Sunday, February 10, 2013

Magic in Stories for Children: Part Five - Things That Never Were

That fact that C S Lewis’ Narnia is populated by creatures from just about every myth or legend in human history, most of them unconnected to each other in any previous stories, has never sat well with critics and purists of the fantasy genre. However, children don’t care and simply appreciate a really good story. Children are very familiar with mythological creatures and many think they are real, or at least were at some point in the past. To some young children, a dinosaur or mammoth is just as genuine a unicorn or a dragon. 

During my own visits to schools, when discussing my historical fiction novels The Sorcerer's Letterbox and The Heretic's Tomb, which are set in the medieval time period, children tend to know all about kings, queens, castles, knights and other aspects of the era, but invariably mention dragons. It isn’t that they have a lack of historical knowledge, but merely reflects the fact that dragons and other mythological monsters are almost always associated with fantasy tales, which generally take place in a traditional sword and sorcery environment. 

Of course, magical creatures other than dragons appear in fantasy adventures. Sometimes they are well known such as unicorns, ogres, giants, trolls, griffins, centaurs, hypogriffs and so on, but on occasion the author invents his own, such as Falkor the Luck Dragon in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story. In my fourth novel, The Emerald Curse, the chief villain Baron Midnight creates his fearsome hybrids, combinations of the fiercest and most vicious creatures on earth, to create an army of invincible monsters. 

One of my more popular workshops with elementary age students involves the invention of a fantasy creature. Children must create their own imaginary animal combining two creatures together and give it a superpower, other than that of flight or breathing fire, which are all too common, along with the creature’s habitat, diet, enemies and so on. Some students are highly imaginative and many draw wonderful pictures of their monsters. The students are always so enthusiastic about this exercise, although we often run out of time, since they are so eager to share their creations with their classmates. An extension of this exercise involves the invention by the students of their very own fantasy kingdom.

Learn more about The Alchemist's PortraitThe Sorcerer's LetterboxThe Clone Conspiracy,  The Emerald CurseThe Heretic's TombThe Doomsday MaskThe Time Camera and my many non-fiction books on my website.

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