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Elements of Fantasy in Catwings Return

Although it is a children’s book, Ursula Le Guin’s short story “Catwings Return” is a perfect example of the Fantastical genre. Published in 1989, “Catwings Return” has some elements similar to those found in Magical Realism, but the story mostly has elements of Fantasy in it. By examining the American story “Catwings Return,” a reader will be able to see the similarities and differences between Magical Realism and Fantasy.

In order to have some characteristics similar to those in Magical Realism, a text must contain both realistic elements and magical elements (Flores 112). In “Catwings Return,” one of the realistic elements could be the setting. Rather than taking place in some other fantastical world or realm, the main part of “Catwings Return” takes place in a city near the little country town called Overhill. Since it has a “street crowded with whizzing cars,” the city seems familiar to the reader (Le Guin 32). Another realistic element in the story is that the cats have the normal names of Thelma, Roger, Harriet, James, and Jane. Even though they have wings, the cats are given the realistic description of being tabby cats. Furthermore, the cats appear to do normal cat activities such as eat kibbles, purr, and play with one another and with the children who take care of them (Le Guin 3-5). Because of the “extensive use of detail,” Le Guin’s story exhibits at least one of the characteristics that Wendy B. Faris gives Magical Realism (Faris 169).

In Le Guin’s story, the most prominent magical element is the sets of wings on the cats. Because of the magical element of the wings, “Catwings Return” is similar to “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” written by the Magical Realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez….

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…the Fantastic.

Works Cited

Faris, Wendy B. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction.” Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 163-186.

Flores, Angel. “Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction.” Magical Realsim. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 109-116.

Leal, Luis. “Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature.” Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 119-123.

Le Guin, Ursula K. “Catwings Return.” New York: Orchard Books, 1989.

Todorov, Tsvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Form. Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973. 168-174.

An Analysis of The Circular Ruins

An Analysis of The Circular Ruins

“The Circular Ruins” is a short story written by Jorge Luis Borges in 1964. Borges was born in 1899 and died in 1986. At the age of six, he knew he wanted to be a writer. By age eight, he had already written his first story. Most of Borges’ stories are listed under the fantastic literature category. Fantastic literature has several things in common with magical realism, but it is less believable.

Magical realism and fantastic literature both contain magical and realistic elements. The realistic elements in this story give a description of the surroundings. They tell of a river and a mountain. A “circular enclosure crowned by a stone tiger or horse, which once was the color of fire and now that of ashes” is the temple that the main character visits (25). There are birds in the jungle that sometimes wake up the main character with their cries and native people who live nearby that bring him food. Fire and two boatmen who show up later in the story are also realistic elements.

The magical, or fantastic, elements make the story take a completely different route than what it would have without them. Rabkin says that “the truly fantastic occurs when the ground rules of a narrative are forced to make a 180 degrees reversal” (18-19). The main character “came up the bank without pushing aside (probably without feeling) the brambles which dilacerated his flesh…to the circular enclosure” and “stretched out beneath the pedestal” (25). This description sounds normal, but when he wakes up he finds that his “wounds had closed” (25). The main character is at the temple to dream into life, a man. He also dreams of a fire god that is made of a combination of different animals, and …

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…tic literature. The magical, or fantastic, elements in “The Circular Ruins” seem to go with the realistic elements. There is no hesitation in the main character making it seem as if the magical elements are normal. Therefore, this story seems to fit into the magical realism category.

Works Cited

Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Circular Ruins”. A Hammock Beneath the Mangoes. Ed. Thomas Colchie. N. Y.: Plume Printing, 1991. 25-29.

Faris, Wendy B. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction”. Magical Realism Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham: Duke U.P., 1995. 163-190.

Rabkin, Eric S. The Fantastic in Literature. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1976.

Schaffer, Barbara Joan. “The Circular Ruins”. 31 January 2001.

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