A Short History of Fantasy by Edward James, Farah Mendlesohn

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By Edward James, Farah Mendlesohn

A number of the earliest books ever written, together with The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Odyssey, take care of monsters, marvels, awesome voyages, and magic, and this style, referred to as myth, remained a necessary a part of eu literature in the course of the upward thrust of the fashionable realist novel. Tracing the historical past of myth from the earliest years via to the origins of recent myth within the twentieth century, this account discusses contributions decade via decade—from Tolkien’s Lord of the earrings trilogy and Lewis’s Narnia books within the Fifties to J. ok. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It also discusses and explains fantasy’s carrying on with and becoming reputation.

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I follow E. A. Speiser’s Anchor Yale Bible Genesis (1963) and John Van Seters’s Abraham in History and Tradition (1975) in judging that J originally wrote this text, and what we now have is a severely censored story. Abraham, who strove to save the dreadful inhabitants of Sodom, hardly would have sacrificed his son’s life without a considerable agon. Rather touchingly, Isaac and Ishmael, Isaac’s Arab halfbrother, son of the Egyptian Hagar, cooperate in the burial of their father, Abraham. Genesis achieves a new greatness in its tales of Jacob, the only other biblical protagonist whose personality and character are as comprehensive, vivid, and endless to meditation as the heroic David, who was a new kind of man.

8 ¶ And the L ORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 11 The name of the fi rst is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; Five Books of Moses: Genesis 29 12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

Yahweh imposes mortality as a punishment, which makes him something of a hanging judge who thus concludes a children’s story inappropriately. What mitigates Yahweh’s harshness is that we are not reading narrative theology but a family romance that crosses over into tragicomedy. J’s irony, too pervasive to be noticed, makes me wonder at the near-contradiction of a withdrawal from mortals of a freedom they never had. J knows nothing about immortality. The expulsion from Eden is therefore an eloquent puzzle: 22 ¶ And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the L ORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

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