One to Watch

Tomorrow night, BBC4, 9pm: first in a three-part series called Worlds of Fantasy, which looks like it’s the fantasy equivalent of The Martians and Us. Maybe it’ll even pop up on iPlayer. Anyway, there’s a bit more detail about the first episode, “The Child Within”, in the press release:

In the last 10 years, fantasy writing has become one of the biggest-selling genres in publishing, spearheaded by the huge success of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

In the first of a three-part series, this film explores the role of child heroes and heroines and asks why they have such an enduring appeal to writers of fiction for all ages.

The child hero goes hand in hand with fantasy writing, from Peter Pan to Harry Potter. In Victorian Britain, Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies – part updated fairy story, part polemic on the use of child labour – centres on the imaginary life of the book’s 10-year-old sweep hero, Tom. In its wake came a number of novels that defined fantasy writing, including classics such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice adventures and JM Barrie’s Peter Pan.

But as childhood changed through the 20th century, so did the child hero. After the Second World War, CS Lewis created the Narnia books as children’s fables, which also incorporated strong Christian themes. In the Sixties, writers such as Alan Garner and Roald Dahl brought a darker kind of fantasy for children, both psychological and bleakly humorous, while in the present day, Philip Pullman’s Lyra has become one of the defining child heroes of our age – naughty, playful, inquisitive, but with the fate of the world in her hands.

With contributions from Pullman, Garner, novelists Will Self and Alasdair Gray and critics (and obsessive Harry Potter fans), The Worlds Of Fantasy examines how the child hero grew up, and how fantasy grew with it to become the massive success it is today.

I wonder if they’ll get through the whole thing without saying “young adult”.

5 thoughts on “One to Watch

  1. Strange omissions there: no Pratchett or Tolkien mentioned? Even if this is about children’s or young adult fiction, I would expect those two to be mentioned.

  2. Vaguely wondering if it’s the one they interviewed me for. If so, there should be lots of shots of the inside of a Bethnal Green silk merchant’s house.

  3. Penny: I am a little cynical about the term, because it so clearly means different things to different people, especially across the UK/US divide (as demonstrated in other discussions around here), and because it seems to be almost entirely market-driven. So if they don’t mention it I will not be upset.

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