Friday, 29 April 2016

Y is for Young

Lately I've seen the same picture shared on Pinterest and Facebook (but of course I didn't save it and now I can'd find it…) It's done like texting messages between two people - might be a real one, might not - questioning why protagonists in Fantasy literature tend to be pretty young. Other genres share this to a point, but Fantasy is one of the few genres that doesn't have to feature the protagonist as a young person. (Frodo might seem young, but he's 50.)

The point of the converstation in the picture I metioned is that it would be awesome to have an old lady, complete with a magical handbag and a kitten sidekick, who went about righting things in the world since she finally had no one to care about but herself (no, that wasn't the exact text, just the idea).

Every time I've seen that appear in a writing group on FB, the post gets a lot of likes. One threads went wild, people starting to post all kinds of version on the theme "old fantasy heroes" and what adventures they would have.

It was hilarious. It was fun.

And then most of us go back to write about fantasy heroes in the upper teenages. I'm no exception. I'd love to some day make a story about a 40-something mother who has to leave husband, kids and work to go on a mission to save the world. Or a 60-something man with a grandkid in tow because he needs help to read the instructions on the magic scrolls. Or a 90-something on the run from the rest-home because she's the only one immune to the new virus (but the 'on the run' thing has already been done - The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared). Still, my protagonist tend to be around 20.

I think the many young protagonists of Fantasy can be traced to the time when Fantasy was seen as merely 'fairytales', but for a slightly older audience. Firmly rooted as Young Adult, they needed heroes in the same age as the potential readers. Same reason that the vast majority of heroes were male, but that has changed. Perhaps, as the genre is walking into the New Adult - and Adult - shelves, we'll see more protagonists who are slightly older.

Of course, there are other reasons for fantasy heroes to be young - the same reasons as YA. These people are often at a crossroads in their life, need to start stand on their own, making their own way in the world and decide what's good and what's evil. Older people tend to have done that journey already (and is in our mind less likely to be tempted by the wrong side), and to make the experience more powerful we choose the teen who is on the verge of taking adult shape.

Even if it still will be easier to juggle a sleugh-job and family, or only work as a superhero on weekends, it would be awesome to see an ordinary family man or woman pulled into a fantasy adventure (and if we go Narnia style, the time spent adventuring won't matter).

And if you make up your own fantasy world, all you need to do is use a social system that allow adults to have as much fun and growing to do as teens.


  1. As an over 50 I totally agree with you! ~Liz

    1. :D
      I'm not quite over 50 yet, but give me 5 more years....