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Dark Fantasy

“Dark Fantasy” is often used to indicate an alternative to fantasy genres and settings that are Tolkien-esque.

The term “Dark Fantasy” is generally defined as “a type of horror story in which humanity is threatened by forces beyond human understanding” or a fantasy story when elements of horror are included.

So… let’s see. Sauron’s an immortal evil spirit with an army of perverted creatures that were originally elves. With this army he intends to spread out across Middle Earth and commit mass-genocide, destroying every other sentient species.

Denethor, steward of Gondor tries to have himself and his son burned alive, because that frankly seems like the best of the available options under the circumstances.

Gollum is a crazy stalker, seeking both his heart’s desire and his redemption.

The nine Nazgûl, wraiths of dead kings, sorcerors and warriors whose … well, “And one by one, sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning, they fell under the thraldom of the ring that they bore and of the domination of the One which was Sauron’s. And they became forever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Ulairi, the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death” — The Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”, 346

The Nazgûl came again . . . like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men’s flesh. Out of sight and shot they flew, and yet were ever present, and their deadly voices rent the air. More unbearable they became, not less, at each new cry. At length even the stout-hearted would fling themselves to the ground as the hidden menace passed over them, or they would stand, letting their weapons fall from nerveless hands while into their minds a blackness came, and they thought no more of war, but only of hiding and of crawling, and of death.

In the end, four hobbits sacrifice all that they are, their beliefs, conceits, hopes and dreams – to one degree or another – to save the world. Frodo, the agent of victory, has his life, his happiness – and arguably a good measure of his sanity – essentially destroyed in the process.

Madness, horror, death, bloodshed and dark magic abounds throughout Tolkien’s seminal work.

Whew. I’m so glad that there’s such a clear distinction between that and Dark Fantasy. It’d get pretty confusing otherwise, you know?

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