‘Cutting off the Head of the King’: Sovereignty, Feudalism, Fantasy

Australian adult fantasy fiction of the last fifteen years has been significant in its volume, penetration, and international success. Perhaps paradoxically, these texts are notable for their lack of particularly Australian markers, largely turning instead to European landscapes, history, and storytelling traditions for inspiration. The British legends of King Arthur and Merlin, the Germanic folk and fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, the pre-Christian heroic myths of Scandinavia: all of these storytelling traditions (and many others) have been adapted directly and indirectly in recent Australian fantasy fiction. What is rarely seen however, are Australian indigenous mythic stories. Given Australian fantasy writers write here, in this country, and have grown up with an education system that continues to teach Aboriginal Dreaming stories, why have they not turned to the mythic stories indigenous to Australia? Australian science fiction, by comparison, evidences no qualms about borrowing indigenous material (see Damien Broderick's The Dreaming Dragons or Terry Dowling's Adventures of Tom Rynosseros), nor does Australian children's fiction (see Anthony Eaton's Nightpeople or Sean Williams's The Stone Mage and the Sea). But fantasy novels written in Australia for an adult audience—the very centre of the fantasy fiction market—noticeably eschew this material. This essay asks why this is so, in order to tease out some ideas about how generic expectations and literary culture can exert subtle pressures that make certain ideas a poor fit in certain texts.

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Published 1 October 2011 in Volume 26 No. 3-4. Subjects: Fantasy fiction, Indigenous literature & writers, Medievalism.

Cite as: Wilkins, Kim. ‘‘Cutting off the Head of the King’: Sovereignty, Feudalism, Fantasy.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 26, no. 3-4 - , 2011, doi: 10.20314/als.6005ca2f2f.