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Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction involving magical elements, typically set in a fictional universe and sometimes inspired by mythology and folklore. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became fantasy literature and drama. From the twentieth century, it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels, manga, animations and video games.

Fantasy is distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the respective absence of scientific or macabre themes, although these genres overlap. In popular culture, the fantasy genre predominantly features settings that emulate Earth, but with a sense of otherness.[1] In its broadest sense, however, fantasy consists of works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians from ancient myths and legends to many recent and popular works.

Most fantasy uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Magic, magic practitioners (sorcerers, witches and so on) and magical creatures are common in many of these worlds.

An identifying trait of fantasy is the author's use of narrative elements that do not have to rely on history or nature to be coherent.[2] This differs from realistic fiction in that realistic fiction has to attend to the history and natural laws of reality, where fantasy does not. In writing fantasy the author uses worldbuilding to create characters, situations, and settings that may not be possible in reality.

Many fantasy authors use real-world folklore and mythology as inspiration;[3] and although another defining characteristic of the fantasy genre is the inclusion of supernatural elements, such as magic,[4] this does not have to be the case.

Fantasy has often been compared to science fiction and horror because they are the major categories of speculative fiction. Fantasy is distinguished from science fiction by the plausibility of the narrative elements. A science fiction narrative is unlikely, though seemingly possible through logical scientific or technological extrapolation, where fantasy narratives do not need to be scientifically possible.[2] Authors have to rely on the readers' suspension of disbelief, an acceptance of the unbelievable or impossible for the sake of enjoyment, in order to write effective fantasies. Despite both genres' heavy reliance on the supernatural, fantasy and horror are distinguishable from one another. Horror primarily evokes fear through the protagonists' weaknesses or inability to deal with the antagonists.[5]

Elements of the supernatural and the fantastic were a part of literature from its beginning. Fantasy elements occur throughout ancient religious texts such as the Epic of Gilgamesh.[6] The ancient Babylonian creation epic, the Enûma Eliš, in which the god Marduk slays the goddess Tiamat,[7] contains the theme of a cosmic battle between good and evil, which is characteristic of the modern fantasy genre.[7] Genres of romantic and fantasy literature existed in ancient Egypt.[8] The Tales of the Court of King Khufu, which is preserved in the Westcar Papyrus and was probably written in the middle of the second half of the eighteenth century BC, preserves a mixture of stories with elements of historical fiction, fantasy, and satire.[9][10] Egyptian funerary texts preserve mythological tales,[8] the most significant of which are the myths of Osiris and his son Horus.[8]

Myth with fantastic elements intended for adults were a major genre of ancient Greek literature.[11] The comedies of Aristophanes are filled with fantastic elements,[12] particularly his play The Birds,[12] in which an Athenian man builds a city in the clouds with the birds and challenges Zeus's authority.[12] Ovid's Metamorphoses and Apuleius's The Golden Ass are both works that influenced the development of the fantasy genre[12] by taking mythic elements and weaving them into personal accounts.[12] Both works involve complex narratives in which humans beings are transformed