chapter
Fantastic voyages, other communities
WithAnderson Graham
Pages 16

The voyage into the unknown offers by far the widest scope for fantasy. One particular voyage acquires the elements of a set piece early on in Greek literature: the adventure of Dionysus’ attempted kidnap by Tyrrhenian pirates and its consequences for the ship and its crew. Individual wonders are one thing, but the phenomenon of a remote and alternative society raises questions on a different scale. Aristophanes’ Cloudcuckooland in Birds has acquired such a proverbial status that little a ttention is actually accorded to the way its creator has constructed his illusion. There is ample scope for fantasy from an early stage of Greek travel-literature onwards; there is also scope for a great deal of variation in quality. Both Epic and Old Comedy build fantasy communities into classics of world literature; at the opposite end of the scale stands the irrepressibly popular, naive and ever-expanding Alexander Romance.