C.S. Lewis was the creator of The Narnian Chronicles, a famous series of fantasy novels aimed at older elementary children. He was also a good friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and was partly responsible for Tolkien publishing The Hobbit. C.S. Lewis also wrote many other books. In a book called An Experiment in Criticism, he commented on fantasy and realism in literature. In this book, he writes about the different kinds of readers. He mentions fantasy when he discusses the weakest readers, those that get very little out of their books, or those that bring little intelligence or imagination to their books. He wrote that some people might think that the worst readers “would like literary fantasies. The reverse is true. Make experiments and you will find that they detest them; think them “only fit for kids” see no point in reading about “things that cold never really happen.”
“To us [the better readers] it is apparent that the books they like are full of impossibilities. They have no objection to monstrous psychology and preposterous coincidence. But they demand rigorously an observance of such natural laws as they know and a general ordinariness; the clothes, gadgets, food, houses, occupations, and tone of the everyday world….”
When weak readers are in a novel, C.S. Lewis wrote, they often want to feel that what they read might happen to them. C.S. Lewis calls this sort of dream-fulfillment “castle-building”. He states that although “they do not mistake their castle-building for reality, they want to feel that it might be. The woman reader does not believe that all eyes follow her, as they follow the heroine of the book; but she want to feel that, given more money, and therefore better dresses, jewels, cosmetics, and opportunities, they might. The man does not believe he is rich and socially successful; but if only he won a sweepstake, if fortunes could be made without talent, he might become so. He knows the daydream is unrealized; he demands that it should be, in principle, realizable. That is why the slightest hint of the admittedly impossible ruins his pleasure… Unless he can feel “this might – who knows? – this might one day happen to me”, then the whole purpose for which he reads is frustrated…”
Many better readers, however, also stay away from fantasy. Those that read strictly realistic fiction often believe that lovers of fantasy are easily fooled. However, “without some degree of realism in content – a degree proportional to the reader’s intelligence – no deception will occur at all. No one can deceive you unless he makes you think he is telling the truth. The unblushing romantic has far less power to deceive than the apparently realistic. Admitted fantasy is precisely the kind of literature which never deceives at all. Children are not deceived by fairy-tales; they are often and gravely deceived by school fiction. Adults are not deceived by science-fiction; they can be deceived by the stories in the women’s magazine. None of us are deceived by the Odyssey, the Kalevala, Beowulf, or Mallory. The real danger lurks in sober-faced novels where all appears to be very probable but all is in fact contrived to put across some social or ethical or religious or anti-religious “comment on life”.