|Language and Thinking|
Fantasy and Fiction
Fantasy is an invention of language. Stories can describe real events that actually happened or imaginary events that could and could not happen. Fantasy is the basis of myth and myths are the basis of religion.
Fiction is an interesting artifact of language because you can say anything you want, invent any kind of character, rewrite physics and ignore limitations that constrain real humans. A factual story is a report of events that actually occurred. The distinction between fact and fiction is seldom well-defined, however. The realist discovers that all stories are inventions and that no story is an accurate representation of the really real.
Like most children, I enjoyed books of fantasies; fairies tales, animal stories, and stories of adventure in a far way land a long time ago. Heroes and heroines appeared in fantasy stories, providing examples of good people struggling against adversity. In the history of English literature, fantasy books were classified as children’s books. Adults obviously enjoyed children’s books and somehow believed that fantasies were appropriate for children’s development, even the grim fantasies of witches who ate children, ghosts, trolls, and other menacing creatures who lived in caves and under bridges.
Walt Disney built an empire on fantasies expressed by animated cartoon movies. I recall Bambi, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with real affection. Winnie the Pooh stories still appeal mostly to adults. I continue to quote the Taoist like observations of Pooh. Children’s stories, popular with adults, emerged in the 20th century included J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. Film adaptations of these fantasies achieved worldwide distribution. There is real magic in being a successful fantasy author; Rowling was touched by the good fairy’s magic wand and was transformed from an unemployed, aspiring writer into a world famous billionaire.
George Lucas also became rich and famous with his Star Wars movies. The Lucas plots follow the themes of myths projected into a virtual universe of interplanetary adventure. The heroes are Jedi warriors, Yoda is the Jedi guru and Darth Vader plays the role of Satan. Like Satan, Darth is a former Jedi Warrior who fell from grace and became the adversary of all things good. Star wars is populated with human-like animal characters, robots, a host of good guys and bad guys, and lots of guns, of course. Conflict is the main dynamic. Star Wars generated a highly profitable real universe of commerce with films, other media novels, television series, video games, and comic books. The revenue generated by the six Star Wars films was estimated at $4.3 billion by 2008.
The popularity of fantasy in books and movies points to a deep feature of the human mind. Fantasy resides with the narrator in each human that generates self talk. The narrator has a good side that creates optimistic, wish-fulfilling stories and a dark side that is preoccupied with threats, criticism, anger and revenge. See Myths
Dr. Gislason wrote: "In this brief reflection, I describe some basic truths about languages that are aspects of human nature most likely to endure. I feature storytelling and selftalk as the two most important features of the human use of language. I consider how languages fit in the larger scheme of intelligence and human interactions. Interesting challenges emerge when language is used to describe itself. Spoken language is an innate ability of humans that emerges in all human groups. Spoken language is the key to interaction among humans. There are several thousand languages in human groups that enhance group cohesion and at the same time separate groups that cannot communicate. I trace the evolution of sound communication from animals who have lived on earth for hundreds of millions of years to computer programming that uses condensed forms of cryptic languages that are received and expressed by electronic circuits."
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The author is Stephen Gislason and the publisher is Persona Digital Books.