I was thinking about this before taking off on my Virginia trip.
There are three series acknowledged the world over as being the peak of Fantasy. Indeed, at this point in time, they are some of the best known literature in the world. In fact, they're so well known, that I think I hardly need to name them.
First, of course, is J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," second is C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia" and third is J.K. Rowlings "Harry Potter."
All right. Even if you don't approve of Harry Potter you still have to admit that it's a publishing phenomenon. And even if you've never read any of them, chances are (unless you've been stranded in the wilderness with no communication with the outside world) you have at some point at least heard of all of them.
So why- why oh why oh why- are all three of them written by British authors? What is it about Britain- which is tiny compared to the U.S. that enabled it to produce these masterpieces?
I mean, Americans can hold their own in other literary genres. But in Fantasy we're pretty lacking. "Eragon" has been popular, but I think most of us can agree that it lacks the literary merit and sophestication of the three Giants, and will not have nearly the popularity in future genrations that they will. The closest thing we've got is "Star Wars," which is perhaps not surprising since Americans have sort of cornered the film market. And "Star Wars" is in the murky area between Sci-Fic and Fantasy. And hey, C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy had a lot more depth than "Star Wars" if not the same entertainment value.
So what is it that Britain has that the U.S. does not?
I'm guessing it goes back to mindset and upbringing. The British have a far longer history and tradition of legand than we Americans do. Though we may appreciate the myths and stories of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, I don't think we can ever quite understand them.
Obviously there is more that should be said on this subject, but I think I'm going to have to do some more thinking before putting anything else out there. Thoughts would be welcome...