; you could say that they have diverged so far from the real world that they no longer count (and fictional places like Gotham, Metropolis, Latveria, etc may add to that). - AdamBMorgan (talk) 11:50, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
The Marvel and DC universes are special cases that don't fit very well into genre taxonomies. Classic superhero stories tend to be on the fantastic end of SF, but the addition of frankly supernatural elements has resulted in an inconsistent "universe" which doesn't fit any genre categories. This is what happens when membership in a world is determined by your publisher! Buffy and Supernaturtal, though, are definitely fantasy, and definitely low fantasy. The fact that they contain some other worlds is irrelevant because very little of the action occurs in those worlds. Something is low fantasy, in the sense of primary world fanasy, if most of the events occur in something like the primary world (obviously it can't really be the primary world because vampires etc. can't exist in the primary world). Solri (talk) 13:12, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Low Fantasy is 'low' on the fantasy spectrum[edit]

I've had a look at this page several times and every time I have thought the definition presented is utterly incorrect. As I have always understood it, Low Fantasy and High Fantasy are (somewhat obviously) opposite poles. Allow me to expand on this.

High Fantasy is (according to the Wikipedia page), defined by the epic stature of its themes, characters and plot. Okay. I'd expand on that: High Fantasy is also definable by the inclusion of elves and dwarves and magic (often in liberal amounts and without explanation) - corroborating with the above citation of Lord of the Rings as a quintessential example of High Fantasy.

So if we view the level of 'fantastical-ness' as a spectrum, and place Low Fantasy at the other end (as its nomenclature would suggest), then logically Low Fantasy should be defined by the exclusion of dragons and orcs and magic and all the stuff that comes with it. Perhaps view it as a question of 'how far from reality' the fantasy is - is it 'high' above the ground level that is reality, or low?

So, for example, stories like Eragon or The Lord of the Rings or the aforementioned story where "every person on earth can call fire from the sky and carries a sword capable of felling mountains in a single stroke", would be 'High Fantasy', versus stories like A Song of Ice and Fire, which would be infinitely lower (off the top of my head I can't think of a story other than my own work which completely does away with elves and magic and so on, but if you guys can please do enlighten me).

Make sense? Sound worth using? Let me know what ya'll think. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 27.252.216.120 (talk) 09:58, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

Reference names[edit]

As a retired old man, I struggle with technology. I have tried to add Alan Garner's The Owl Service to the list of examples here (I only came to this page through a link on the article about the novel), but can't see how to make use of the refname that I was told to put. There are many possible links on the The Owl Service page. Please can someone make my addition safe - or tell me how to do it?

MacAuslan (talk) 16:24, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

Conan is High Fantasy?[edit]

The article claim that Conan the Barbarian is high fantasy, but by this article's very own "literary" definitions shouldn't it be low fantasy? It happens in our (primary) world. In a highly speculative version of the distant past yes, but unlike Tolkien Howard has made an effort to try to make it work with what was available to him of the (if now highly outdated) science of the time he wrote it. No secondary world exists. Furthermore magic and other "fantasy elements" are considered abnormal and supernatural occurrences within the setting and is treated much in the same way they are in H. P. Lovecraft's works.--Painocus (talk) 13:09, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

It's a secondary world in the same way Tolkien's Middle Earth is a secondary world setting. Both are explicitly intended as the prehistory of the real, primary world. Tolkien's intent was the same in that regard. As for magic, it's rare and dangerous in Howard's work but not that rare or an intrusion from elsewhere. The high/low definition isn't really the best way to subdivide fantasy fiction but within its terms Conan is high fantasy. Solomon Kane and works like Skull-Face are more low fantasy. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 14:17, 24 December 2014 (UTC)