Literary images and functions of death in sword and sorcery and mythopoeic fantasy
This article presents and compares methods of description of death in two primary variants of fantasy literature: sword and sorcery and mythopoeic fantasy. The focus is on works of the precursors of fantasy literature — Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian series) and John R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, Silmarillion), and texts of authors who creatively developed two primary types of fantasy literature — Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser cycle) and Ursula K. Le Guin (Earthsea cycle).
The analysis is divided into two parts. The first one describes methods of presentation of death and their functions in sword and sorcery literature. In this variant of fantasy many literary images of death can be found, which focus particularly on its biological aspects. The next part shows analogical elements in mythopoeic fantasy, where the descriptions of death are inspired by the medieval chansons de geste.
The article shows important differences between methods of presenting of death in sword and sorcery and mythopoeic fantasy and between functions of death in this two primary types of fantasy literature. In sword and sorcery the descriptions of death have great importance in the adventure plot structure, because they are connected with activities and adventures of the main character. In mythopoeic fantasy the kind of a character’s death often shows moral condition of this character. Moreover, death in mythopoeic fantasy is important for the balance and stability of created world.