Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in School and Public Librarianship


Special Educational Services/Instruction


College of Education


Pauly, Regina


Fantasy fiction; Females in literature; Young adult literature


Library and Information Science


Psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung first noted the archetypal symbolism to be found in the dreams, myths and legends of people around the world. Bruno Bertelheim, a disciple of Freud, and renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell applied these principles of universal symbolism to help explain the continuing appeal of fairy tale, legend and myth in contemporary society. The thesis addresses the universality of these archetypal messages as mirrored in contemporary fantastic fiction for young adults, showing how the adolescent rite of passage explored in the heroic quest myths of primitive peoples is still used in many works of fantastic literature and cinema aimed at young adults.

The thesis notes, however, that while the quest myth is still a popular format for fantastic literature, there has been a shift in emphasis. While in the past boys were almost always the focus of tales of heroic quest, in contemporary fantastic literature the protagonist is often a girl. Even when female characters are not the central focus of a story, in modem fantastic fiction girls are more often depicted as capable, independent individuals. Additionally, the female myth of the Triple Goddess –Virgin, Mother and Crone – has begun to appear in works of adolescent fantastic literature with greater frequency.

Chapter One addresses the importance and relevance of fantastic literature for young adults. Chapter Two explains the psychological background of archetypal analysis through a brief look at the work of Freud and Jung. It explores the views of mythologist Joseph Campbell on the importance of the mythic to modern life and looks at the support for archetypal, literary criticism from noted literary critic Northup Frye.

The third chapter examines the works of a number of authors in the area of fantastic literature for young adults and their use of the archetypal hero's quest. Authors whose works are explored are: J.R.R. Tolkien, T.H. White, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robin McKinley and George Lucas. The chapter also looks at the changing role of women as mirrored in these works and examines how the archetypes are applied to the female characters of these novels or movies.

Chapter Four provides an overview and comparison of how the various works examined make use of the hero's quest. A changed and more central role for females is noted in all the works examined, reflecting women's changing role in society. The chapter concludes by reiterating the importance of the mythic to even modern youth.