What is Epic Fantasy?

The grandest of all fiction genres. Certainly present in pulp publications but has its roots in the one saga that rules them all: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. When you mention “fantasy” to just about anyone, Tolkienesque scenes of ancient forests, powerful wizards, and fire-breathing dragons come to mind. Elves, dwarves and little gnome-like folk with all of their unique cultures woven into a thoroughly detailed storyscape with tons of deep lore.

Epic Fantasy, sometimes interchangeably called “High Fantasy,” is called epic for good reason. Unlike its cousin of sword and sorcery, epic fantasy focuses on an entire world and its timeline as opposed to a singular character adventure. Magic is abundant and common, and the inhabitants of these settings tend to be less realistic, drawing heavily from myth and folklore.

An epic fantasy narrative will commonly have a more clear differentiation between good and evil, as the heroes of these stories are regularly on a quest to save the world from cataclysmic peril. Fans of epic fantasy find themselves immersed in these magnificent worlds that contain great detail about its religions, histories, cultures and ecologies. Quite a few epic fantasy works were the result of an author’s lifetime of research and world-building.

The magic that’s found in epic fantasy also sets it apart from other fantasy genres. Where S&S shows magic as mysterious and often to be feared, epic tends to have an epistemological basis for it. Whether it’s leaking from another dimension, sourced from a deity, or sometimes summoned by a mage’s inner will, there’s an explanation and sometimes even a science behind it.

The influence of this genre has few equals. From tabletop gaming, to movies to video games to comic books and just about every form of media ever has a foot in epic fantasy. Authors like JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Robert Jordan, and many others have filled our imaginations with grandiose sagas of mythic proportions for nearly a century. Sometimes the sheer volume of these texts can be daunting. But those who do quest into these heroic ballads will find unforgettable masterpieces.

This is true storytelling mastery that sends the reader on a truly epic journey.