What is it about fantasy that draws our youth en masse?

Many a reluctant reader has spent hours curled up with headphones listening to Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings Trilogy" on CD, despite the difficult language. Children all over the world still declare "The Chronicles of Narnia" their favorite book series years after the first release of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" in 1950. 

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" was the first children’s book to hit the best-seller’s list since "Charlotte’s Web" in 1952, and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" sold an astonishing 3 million copies in the USA in one week. Some parents even camped outside bookstores to guarantee a copy for their child.

On the big screen, fantasy flicks have dominated sales for the last several years. Beginning in 2001, with "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings," ranked number one and two respectively, a fantasy film has held the first or second position every year since, with the except of the year 2004, when "Shrek 2" and "Spider-Man 2" reigned.

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which released to DVD on April 4, 2006 ranked second in '05 for top box office sales, followed closely by "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Why has fantasy made such a strong impact on our culture in recent years? Is it simply a response to marketing or does the phenomenon go deeper?

According to youth fantasy writer Bryan Davis, a Christian and homeschooling father of seven who writes the popular "Dragons In Our Midst" series, fantasy reaches a hidden place inside each of us.

“I believe God has instilled in us a craving, a deep desire to run with Him on a fantastic adventure, yet many of us crawl along in life without even a glimpse of our hidden passion,” says Davis.  “There has to be a reason for living.  There must be a Camelot, a hidden Utopia where we can rest from our personal campaigns.  Fantasy opens our eyes to a better place, a shining city we do not yet know.  And these stories provide a mental bridge to that city as we pursue horizons we could never distinguish with our physical eyes.”

Davis believes that young people are especially attuned to fantasy’s allurement. “Boys and girls, still unjaded and brimming with ideals, feel their God-given programming. … When a young man watches a wide screen and sees a hero draw steel from scabbard, displaying a bright sharp sword as his biceps bulge, the boy feels valor, the bravery of a knight.  He becomes the champion he has never been, copying the role model he may have never witnessed in real life. … When a young lady sees a heroine … crash a jar over the villain’s head to save her fallen hero, a girl’s heart leaps. The courageous helpmate has used whatever strength she had, at risk of her own life, to prevent disaster. Without her, all would have been lost.”

Donita Paul, author of the "DragonKeeper Chronicles", concurs, “Fantasy is basically the story of good conquering evil under seemingly insurmountable odds. Look around our world today and see that unconscionable evil permeates our culture. The news brings tales of evil from all around the world to our living rooms via the TV. We need heroes. We need the reestablishment of honor. I think the youth of today have a longing for goodness and light … fantasy defines the concept.”