We often consider fantasy to be an escapist genre because of the unreal, supernatural elements in these books. But for most of us who grew up reading fantasy novels from a very young age, we learned there are a million valuable lessons. Perhaps we did dive into them in order to escape our real problems… but, somewhere along the way, it became so much more.
Even if faeries and dragons and hobbits were not real—even if Middle Earth only existed in our imagination, and Kaz Brekker was a criminal mastermind merely conjured up by the author’s pen—the lessons each of these stories have taught us are phenomenal. Here is a list of 7 quotes from 7 different fantasy novels that would change your perspectives, even without knowing the context of the story.
“Everyone believes that nothing concerns them until the monsters are knocking on their doors!”
– A Reaper at the Gates (Sabaa Tahir)
This quote is apt for the nightmarish present we’re living in—in the middle of a global pandemic. And yet, even as the infection rate increases and the death count goes up, most people are still as careless as they used to be: going out without masks, refusing to adhere to social distancing rules, etc. We all believe bad things happen to “other people”—until, one day, we become one of them.
“A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now, that’s a question.”
– Stardust (Neil Gaiman)
A question as old as time: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Nobody knows. We gaze at the stars with our heads full of questions, but why? Neil Gaiman, in turn, asks a profound question of us—do we gaze at the stars because the stars gaze back?
“What is honor compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms . . . or the memory of a brother’s smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.”
– A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin)
We talk about honor and duty and responsibility, and the need to make important decisions without letting our emotions distract us… until we are challenged by love. And then we begin to question what is more important.
“Many boys will bring you flowers. But someday you’ll meet a boy who will learn your favorite flower, your favorite song, your favorite sweet. And even if he is too poor to give you any of them, it won’t matter because he will have taken the time to know you as no one else does. Only that boy earns your heart.”
– Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo)
What matters is not how much money he has or how many pretty words he uses, but how willing he is to give you his attention. Like Inej’s mother told her, do not settle for less.
“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it? Yes. Mrs. Whatsit said. You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”
– A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
One of the most beautifully written books, A Wrinkle in Time compares life to poetry—but doesn’t stop there. Our lives might seem to move along with a strict form or flow, out of our control, but what is within that form is completely up to us to decide. We are given choices, and these choices are what shapes our lives.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
-The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien
I had to read hundreds of Lord of the Rings quotes before deciding on this one—because we are living in the middle of a global pandemic, our lives a maelstrom of uncertainty, despair and panic. Why is the best part of our lives ruined? Why are we living to see these times? Why us?
And nobody has a better, more encouraging answer than Gandalf the Grey, our go-to wizard for comforting quotes.
“Look, everyone talks about the unknown like it’s some big scary thing, but it’s the familiar that’s always bothered me. It’s heavy, builds up around you like rocks, until it’s walls and a ceiling and a cell.”
– A Gathering of Shadows (V. E. Schwab)
It’s unnerving how comfortable we can get with familiar things. Home, old friends, even silence—we get so used to what we are familiar with that we stick to them even if it is toxic to us, even if it destroys our mental health with each second. We pass up opportunities because we’re afraid to explore new things and new places. We refuse to make new friends because we are too comfortable with the old ones.
Sometimes, it’s the familiar and the comfortable that cage us. It’s healthy to have the need to get away and explore the unknown if you want to live a little.
Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.