Of the writers we’ve chosen to feature, we discovered they have two conspicuous similarities: 1) Their works have been transformed into award-winning Hollywood blockbuster films and/or series and 2) They all use initials in their names. (We suspect this act of abbreviating is a rite of passage into a secret elitist sci-fi fantasy society…).
But theories aside, whatever your constitution may be—extreme high fantasy fanaticism (i.e. you weekend LARPers) or simply having an appreciation for the endless imagination of this genre’s authorship—here are five high fantasy writers who’ve caught our fancy:
The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) is coined the “father” of modern fantasy literature and is most famous for his works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which are set in a prehistoric realm called Arda and includes the famously known “Middle-earth.” In this world, Tolkien created extensive maps, along with make-believe histories and languages, which he referred to as legendarium. Originally, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as children’s tales, but the latter evolved into something darker (this is clear by the evolution of creepy Sméogol). With great support from his close friend C.S. Lewis, Tolkien continued his 10-year plus journey writing The Lord of the Rings. A devout Catholic, he’s largely credited for converting Lewis from atheism to Christianity.
The Chronicles of Narnia
Among his various works, C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) is best known for his seven-part children’s book series The Chronicles of Narnia, which has sold over 100 million copies internationally in 41 languages. The series takes place in the world of Narnia—a land where there is magic, talking animals, an ongoing battle between good and evil, (and our favorite, Turkish Delights). For almost all of the series, children play the heroes, fighting to uphold good, as commanded by the majestic lion Aslan. Considering Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia after his re-acclimation to Christianity, the books have strong Christian themes, as well as influences from Irish and British fairytales and Roman and Greek mythology.
Inspired by the British Llewelyn Davies boys, J.M. Barrie (1860-1937) created Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up—a play-turned-novel about an ageless boy who takes his friend Wendy to a fantastical place called Neverland. Co-inhabited by fairies, redskins, mermaids, and super-intelligent birds, Neverland brings denizens Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and the Lost Boys together for an epic battle against Captain James Hook. Although Barrie had other substantial literary successes, Peter Pan dominated his oeuvre. Barrie is credited for popularizing the name Wendy at the turn of the century, and he’s also known for donating all rights to his Peter Pan works to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital in London, which benefits from his generous endowment to this day.
From homeless single mom to billionaire children’s book author, J.K. Rowling (b. 1965) changed the literary world forever when she shared her love for wizardy and magic in her Harry Potter series, starting in 1997. The seven-part high fantasy adventure follows young wizard Harry Potter—who attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy with friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger—and his overarching quest to destroy the Dark Lord Voldemort. Unlike most children’s literature, Rowling’s Harry Potter books delve into darker themes like death, corruption, and prejudice, which have sparked controversy to varying degrees. Regardless, HP has become the best-selling book series of all time, with over 450 million copies sold in 67 languages. Cheers to the power of a woman’s imagination.
WATCH VIDEO: J.K. Rowling’s Mini Bio
George R.R. Martin
A Game of Thrones
American author and screenwriter George R.R. Martin (b. 1948) became a household name when HBO adapted his fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice, into the popular cable drama, Game of Thrones, which is the title of his first book in the series. Similar to the book, the TV version of Game of Thrones introduces us to Martin’s Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. While the kingdoms fight for power, dragons are secretly birthed and an evil supernatural race lurks beyond The Wall, a border made of magic and ice in the North to protect the Seven Kingdoms. Martin was surprised the first volume wasn’t a best seller, but it gained momentum by word of mouth and helped the subsequent volumes reach the New York Times and other Best Seller Lists…now children all over the world think Santa Claus is doubly skilled at giving presents and storytelling.