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Current developments at the intersection of fantasy fiction and British children's literature [Elektronische Ressource] / Anne-Kathrin Höfel

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Anne-Kathrin Höfel Current Developments at the Intersection of Fantasy Fiction and British Children’s Literature Inauguraldissertation zur Erlangung des Grades eines Dr. phil. Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg Abgabe: 22-12-2009 Disputation: 12-10-2010 Erstgutachter: Prof. Dr. Peter Paul Schnierer Zweitgutachterin: Prof. Dr. Vera Nünning 2 “Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?” Mo had said when, on Meggie’s last birthday, they were looking at all her dear old books again. “As if something was left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells ... and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower ... both strange and familiar.” (Funke, Inkspell, p. 61)  Acknowledgements I would like to thank my supervisor Prof. Dr. Peter Paul Schnierer. It is due to his encouragement and continuous support that this study saw its completion. I am very grateful for his suggestions and interest in the subject. Also, a “thank you” goes to Prof. Dr. Vera Nünning, my second examiner. I would like to thank my parents for their invaluable support throughout; words fail to express my gratitude towards them.

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Published 01 January 2010
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Anne-Kathrin Höfel

Current Developments at the Intersection of Fantasy Fiction and
British Children’s Literature



Inauguraldissertation zur Erlangung des Grades eines Dr. phil.


Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Abgabe: 22-12-2009
Disputation: 12-10-2010

Erstgutachter: Prof. Dr. Peter Paul Schnierer
Zweitgutachterin: Prof. Dr. Vera Nünning 2







“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?” Mo
had said when, on Meggie’s last birthday, they were looking at all her dear old books again.
“As if something was left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts,
sounds, smells ... and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find
yourself there too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you
like a pressed flower ... both strange and familiar.” (Funke, Inkspell, p. 61)


Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my supervisor Prof. Dr. Peter Paul Schnierer. It is due to his
encouragement and continuous support that this study saw its completion. I am very grateful
for his suggestions and interest in the subject. Also, a “thank you” goes to Prof. Dr. Vera
Nünning, my second examiner.

I would like to thank my parents for their invaluable support throughout; words fail to
express my gratitude towards them.

Thanks go to my husband Robin, who, technically and mentally, accompanied me
through all the ups and downs.

Fred Moore gladly made constructive comments and critically proofread selected
chapters of the manuscript. Fred, thank you for your selfless commitment and dedication.
Pauline, thank you for your patience with us.

Finally, thanks go to my beloved friend Monica. You did not live to see the
completion of this study, but your unfailing belief in me and your never-ending,
unquestioning friendship will stay with me forever.

This is for you.


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Table of Contents
0. Foreword.................................................................................................... 9
1. Introduction: Fantasy for British Children today............................... 13
1.1 Outline and aim of the project...................................................................................... 13
1.2 Procedure...................................................................................................................... 16
1.3 Methodology ................................................................................................................ 16
1.4 Definitions.................................................................................................................... 17
1.4.1 “Children”, “young adults” and “adults”: Phase-out models? ..................................... 17
1.4.1.1 “Children” 17
1.4.1.2 “Young adults”............................................................................................................. 19
1.4.1.3 “Adults”........................................................................................................................ 21
1.4.2 What is “Children’s Literature”?.................................................................................. 22
1.4.3 Fantasy ......................................................................................................................... 28
1.4.4 Varieties of fantasy....................................................................................................... 29
1.4.5 The intersection of contemporary British children’s literature and fantasy:
An outline of the field .................................................................................................. 38
1.5 The corpus .................................................................................................................... 39
2. A historical survey: The development of British
children’s fantasy.................................................................................... 45
3. Research report....................................................................................... 65
3.1 Situation of the contemporary research in British Children’s Literature ..................... 65
3.2 Children’s literature criticism....................................................................................... 67
3.3 Important representatives and their influence .............................................................. 68
4. Traditional elements in children’s fantasy........................................... 79
4.1 Magic............................................................................................................................ 80
4.1.1 Traditional magic ......................................................................................................... 80
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4.1.2 Modern Magic .............................................................................................................. 82
4.1.3 Fantastic creatures ........................................................................................................ 82
4.1.4 High-tech magic ........................................................................................................... 89
4.2 Evil ............................................................................................................................... 98
4.2.1 Traditional roles of evil ................................................................................................ 99
4.2.2 New roles of evil 104
4.2.3 Evaluation................................................................................................................... 108
4.3 Violence ..................................................................................................................... 110
4.4 Humour....................................................................................................................... 129
4.4.1 Traditional humour..................................................................................................... 131
4.4.2 Modern humour.......................................................................................................... 134
5. Modern structures ................................................................................ 147
5.1 Computergamisation of fantasy novels? .................................................................... 147
5.2 Primary and secondary worlds ................................................................................... 149
5.2.1 Structure and function of primary and secondary worlds .......................................... 152
5.2.2 Parallels and differences between primary and secondary worlds............................. 153
5.2.3 An exemplary comparison of different secondary world models .............................. 155
5.2.4 Alternative worlds ...................................................................................................... 166
5.3 The modern quest ....................................................................................................... 168
5.3.1 Definition of the traditional quest .............................................................................. 169
5.3.2 New elements and aims of the quest .......................................................................... 170
5.4 Child heroes................................................................................................................ 173
5.4.1 The traditional child hero ........................................................................................... 174
5.4.2 Modern child heroes................................................................................................... 176
5.4.3 Their background ....................................................................................................... 177
5.4.4 Absence of authority .................................................................................................. 179
5.4.5 The fellowship............................................................................................................ 181
5.4.6 The hero’s crisis of identity, his transition and initiation........................................... 184
5.4.7 Responsibilities, duties and conflicts ......................................................................... 191
5.4.8 Gender ........................................................................................................................ 197
5.4.9 The contemporary hero: A stocktaking...................................................................... 199
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6. Formal innovations............................................................................... 203
6.1 Canon ......................................................................................................................... 203
6.1.1 Is there a canon in this genre? - The classics ............................................................. 204
6.1.2 Towards a (new) canon in British children’s fantasy................................................. 206
6.2 Allalderslitteratur ....................................................................................................... 209
6.3 Single versus dual address.......................................................................................... 213
6.4 Crossover literature .................................................................................................... 217
6.5 Infantilisation or rejuve-maturation?.......................................................................... 219
6.6 Social criticism........................................................................................................... 221
6.6.1 Morals, values and messages of current British fantasy novels for children ............. 226
6.6.2 Theology and Ethics................................................................................................... 230
6.6.3 Theology and children’s fantasy: The modern role of God and angels ..................... 231
6.7 The current trend ........................................................................................................ 242
6.8 “Parasitical” literature ................................................................................................ 242
6.9 Parodies ...................................................................................................................... 243
7. Summary and evaluation of research results..................................... 249
7.1 Outlook....................................................................................................................... 252
8. Bibliography .......................................................................................... 259
8.1 Secondary works ........................................................................................................ 267


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8 0. Foreword
For simplicity I have made the following definition: Whenever in this study author,
hero, reader or any comparable term is used, I infer both genders.

1“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Simple as they are, these few
memorable words introduce us to the most complex of all fantasy worlds created so far. When
Tolkien scribbled the opening sentence of The Hobbit, Or There and Back Again (1937) onto
a blank page found amidst exam papers, little did he know that what he had just penned was
to become the symbolic turn of the tide for the success of modern fantasy literature. With The
Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) Tolkien has rendered himself and his creation,
the universe of Middle-earth, immortal. Today, some seventy years later, Middle-earth still
enchants millions of readers and now also viewers worldwide. Not only did Peter Jackson’s
film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) create a monument to the author and his
work, but also to fantasy in general. It pays homage to a genre which, for many decades, had
2been met with literary critics’ scant regard and stigmatised as nursery inventory. Tolkien’s
3literary achievement has earned fantasy confidence, respectability and an ever increasing
popularity.
At first glance, it seems that Tolkien created a paradox situation. Although his two
major works ring in the modern vogue of fantasy literature and have gained the status of very
influential model cases and trendsetters, they are deeply rooted in an ancient and thus
conservative tradition. How then did the author manage to revolutionise a genre with a
traditional concept? Very conveniently for Tolkien, the literary conventions and contents of
fantasy have remained quite stable over the centuries. Above all, natural changes affect the
actuality of the form fantasy takes. Varied as they may be, epic poetry, folklore, fairy tale,
literary fairy tale or fantasy novel, the red thread running through them is the basic idea of a
conflict between good and evil, to be solved by the triumph of man. From time immemorial
fantasy has been an omnipresent component of world literature, oral or written. Sharing its

1 J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit, Or There and Back Again. London: HarperCollins, 1999 [1937], p. 3.
2 In 1969, John Rowe Townsend deplores that children’s literature has no status and is considered unfit for
research. Compare John Rowe Townsend. “The Present State of English Children’s Literature”. In: Sheila
Egoff; G.T. Stubbs; L.F. Ashley (Eds.) Only Connect: Readings on Children’s Literature. Toronto: Oxford
University Press, 1969, p. 417.
3 Compare: Ann Swinfen. In Defence of Fantasy: A Study of the Genre in English and American Literature since
1945. London; Boston; Melbourne, Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984, p.4.
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eventful history with all the ups and downs, stages of great achievements, wide circulation
and esteem alternate with periods of neglect, disregard or even condemnation. Despite
repeated temporary existence in the literary underground, fantasy has always resurfaced.
Without its influence, many masterpieces of world literature would be unthinkable or would
not have had such an impact.
In a kaleidoscope of diversified forms, the umbrella term fantasy encompasses the
most varying literary works, ranging from poetry to drama and epic. Thus, Beowulf and the
Nibelungenlied, Everyman, Dante’s La Divina Commedia, selected plays by Shakespeare,
stories from 1001 Nights, but also Gulliver’s Travels or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are
united by their involvement with fantasy. Undoubtedly, the big assets of these works are their
adaptability and versatility, which allow varied employment in different epochs und genres.
Several reasons account for fantasy’s magical appeal, its power to reach and touch
people on a worldwide scale. This success can be attributed to the creation of worlds with
sheer unlimited possibilities, permitting almost any theoretical or intellectual experiment.
Fantasy provides a perfect forum for discussion, dealing with and analysing universal values,
morals, traditions, politics, culture, human psychology, ethics and philosophy. Furthermore, it
deals with existential anxieties, problems and otherness arising from social contacts, an
enormous spectrum of topics the genre can address, discuss and offer solutions to. Fantasy has
always provided humans with the necessary freedom for existential questions. If we combine
this room for manoeuvre with our urge to creatively design familiar spaces and the yearning
for the discovery of new ones, we find ourselves immersed in its equivocal realm. On
entering, one is easily spellbound by one of its main characteristics: Its inherent timelessness.
Tolkien’s success is inseparably linked to the period encompassing the Second World
War. For millions, the world they had known had been thrown out of joint. In the aftermath of
the war, people were in need of a new, adapted and balanced world view and outlook on life.
With the prospect of an unknown, insecure future ahead, humans tend to seek comfort in
familiar concepts before they are ready to embrace new ideas. Temporal and spatial distance
as well as nostalgia can facilitate coming to terms with traumatic experiences in the present.
Tolkien revolutionised the genre by providing the reader with a secondary world
which exceeds the aforementioned criteria by far. On the basis of the traditional conflict
between good and evil the author erects an entire universe with its own history, mythology,
philosophy, politics and languages. By projecting the “real” lethal battle over world dominion
into an imaginary fantasy realm with medieval flair and magic, he revives epic fantasy. Long
since written off emerges thus a genre from the depths of literary history which gives new
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