Since the beginning of time mankind has made up epic fantasy stories in the form of myths to reflect his role in the universe. The oldest piece of written work is the Epic of Gilgamesh. It was inscribed on stone tablets a thousand years before the Iliad was written and it is in the genre of epic fantasy. Since this piece was written many more have followed.
We are all familiar with the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, or the story of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. We are also all familiar with the quest of Bilbo Baggins. Why have these stories and others like them survived for so long? Why are they so fully engraved in our psyche as a race? Is it because they are fun stories? It is true that they are good stories and grand adventures but they also convey a deeper meaning about what it is to be human. And this search for a deeper meaning has been with humans since the beginning of time.
The ancient Greeks created myths that revolved around heroes facing the wrath of a variety of gods. This helped them to understand their place in the world and it applied meaning to their lives relative to the world they lived in. In medieval times humanity changed. The Renaissance brought with it a new understanding of the world we live in. And that new understanding brought new questions. No longer were we subject to the whims of a variety of gods. We, as people, gained a new control of our own lives and we came to the realization that it wasn’t gods that controlled us but it was us who controlled ourselves. This made us look inward. It caused us to seek out the things within ourselves that made us like the old gods. This new outlook was reflected in the epic fantasy myths of the times. Heroes looked inside themselves. They took great strides in making themselves better people. They believed that there was a right way to be and this belief is epitomized by the code of the knight.
There are no dragons to slay, there are no more knights, and there are no princesses to rescue. How do these stories of heroic quests apply to you today?
Each character in these stories is given a task of a seemingly impossible nature. And each character has to find his way through a world wrought with dangers, difficulties and obstacles. The parallel here is obvious and we all travel a similar road to that of Gilgamesh and Jason but this isn’t the real reason why epic fantasy is so relevant to our lives. This kind of conflict and searching is found in just about every piece of fiction and in every medium. The secret to why epic fantasy rises above all the others is hidden within each story itself.
Joseph Campbell, in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, outlined the twelve steps that each hero must take on his personal journey to realizing his quest. One critical early step that must be made is the meeting with the mentor. The mentor himself has traveled his own personal journey, learned many lessons along the way and he imparts this wisdom on our hero. Our hero learns some valuable lessons from someone who has been there and done that. This is exactly what epic fantasy does for you. It works as a mentor.
In a beautiful sense of folding in on itself the hero of an epic fantasy story becomes a mentor to you. You travel along with the hero and you learn the lessons that he learns. You learn the value of trust or the danger of greed. And most importantly you learn the value of persisting in your personal quest and following your heart because in the end you see the reward.
Read the stories of the epic fantasy hero and listen to the lessons that he can teach you. Maybe there are no more Dragons and no more damsels in distress but you are in the middle of an epic quest called your life and you must follow this quest to the end. This quest is the search to find the meaning in your life and epic fantasy is the mentor that will help you find it.
Will Kalif is the author of two epic fantasy novels and he is currently engaged in the quest to find the meaning in his own life. You can visit his website devoted to epic fantasy at: The Only Epic Fantasy Website