Fantasy Novels Versus Fantasy Movies
English Writing Tutorial II
Professor Ji-Hye Sin
December 21, 2017
Fantasy genre, which covers unrealistic elements like magic, was greatly affected by J. R. R. Tolkien who is an English writer well known for The Lord of the Rings.1 However, he was not the first to write a fantasy novel. Edgar Allan Poe, an American writer of The Raven, firstly embarked on adding magical components to the traditional literature based on realism.2 In addition to The Raven, books like Dracula by Bram Stoker and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson were popular fantasy novels since there was no borderline between horror and fantasy in the 19th century.3 4 Then in 1858, a Scottish writer George MacDonald, had released his book called Phantastes, which illustrate romance between a man and woman in a fairyland. It influenced many other fantasy novel writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and structured the fantasy genre in a modern form.5 Nowadays, there are a growing number of people who get interested in the fantasy genre. Modern fantasy novels and movies based on them interact with each other and attract people to both read books and watch movies more than ever. However, contrary to a popular belief that people watch movies more, more people tend to read fantasy novels as they watch fantasy movies. Especially the Harry Potter series, the world-widely famous works of J. K. Rowling, is one of the best examples which shows that there are more fans of the novels series than those of movie series. Because they become interested in the plot, translation, and characters of the novels.
The plot of fantasy books is usually the most interesting characteristic to readers, because most people would like to know the story, even roughly, to figure out whether they want to read the book or not. There are a few differences between fantasy novels and movies in terms of the plot, so it is likely to have impacts on readers and viewers depending on which they experience first. Inevitably, lengths and quantities of the book and movie are contrasted: the movie does not hold the same number of episodes as the books. There are limits for a movie in expressing everything in the novel in general even though technology has improved enough to create magical beings and events on the screen. For example, there is a scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in which Harry and his friends practice Wingardium Leviosa charm. In the movie, it lasts about one and a half minute, whereas in the book it is about two pages. If the movie of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone contained every single moment of the book, the running time will be over 7 hours. Therefore, directors of the fantasy movies may need to delete and reorganize the plot because they cannot put every episode of a book in a movie. However, that does not mean that the plot of a fantasy movie differs from the novel a lot or has a huge omission compared to the novel. Even though the novel and the movie are different, the similar sense and flow of its original plot still exist in the movie. In addition, Sydney Lynch, a student at Cabrini University, posted her article insisting that “The interesting concept about books that have movie adaptations is that books are not written to become movies”.6 Writers of fantasy novels do not intend to make movies of their works as they are writing. Because the forms of novel and movie are different. It is hard to make transitions from paper to screen. Therefore, it is unavoidable for the movie to skip many episodes which may be meaningful to the main flow of the story, so missing contents of the movies is inevitable. For example, there are many episodes that the directors of Harry Potter movies left out for each movie. Chelsey Pippin, who is a fan of Harry Potter series, maintains that “In the book, Hermione is obsessed with finding out who is behind Harry’s handy potion book, which leads the trio to unwittingly uncover details about Snape’s past. In the movie, we get this, 10 minutes before the film wraps”.7 So, the director changed not only a characteristic of the main character, but also the whole content of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The director could have outlined the plot differently, however, this shows that the plot changes are necessary and cannot be helped because the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of the longer books compared to those of first three books in the series. So, it has a lot of episodes that had been taken out from the original work.
In fantasy genre, the authors essentially use some unrealistic devices such as practicing magical charms or creating magical creatures. They tend to set the characters as detailed as possible because the fantasy genre requires specific and special settings to create a storyline, which means that a small setting could change the characters’ personality a lot. Therefore, the story still keeps coherence of the flow, and follows the rules that are set by its author at the same time. Usually, fantasy movies are not depicted as well or as vivid as the books, so there are more fans of original novels than the movies. Matthias Stephan, who is a research assistant at Aarhus University, pointed out in his article, “Do You Believe in Magic?: The Potency of the Fantasy Genre”, that “In fantasy, the magic is inherent in the universe, and thus, as long as one accepts the premises, the crises are averted through the natural development of the plot and characters”.8 In other words, characters are the ones who usually overcome hardships throughout the story, which gives the readers a big impression: people usually feel catharsis through the main characters, who bear and overcome adversities. People might think that fantasy movies are more impressive since they show a lot of visual effects; however, the movies cannot build the personalities neatly and do not illustrate every characteristic of a character due to the short running time. People who watch the movies first may as well get interested in the novels since the movies cannot fill the curiosity of wanting to know more about the settings and details, and the characters make them wonder even more about the source materials. In Rowling’s book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there is a scene of the potion class, where the students tried to win the Felix Felicis, the Liquid Luck. “Within ten minutes, the whole place was full of bluish steam. Hermione, of course, seemed to have progressed furthest. Her potion already resembled the “smooth, black currant-colored liquid” mentioned as the ideal halfway stage”.9 This depicted well about how the potion class looked like. It may draw curiosity out of viewers because they perhaps want to know more about magical stuffs like a sopophorous bean, which is used a lot when making potions. This scene also contains how Harry and Draco are competing and how Hermione is eager to get Felix Felicis as well. It surely describes each character’s characteristic. For example, Draco Malfoy silently got rejected by Professor Slughorn when he asked him if he knows his grandfather. He tried to get on Slughorn’s good side, but Slughorn was apathetic about how is his grandfather doing. So, Malfoy failed to wind his way into Slughorn’s favor, who likes famous, influential people like Harry Potter. This scene shows that Malfoy has been doing this to other professors as well, which makes him an astute boy.
As there are an increasing number of people who read fantasy novels, translations among languages are getting more important than ever because even a little gap could cause a huge difference in understandings. It may hurt the settings, such as how the main character looks like or why things happen in a certain way, the author set up, and therefore, people read novels, which is the original works. The translator should not only care about the meaning, but also the tone and the sense of the original texts. The mistranslation makes people lose interests of the fantasy novels and movies and cause misperceptions in grasping the stories. Sana Mansoor and four other professors at the University of Lahore maintain that “The translated version lost the real beauty and creativities of the original work. The terms that are transformed and localized are not able to give an impact of the author’s real work and the readers of the target text cannot get the same flavour as that of original text”.10 Thus, the authors argue that translation may ruin the mood of the original work. For example, there is a scene where Snape and Dumbledore have a conversation about Snape’s Patronus which is the same as Lily’s, the mother of Harry Potter. Dumbledore asks him, “After all this time?”.11 Snape answered him, “Always”.12 The Korean translator did not get the sense of their words and mistranslated them as ‘?? ????’ It sounded like Snape finally likes Harry Potter, while Rowling wanted to say that Snape has always loved Lily Potter. The mistranslation of this scene made it less moving. On the other hand, the movie version made this clear by swapping two scenes; a scene when Dumbledore and Snape talking about Snape’s Petronus and a scene when Snape holding Lily Potter and crying after her death. The movie shows the meaning of their conversation just by showing Snape wailing and holding Lily during the dialogue (see fig. 1). Yet there is a belief that controversies surrounding translation could produce greater interests in both readership and viewership of the fantasy genre because they could compare and contrast by both reading and watching. Even though mistranslations happen often in the novels, fans of Harry Potter may find these sorts of differences fascinating and interesting in Harry Potter series.
Figure 1. Severus Snape holding Lily Potter crying when she got killed by Voldemort. Harry Potter and the deathly hallows: part 2, dir. David Yates, perf. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint (Warner Bros., 2011), film. Source: Copyright by Warners Bros., 2011.
There are many fantasy novel fans who both read books and watch movies. It differs from individual to individual which one to start first. It is known that many people begin with watching movies, however, contrary to this popular belief, more people tend to read fantasy novels as they watch fantasy movies because they become interested in the plot, translation, and characters of the novels. The Harry Potter series, the famous books written by J. K. Rowling, is one of the best examples which shows that there are more fans for the novels series compared to those of the movie series. Some might think that there is no actual difference which one you start with. However, since there are lots of differences between novels and movies, the effects on fans of fantasy genre may be massive. People will be more into them if they compare the two works while reading them or watching them. Read fantasy novels first. The more you know the story from the books, the more you find interesting similarities differences in the movies.
Hampel, Trevor. “A Retelling of MacDonald’s Phantastes.” Trevor’s Writing. December 15, 2016. Accessed December 16, 2017. https://www.trevorhampel.com/retelling-macdonalds-phantastes.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Directed by David Yates. Performed by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. Warner Bros., 2011. Film.
Lynch, Sydney. “Readers Argue: Books or Movies.” Cabrini University Student Media. November 17, 2017. Accessed December 16, 2017. http://www.theloquitur.com/readers-argue-books-or-movies.
Mansoor, Sana, Abdul Bari Khan, Sundas Zuhra, Sundas Kamran, and Zara Ari. “A Descriptive Study of Culture Related Terms in Translation of Harry Potter Novel from English to Urdu Language.” Asia Pacific Journal of Multidisciplinary Research 4, no. 2 (2016): 44-50. Accessed December 17, 2017. Directory of Open Access Journals.
Pippin, Chelsey. “28 Things the Harry Potter Movies Left Out.” BuzzFeed Community. January 5, 2014. Accessed December 16, 2017. https://www.buzzfeed.com/pipsicle/28-things-the-harry-potter-movies-left-out-aoev?utm_term=.wcwa3e9Vj#.vlej8q9gN.
Poe, Edgar A. “The Raven.” Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems. Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books, 2002. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.
Stephan, Matthias. “Do you believe in magic? The Potency of the Fantasy Genre.” Coolabah. 2016. Accessed December 16, 2017. http://revistes.ub.edu/index.php/coolabah/article/view/CO201618/18769.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York: DK Pub., 1997.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London: Pearson Education, 1999.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings. New York: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
1 J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).
2 Edgar A. Poe, The Raven (New Jersey: Castle Books, 2002).
3 Bram Stoker, Dracula (London: Pearson Education, 1999).
4 Robert Louis Stevenson, The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (New York: DK Pub., 1997).
5 Trevor Hampel, “A retelling of MacDonald’s Phantastes,” Trevor’s Writing, December 15, 2016, accessed December 16, 2017, https://www.trevorhampel.com/retelling-macdonalds-phantastes.
6 Sydney Lynch, “Readers argue: Books or movies,” Cabrini University Student Media, November 17, 2017, accessed December 16, 2017, http://www.theloquitur.com/readers-argue-books-or-movies.
7 Chelsey Pippin, “28 Things the Harry Potter Movies Left Out,” BuzzFeed Community, January 5, 2014, accessed December 16, 2017, https://www.buzzfeed.com/pipsicle/28-things-the-harry-potter-movies-left-out-aoev?utm_term=.wcwa3e9Vj#.vlej8q9gN.
8 Matthias Stephan, “Do you believe in magic? The Potency of the Fantasy Genre,” Coolabah, 11, 2016, accessed December 16, 2017, http://revistes.ub.edu/index.php/coolabah/article/view/CO201618/18769.
9 J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 206.
10 Sana Mansoor et al., “A descriptive study of culture related terms in translation of Harry Potter Novel from English to Urdu language,” Asia Pacific Journal of Multidisciplinary Research 4, no. 2 (2016): 44-50, accessed December 17, 2017, Directory of Open Access Journals, 49.
11 J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the deathly hallows (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 688.