Friday 8 December 2023

Review: British Library - Fantasy: Realms of Imagination

I went to the British Library exhibition Fantasy: Realms of Imagination earlier this week and I can honestly say I enjoyed it more than any other exhibition I've been to this year - probably more than any in the past few years. It ticked every box for me, but that's possibly because it crossed over most of my interests. 

It starts by explaining that modern fantasy can be traced back to ancient folk tales and epics, which continue to inspire creators and fans. The first things to see there relate to fairy tales, which I've loved since I was a child. It continues by showing fantastic art and literature over the centuries. The photo to the left shows an 1882 edition of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, illustrated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The history of fantasy literature is a topic I already knew quite well as I studied it at university as part of my degree. One course I took as part of my BA was Fantastic Literature and another was Heroic Epics in the Oral Tradition, so you can see this exhibition is right up my street. However, I still learnt things I didn't already know and saw some books that are now on my wish list!

But fantasy and mythology also tap into Paganism. Some tales date back to ancient times, but modern fantasy literature has also influenced current paganism. Many poeple I know say they've been inspired by reading books such as Alan Garner's The Owl Service or Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising. (You can see one of the Owl Service plates in the photo on the right.)

The exhibition isn't just about books and art. There are displays relating to roleplaying games, fantasy boardgames and computer games. These are also things I enjoy. The picture at the top shows a section about a computer game called Fallen London, which I really got into in its early days.

The last bit covers fan creations including some wonderful costumes made for live action roleplaying and you can see some in the photo to the left. I admit that back in my younger, slimmer days I owned a replica Xena Warrior Princess costume that I wore to Larps. Wish I could get into it (and look good in it) now. I was reminded of that in the section on TV and films, which has one of my favourite scenes fromn the Xena series.

I'm going to try to get back to the exhibition again before it closes in February because I enjoyed it so much. I thoroughly recommend going if you get the chance. 

The British Library is at 96 Euston Rd., London NW1 2DB. You can get exhibition tickets here:

There's also a catalogue alongside the exhibition which you can buy at the British Library shop or at places like Amazon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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