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Thread: Epic Fantasy and High Fantasy, the same or different?

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    Epic Fantasy and High Fantasy, the same or different?

    Epic Fantasy - Set in medieval times, these books focus on a good-versus-evil story. Tolkien is the founder of this sub-genre.

    High Fantasy - Extremely character-driven fantasy that often focuses on a greater good rather than the well-being of the characters.

    Differences between the two
    Some would classify Epic Fantasy and High Fantasy together. Others would say that they are separate sub-genres sharing both similarities and differences with each other. I would agree with the latter. After doing some research on books called Epic Fantasy and others called High Fantasy, I have found a few things that distinguish the two.


    Epic Fantasy:
    takes place in medieval times

    often uses good-versus-evil as the central story

    usually involves a large cast of characters

    relies on sub-plots to advance the story

    Average Length: 120,000-160,000 words


    High Fantasy:
    takes place in medieval or modern times

    involves magic

    focuses on fewer characters and often relies heavily on character growth

    sometimes presents situations in shades of gray, and lets the characters decide what is right

    Average Length: 70,000-100,000 words


    Am I right about this? It would explain a lot of things, such as why we see 500+ page epic fantasy books when the typical length of fantasy is supposed to be about 70,000 words.

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    Hopeless Romantic fedorable1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Four_Elements
    Am I right about this? It would explain a lot of things, such as why we see 500+ page epic fantasy books when the typical length of fantasy is supposed to be about 70,000 words.
    Pretty much. The way I see it, High Fantasy is more of a setting. It's the time period. It's the situation. It's the way the world works, and the way the characters deal with that world. The situations tend to be much more personal, and the heart and change within a character is what matters most.

    Epic Fantasy, however, is more of the scale. The entire world is affected. The fate of good and light hangs in the balance versus a dark force. The Lord of the Rings was a perfect example. All of Middle Earth depended on the success of the fellowship and the forces of good - or else all would be lost in eternal darkness. There is no middle ground here.

    There are many elements that both subgenres share, but that is the basic difference.

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    practical experience, FTW
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    The term "High Fantasy" has always troubled me slightly, as it leads to the question, What is low fantasy?

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    Inappropriate Charmer Saanen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vomaxx
    The term "High Fantasy" has always troubled me slightly, as it leads to the question, What is low fantasy?
    The Xanth books? :p

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    excessively spartan preyer's Avatar
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    i loved the xanth books... when i was fourteen.

    i've always considered high fantasy to be more fantastical with more cliched characters. epic suggests to me an ending, not only of the great evil, but oftentimes the cast themselves whereas high fantasy would have them ride off into the sunset. maybe that's just me.

  6. #6
    alcar
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    low fantasy is, well.

    Lawrence Watt-Evan's With A Single Spell pretty much. The key difference is sometimes a grungier feel than, say, High Fantasy, and the magic is generally more mundane. At least, that's my take on it.

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    Resident rodent-freak whitehound's Avatar
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    I would have thought the main thing about Epic Fantasy was that it is very long, takes place over a wide area and time and deals with big events - history-changing battles, the fate of whole cultures and so on, rather than domestic incidents.

    For example, IMO The Last Unicorn is one of the best fantasies (indeed one of the best books) ever written. But it's not epic, because it's fairly short, and because it concentrates mainly on the fates and happiness of a handful of individuals rather than the fate of a society.

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    I really do look like this. azbikergirl's Avatar
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    IMO, high fantasy refers to stories heavily dependent on magic, often containing Tolkienesque characters. Epic fantasy tends to be long, but I think the most defining characteristic is that the fate of a large number of people is involved, not just the hero and friends. Maybe an entire country or a world, such as a battle over a throne ("A Game of Thrones" comes to mind). IMO, an epic could take place over a short period of time and involve a handful of characters, but it's the consequence of their failure (or success) which make it an epic. Good vs evil? Not necessarily.
    Karen
    writing as KC May


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    practical experience, FTW Nateskate's Avatar
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    Technically, a book can be both then?

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    practical experience, FTW
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    It can, can it? It seems to me that mine is. Since it is like a high fantasy that evolves around larger events. (i.e. saving the worlds) would that fall under both?

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    Canada's sweetheart Niesta's Avatar
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    Is this a good place to ask what the various other subgenres of fantasy are? Or has that been covered in a previous thread that someone could direct me to?

    Pretty please with a banana?
    Run for the roundhouse, Nellie. They can't corner you there.

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    http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/fsubgenre.html gives a brief description of each sub-genre.

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    Exclamation This Thread Is Closed

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