What is the Difference Between High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy? (Explained)

Have you ever wished to reside in a fantasized or magical world? Do you want a room where you can directly watch sunrise and sunset from the window, a bed on the water, and flowers all around? Well, everyone loves to live in their fantasy world, and so do I and you.

I believe that daydreaming is prevalent in this fantasy world. It feels incredible to think about several missions’ magical realms, abilities, and accomplishments. I decided to pack up this post for you to analyze the fantasy that you must have seen in Harry Potter, Narnia, Winter Fell, etc.

So, do you want to know more about the definition of “high fantasy” and the fantasy sub-genre in general? You’re in the correct place, I suppose. But you don’t know how complicated this is. However, I will make things easily understandable for you in this article.

So, let’s dive into this great topic and discover the hidden treasures of this imaginary life.

High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy Genre

Whenever you consider fantasy, you might consider swordplay, undiscovered regions, demons, etc., of your own. As a result, your imagination might run riot. A world full of magical powers creates a disturbance in the mind.

The high and epic fantasy distinction has long been the subject of heated debate. People think there isn’t any difference between the two, and you can use them interchangeably. It can be true sometimes, but it is not always correct.

The fantasy genre has categories and subcategories. The category is high fantasy, which is sometimes called epic fantasy too. I will go through the definition first.

Is Epic Fantasy The Same As High Fantasy?

Nowadays, only a few writers choose the phrase “high fantasy” to characterize their written pieces. In contrast, labels are commonly used to describe subgenres such as epic fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, etc. It has become a trend to utilize “epic” instead of “high.”

A world of particular imaginations
A World of Particular Imaginations

I concur that high fantasy is a genre of writing set in a parallel universe populated by a riot of fantasy species. It belongs to the Medieval Period. The traits of the setting, the plot, the significance of each character, and the story‘s central theme all play a role in determining it.

Who are Fantasy Heroes?

High fantasy comprises one or more characters committed to a mission or quest. These characters include dwarfs, elves, dragons, wizards, etc. All of these have to exist in a different real world than the one you make for yourself.

They are most frequently viewed from the perspective of a single hero or a person having the powers to defeat monstrous people. They should belong to a class of royalty people and, most importantly, they should be dedicated to subgenres of fantasy that are heroic, dark, mythic, etc.

High fantasy components are used in epic fantasy, but the scope of the narrative is increased. The world/land is in danger, the stakes are higher, and the war shakes everyone living in the story’s setting.

Origin of the Fantasy Genre

  • The terminology “high fantasy” was initially used by Llyod Alexander.
  • In his 1971 essay, “High Imagination and Heroic Romance,” he made a statement.
  • After that, Kenneth J. Zahorski and Robert H. Boyer further emphasized it by saying that “high fantasy is fully fictional and based on parallel universes.”
  • The plots and the characters revolve entirely around the situations that comprehend a world full of imaginations, having no boundaries and surrounding visionary humans.

What Makes a Fantasy High or Epic?

High fantasy emphasizes characters over the epic magnitude of events. And that’s how it is different from the epic genre. There are usually specific, precise magic laws in the world.

Fiction revolves around the world
Fiction revolves around the world

It all depends on the story of a film or TV series, the writer’s message, and chosen characters. In this case, the audience’s choice matters the most because the whole plot is pictured accordingly.

Epic Fantasy

Epic fantasy, however, is derived from epic poetry that extends back to ancient times and beyond, and that’s how this subgenre came into the picture. Epics were thus the stories that acted as pillars of cultures that describe them.

It painted a world similar to the one in which its creators lived. It is the one in which the enigmatic, mythological, and holy were allowed to speak openly and be recognized for who they were. It contributed to shedding light on the nature of the cosmos.

The epic fantasy demonstrated the changes. The storylines leave a remarkable impact and include narratives set on the world’s historical scale. It implies the actions of the principal characters, as well as their hardships and journeys.

High Fantasy vs. Epic Fantasy

Characteristics High FantasyEpic Fantasy
OriginalityA piece of fiction set in a magnificent universe with disturbance among distinct races revolves around a medieval setting.Epic Fantasy still exists in a parallel universe but doesn’t adhere to the use of a medieval setting.
Number of fantasy racesIt uses a massive variety of different racesDo not necessarily utilize several fantasy races.
StorylineThese tales frequently contain a mystical component: a hero discovering voice, surviving an adventure, and developing leadership skills.Epic fantasy doesn’t have magic and sorcery but is comprised of abilities and the power to speak.
Difference Between High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy

High or Epic Fantasy Theme

The overall theme of these genres is good striving against evil. While few sets dissect good and evil concepts, their plots revolve around and begin with a character learning the truth about either.

High or Epic fantasy theme
High or Epic Fantasy Theme

In many stories, whether in a movie or television series, the savior leads a much smaller force into battle while the adversary controls a much larger power.

The evil leader of a big army tries to defeat the hero and often uses many sources to create hurdles in the path. However, the plot’s ending shows the right person’s victory, and the wrongdoers fail to achieve their mischievous goals.

Examples of High and Epic Fantasy

Let’s discuss some examples of movies and series that dive into the world of high or epic fantasy. Some movie writers took the concept of high imagination and turned it into an epic one.

The Chronicles of Narnia- a fantasy example
The Chronicles of Narnia: A Fantasy Example

Epic Fantasy Examples

There are numerous instances of this genre in both television and cinema. “Lord of the Rings” and Hobbit” stand apart.

Other movies fulfill these clichés, including “The Princess Bride,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” and even Shrek.

The vast “A Song of Ice” and “Fire Trilogy” by George R.R. Martin include dragons and even giants, but there aren’t many high fantasy themes because the plot centers on a large cast of characters in a gloomy medieval environment. Therefore, this story has an epic touch because it doesn’t include high elements.

“The Wheel of Time” trilogy and the first Shannara trilogy are examples of epic fantasy in the way of The Lord of the Rings. However, epic fantasy does not have to go on like that.

Top 10 Epic Fantasy Hollywood Movies

High Fantasy Examples

High fantasy television programs are popular, like “The Witcher,” “His Dark Materials,” “Shadow and Bone,” and “Arcane”. “The Game of Thrones” is another very famous series.

High fantasy books include “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” by Grace Lin and “The City of Brass” by S.A. Chakraborty.

Other high fantasy examples are “Stardust,” “Dragon Heart,” “Going Postal,” “The Dark Crystal,” etc.

Final Verdict

  • The fictional universe has its beauty. It is a self-consistent environment having events and frequently additional components that deviate from reality.
  • This article describes and distinguishes between high and epic fantasy to help you get started with world-building, writing, novels, movies, and character arcs.
  • High and epic fantasy are interchangeable terms in some cases, but it is not always true to grind them in a single machine. Both of these differ in a few aspects. It is a controversial topic that has been summarized wonderfully in this article.
  • A few authors currently designate their works as “High fantasy.” In contrast, terms like “Epic Fantasy,” “Dark Fantasy,” “Urban Fantasy,” etc., are frequently used to describe subgenres. The use of Epic terms in place of High terms has grown popular.
  • A medieval setting serves as the backdrop for a work of fiction set in a gorgeous cosmos with the conflict between various species. It is primarily a case in high fantasy fiction. Whereas, Epic fantasy is made of skills and the ability to talk, not magic and sorcery.

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