From swords and sorcery to dragons and magic, fantasy tropes make our stories magical.
Step into a world where mystical creatures roam, epic battles are fought, and heroes rise against all odds. Fantasy has long captured readers’ imaginations, transporting them to realms where magic and adventure reign supreme. But what is it about these fantastical tales that continue to captivate us?
The 10 Most Iconic Fantasy Tropes That Keep Us Coming Back
One of the key ingredients of fantasy is the use of tropes. Tropes are recurring plot devices, character archetypes, or settings commonly found in fantasy stories.
This blog post will explore 10 of the most iconic fantasy tropes. We will discuss the history of these tropes, their appeal to readers, and how they can be used to create memorable and engaging stories. We will also highlight a few books that use these tropes effectively.
The Hero’s Journey
The hero’s journey is a common plot structure in which the protagonist embarks on a transformative quest, facing challenges and growth. This trope has existed for centuries and can be found in many cultures and stories.
One of the earliest examples of the hero’s journey is the Epic of Gilgamesh. This ancient Sumerian poem tells the story of a hero named Gilgamesh who sets out on a quest to find the secret of immortality. Other classic examples of the hero’s journey include The Odyssey by Homer, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, and The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
The hero’s journey appeals to readers because it offers a vicarious thrill. We experience the journey’s excitement, the hero’s challenges, and the ultimate triumph. The hero’s journey also provides a framework for character development. As the hero faces challenges and grows, we see them change and become stronger.
If you want a more modern fantasy with the Hero’s Journey, read Dragon Mage by ML Spencer or the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. These are fantastic examples of the hero’s journey in modern fantasy books.
The Chosen One
The chosen one is a character destined to play a crucial role in saving the world. This character often has unique abilities or qualities that set them apart. They may be the only ones who can defeat the villain or the only ones who can unite the people to fight against evil.
The chosen one trope has been around for centuries. One of the earliest examples of the chosen one is the hero in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This hero is destined to defeat the monster Humbaba and save the city of Uruk. Other classic examples of the chosen one include Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, and Katniss Everdeen.
The chosen one trope is appealing to readers because it offers a sense of hope. We see the chosen one overcome challenges and grow into their destiny. This gives us hope to overcome our challenges and achieve our destinies.
If you want to pick up chosen one fantasy, then I highly recommend the following:
- Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth.
- Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson.
- The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin.
Sword and Sorcery
Sword and sorcery is a subgenre of fantasy that focuses on battles and adventure. It typically features a lone hero who uses their skills with a sword and their knowledge of magic to fight against evil.
The sword and sorcery trope has its roots in the pulp fiction magazines of the early 20th century. These magazines featured stories about heroes like Conan the Barbarian and Elric of Melniboné, who fought against monsters and villains using swords and magic.
The sword and sorcery trope is appealing to readers because it offers a sense of excitement and adventure. We see the hero battle against powerful foes, using their skills and magic to overcome them. This can be a very satisfying experience for readers.
These books all follow the basic steps of the sword and sorcery trope, but they each put their unique spin on it. This makes for exciting and engaging stories that readers will love.
Magical creatures are a staple of fantasy literature. They add wonder and excitement to the stories and can be used to explore themes of good and evil, magic and nature, and the human condition.
Some of the most popular magical creatures include dragons, unicorns, fairies, elves, dwarves, trolls, and goblins. These creatures have been featured in stories for centuries and continue to capture readers’ imaginations today.
The appeal of magical creatures is twofold. First, they are simply fascinating. They are often creatures we cannot imagine existing in the real world, making them all the more intriguing. Second, magical creatures can be used to symbolize different things. For example, dragons can represent power and danger, while unicorns can represent purity and innocence.
Magical creatures can be used to create memorable stories in several ways. First, they can be used to create conflict. For example, a story might involve a hero battling a dragon to save the kingdom. Second, magical creatures can be used to add humor to a story. For example, a story might feature a group of fairies always getting into trouble. Third, magical creatures can be used to explore themes of good and evil. For example, a story might feature a character who must choose between the forces of good and evil, and the magical creatures in the story can represent the different sides of the conflict.
Some more modern fantasy books with the magical creatures trope include:
- The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.
- Fireborne by Rasario Munda.
- Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst.
Prophecies are another common fantasy trope. They are often used to create a sense of mystery and suspense and can also be used to explore themes of fate and free will.
The use of prophecies in literature can be traced back to ancient times. One of the earliest examples of a prophecy is the Oracle of Delphi, a temple in Greece where people would go to seek advice from the gods. The Oracle would often give cryptic prophecies that would be interpreted by the people who sought her advice.
Prophecies are appealing to readers because they offer a glimpse into the future. They can also create a sense of suspense as readers wonder how the prophecy will be fulfilled. Additionally, prophecies can be used to explore themes of fate and free will. For example, a story might feature a character trying to avoid their fate, but the prophecy always seems to come true.
Prophecies can be used to create memorable stories in several ways. First, they can be used to create conflict. For example, a story might feature a character trying to fulfill a prophecy, but they are opposed by someone who wants to prevent the prophecy from coming true.
Second, prophecies can be used to add mystery to a story. For example, a story might feature an unclear or ambiguous prophecy, and the reader is left wondering what the prophecy means. Third, prophecies can be used to explore themes of fate and free will. For example, a story might feature a character trying to avoid their fate, but the prophecy always seems to come true.
Some more modern fantasy books with the prophecy trope include:
- She Who Became the Sun by Shelly Parker Chan.
- Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson.
- This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi
All Powerful Artifacts
Ancient artifacts are a common trope in fantasy. They are often imbued with magic or historical significance and can be used to create powerful weapons, solve mysteries, or grant wishes.
The use of ancient artifacts in literature can be traced back to ancient times. One of the earliest examples of an ancient artifact is the Sword of Excalibur, which was said to be the sword of King Arthur. The Sword of Excalibur was said to be magical and could only be drawn from the stone by the rightful king of England.
Ancient artifacts appeal to readers because they offer a glimpse into the past. They can also create a sense of wonder and mystery as readers wonder what powers the artifact might possess.
Additionally, ancient artifacts can be used to explore themes of good and evil. For example, a story might feature an ancient artifact being used for evil purposes, and the hero must find a way to stop the artifact from being used for harm.
Some more modern fantasy books with the ancient artifacts trope include:
Lost kingdoms are a common fantasy trope. They are often forgotten realms with hidden treasures and secrets waiting to be discovered.
The use of lost kingdoms can be traced back to ancient times. One of the earliest examples is Atlantis, which was said to be a wealthy and powerful island that sank beneath the sea. The legend of Atlantis has captured the imaginations of people for centuries.
Lost Kingdoms are appealing to readers because they offer a sense of adventure and discovery. They can also explore themes of history, mythology, and the human condition.
Some more modern fantasy books with the lost kingdoms trope include:
Coming of Age
Within fantasy books, the coming-of-age trope features a young protagonist who must leave their ordinary world and embark on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, the protagonist will face challenges and obstacles that will help them to mature and discover their true potential.
One of the earliest examples of a coming-of-age story is The Odyssey by Homer. The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus, a Greek hero who must journey home after the Trojan War. Along the way, Odysseus faces many challenges, but he ultimately succeeds in returning home and becoming a better man.
Coming-of-age stories are appealing to readers because they offer a sense of hope. We see the protagonist overcome challenges and grow into their true self. This gives us hope to overcome our challenges and achieve our dreams.
Some fantasy books with the coming-of-age trope include:
These books all feature coming-of-age stories that play a significant role in the story. The coming-of-age stories in these books help to create conflict and humor and explore themes of identity, family, and friendship.
Magic schools are one of my favorite things in fantasy books! Having grown up on Harry Potter, they just hold a special place in my heart.
In magic schools, we have a unique school where students are taught various subjects, such as magic theory, spellcasting, and potion making.
Of course, Harry Potter is one of the most popular and well-known magic schools in fantasy, but there are so many amazing books in this sub-genre.
Magical schools appeal to readers because they offer a sense of wonder and excitement. We see characters learn to do magic, and we can imagine ourselves attending a magical school. Additionally, magical schools can be used to explore themes of identity, friendship, and belonging. For example, a story might feature a character trying to find their place in the world, and they find acceptance and belonging at a magical school.
The Orphaned Protagonist
Probably one of the best well-known fantasy tropes is the orphaned protagonist. The main character in a fantasy book rarely has both of their parents, and even if they do, they tend to either be terrible humans or get killed off rather quickly to propel the story forward.
This trope is often used to create a sense of vulnerability and isolation in the protagonist. It can also motivate the protagonist to go on a journey, as they may be seeking to find their place in the world or avenge their parents’ death.
Orphaned protagonists are appealing to readers because they can be relatable. Many people have experienced the loss of a parent or loved one, and they can empathize with the protagonist’s journey. Additionally, orphaned protagonists often must learn to be self-reliant and rely on themselves for strength. This can be a powerful message for readers, as it shows that overcoming adversity and finding a new family is possible.
Here are a few fantasy books with orphaned protagonists:
These books all feature orphaned protagonists who go on journeys of self-discovery and redemption. These books’ orphaned protagonists help create conflict, depth, and hope.
Fantasy Tropes and Why We Love Them
Fantasy tropes are a staple of the genre and have been used to create some of the most memorable and beloved stories in history. These tropes appeal to readers because they offer a sense of adventure, excitement, and wonder. They can also explore themes of good and evil, magic and nature, and the human condition.
We explored 10 of the most iconic fantasy tropes in this blog post. Discussed their history, appeal to readers, and how they can be used to create memorable stories. We also highlighted a few modern fantasy books that feature these tropes.
I hope you enjoyed this exploration of the iconic fantasy tropes. Check out these books if you’re looking for a new fantasy book. And who knows, you might find a new favorite trope!