The Hapless Writings of a Canadian Fantasy Author
Gods, Daemons and Demons: The Ever-Expanding Pantheon of Fantasy
In this latest from his regular series, Canadian-born, UK-based fantasy author Matthew Ducharme has something to say about our fantastical, non-human fauna and flora.
There are many recipes to good fantasy, and a multitude of forms it can take, but there are two ingredients that must always be present: magic and mythical creatures.
I argued in my second article that fantasy can’t truly be fantasy without magic. I believe this to be true—if you disagree, let me know why in the comments (though you’re still wrong)—but I also believe fantasy requires fantastical creatures.
Elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, hobbits, balrogs, and myriad others in the well-known Tolkien-inspired stables are, for me (and most of you too, I bet), the first to come to mind. But in my—our—defence, these creatures have dominated the fantasy of 20th and 21st centuries. They’ve been a sort of foundation for the genre’s collective lore.
Take, for example, TTRPG. I’m an avid tabletop gamer. I’ve played games like Hero Quest, Warhammer and D&D for waaaay longer than it’s been cool—thanks for the bump, Stranger Things—where these creatures are also commonplace staples. In game, we know which monsters, non-human races, and beasts of burden to expect.
Games that use miniatures are, by design, very static; if there isn’t a miniature, it’s not in the game, simple as that. D&D, however, has a lot more freedom, also by design. An experienced DM (Dungeon Master for those of you who haven’t played) can throw in some weird and wonderful new monsters, so long as they follow the rules of the game, but that’s rare. Still, most of what we see comes from the (now vastly expanded upon, and still expanding) Tolkien pantheon.