Can Reading Fantasy Make You a Better Person?
We fantasy readers have felt misunderstood all our lives! We often have an unusual understanding of our world, and sometimes we’re accused of being antisocial because of that. Sometimes it seems like we live in another dimension, which we definitely do.
But what if I told you that all those years spent reading fantasy fiction have actually benefited your social and empathetic abilities?
Can Reading Fantasy Make You a Better Person?
Turns out, new studies are popping up everywhere that show the benefits of reading fantasy. These studies show that reading fantasy can help people live and feel all the emotions and experiences in the books. This is not news to us. In fact, we relish the fact that we can live many lives through the pages of another place. Fantasy readers experience a tumult of emotions from our fantastic worlds where good battles evil, magicians roam eerie moors, and the supernatural thrives.
Our heroes encounter beings from other dimensions, gods, wizards and extraordinary creatures. These experiences become a part of us, just like our own memoires. We look back on them with joy as if we had lived through them ourselves. The best thing about literature is that it allows us to face challenges head on in a detached, objective way. We are able to watch the scenarios play out in front of us as we become the observer. Real-world experiences and traumas shape us as human beings. Living vicariously through epic fantasies can also mold us, changing our ways of thinking.
Here are some examples of how reading fantasy can help you become a better human being:
The Name of the Wind
In this epic fantasy novel by Patrick Rothfuss, we learn that heroes have faults and sometimes become their own worst enemies. The main character, Kvothe, must learn to overcome his faults before he destroys his life. People often have the same problem in real life. Sometimes we damage our own opportunities by not looking closely enough at ourselves. Kvothe has to learn to see and overcome his own faults. In order to discover the name of the wind, he must find himself and focus on what he truly wants.
The Name of the Wind also teaches us to seek knowledge and not to rest until we discover all there is to know about a subject. Kvothe’s early traumatic experiences drive him to study magic at the University. There, he learns Artificing and medicine while also finding ways to sneak into the archives he has been banned from visiting. Kyothe’s character shows the importance of education as a way to reach our goals and become successful people. He lets nothing stand in his way when it comes to learning. However, it is Kvothe’s own folly that got him banned from the archives in the first place.
Much like Kyothe, we can ruin our opportunities with our choices. This character demonstrates how we make our own limitations, yet we also have the power to overcome them. Whether it’s by naming the wind or reaching our life’s purpose, we get to decide how we respond to the challenges we create.
Harry Potter Series
You can’t talk about fantasy fiction without mentioning the Boy Who Lived. JK Rowling’s wizarding world has captivated millions. The fact that the last novel was released 10 years ago, and people are still obsessing over it, is a testament to its depth.
Harry Potter is such an admirable character, sacrificing himself always for the protection of his friends and the wizarding community. We grow and mature with him throughout the series. When he chose to become friends with Ron over Malfoy, we learned the value of friendship and being true to our morals. When Harry realizes that he must sacrifice himself in order to defeat Voldemort, he bravely walks into the Forbidden Forrest to face his destiny head on. He is a symbol of courage in the face of fear—a true Gryffindor.
Hermione Granger teaches us to value responsibility and knowledge. She pushes us all to be better students, and to strive for greatness instead of being average. “What would Hermione do?” This is a question we should all ask ourselves when we want to procrastinate, or when we feel like giving up on our dreams and doing the bare minimum.
Even Ronald Weasley, who is usually the less favored of the trio, bravely demonstrates that friendship and loyalty are qualities worth having. He is not afraid to ask for forgiveness when he returns to Harry and Hermione in The Deathly Hallows. He defends Hermione when Malfoy insults her, and he stands with Harry when the entire school is against him.
The Harry Potter series is truly a tale about values—teaching us to accept the differences in others and to fight for equal rights for all. Whether it’s Hermione’s fight for elf rights, or how the trio continuously defends muggle-borns against Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
The Princess Bride
Apart from giving us the greatest comeback line ever written: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,” The Princess Bride is a rollercoaster of love, magic, kingdoms, and pirates! It’s inconceivable to not love this novel. The romance between Buttercup and Westley is so passionate and true. He would do anything for her, like suffer through the mindboggling pain of the Albino’s torture chamber. Buttercup herself shows immense bravery and spunk by defying Prince Humperdinck.
The Princess Bride taught us how to look at our problems humorously. Laughing at ourselves as the narrator laughs at his characters and even his own story. Battles of wits with idiots, Fezzik, the strong giant with a sensitive side, and Inigo Montoya--a man avenging the death of his father by the six-fingered man. The circumstances are incredibly comical, and yet they all carry a deeper meaning.
Inigo Montoya finally gets to confront his greatest enemy—his father’s killer. He goes in with bravery, remembering who he is and how he came to be that way. His character shows intense dedication in accomplishing his goal. However, once he avenges his father’s death, he is left with the predicament of not knowing what to do with the rest of his life. He is a clear example of how we get too involved within ourselves, seeking a goal and not knowing what to do when we obtain it.
This fantasy novel pecks at our most basic emotions and teaches us what it truly means to be compassionate, loving and kind. Oh, and it has sword fights and rodents of unusual size (R.O.U.S)!
A much darker fantasy, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods explores the world of abandoned and forgotten mythological beings. Perhaps a metaphor for aging, these gods cling to survival and plot disastrous events in order to create chaos and feed from the hysteria.
Shadow is an ex-convict whose wife died in a car accident while cheating on him. In the book, he discovers a second world underneath our own reality—the world of the Gods.
The fact that Shadow manages to get his life together after being released from prison inspires awe. Shadow’s relatability makes us question our own beliefs towards convicts. It makes us understand that life is not black or white, and convicts are not all bad.
The character of Wednesday introduces us to this marvelous world of the Gods. He also teaches us a valuable lesson: don’t trust strangers. We learn that he is a powerful trickster god, Odin. He steals goods by tricking the cashiers into confusion, he plots the destruction of the other gods, and does not care about the consequences of his actions or for the lives of others.
This fantasy novel also speaks about the dangers of modern gods—computers, televisions, cellphones; these modern gods only want to distract us, who seek for you to depend on them, to become addicted. It serves as a metaphor for our social media led lives and our constant consumption of goods making the reader think rethink our technological lives.
The Lord of the Rings Series
Perhaps one of the most epic series of all times, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings propels the fight between good and evil into a vast battle between fantasy creatures. We begin to comprehend that our heroes have faults and are not perfect. Frodo, for example, becomes obsessed with the Ring. He suffers a detachment from reality, wanting to sacrifice the safety of Middle Earth in order to possess the Ring forever.
Frodo’s obsession warns us of the dangers of addiction, mental illnesses and evil. The evil magic in the Ring controls him like drugs control the addicted. But Samwise Gamgee’s love for Frodo brings him back to reality and makes him focus on the quest. His friendship ultimately helps Frodo destroy the Ring.
This fantasy classic also demonstrates the power of union. Beings of all types and races group in order to defeat Sauron and his army. They face these evil dark beings and win because they are mightier together than on their own. Even the Ents, the symbolic Switzerland of Middle Earth, took up arms in the Battle of Isengard! These novels truly exemplify the power of the masses against wrongdoings, and the importance of defending ourselves against evil forces.
Fantasy novels have the power to give life to worlds beyond our imaginations. But the true battle between good and evil is within ourselves. Through our gained experiences, we can help make the world a better place and learn to empathize with people from all walks of life.
What have you learned from reading fantasy? Has it also helped you to navigate the tricky terrain of daily life? Let us know what you think in the comments!