The Fantastic for Children - Children in the Fantastic

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Inklings Society for Literature and Aesthetics e.V.

“I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.”
― George MacDonald

It is often easier for child characters to cross boundaries between reality and fantasy worlds, which frequently go unnoticed by adult characters. In fantasy stories, whether in literature or media for an adult or child audience, it is mainly children who discover portals into fantastic worlds. These child protagonists become redeemer figures and symbols of hope and overcome personal and global crises in those worlds, into which they are lured or called.

Examples abound: Alice follows the White Rabbit into Wonderland and antagonises the Red Queen, the Pevensie siblings find their way to Narnia through a wardrobe and defeat the White Witch, Frodo saves the world from the dark forces of Sauron. In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the young wizard Harry Potter rescues the Muggle and wizarding world from the seemingly invincible power of Voldemort, while a girl named Lyra becomes a key figure in the salvation of a multiverse in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. In Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, it is up to Bastian to save the human imagination, while in J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy childhood imagination manifests spatially in the world of Neverland.

In many narratives, the intuitive entry into fantastic worlds is a privilege and burden of the child characters, a pattern which is also continued in film and series, for instance in the Netflix series Stranger Things. Here, the protagonist Eleven and other child characters fall victim to the Upside Down, vanish into the parallel world and continue to return to it in order to save the frequently clueless adult world from its dark powers.

These fantastic worlds do not only pose danger but are also places of longing for these child characters. Moreover, both adult and child readers want to experience adventures, explore the world with curiosity and pick up courage on the way. They harbour desires, dreams, hopes, develop goals and expectations, which are also reflected in fantasy. Thus, many of these fantastic stories, which fascinate readers, also reflect those topics they deal with in everyday life: the pursuit of familiarity, fellowship, friendship or love. The fantastic accompanies these children on their journey towards adulthood, helps them discovering their true self and hence illuminates a fundamental process of human life.

George MacDonald’s initial quote indicates that the fantastic is neither childish nor exclusively for children, but rather for the child-like of all ages. His fairy tales and fantasy novels also (but not exclusively) inspired the Inklings, predominantly J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Accordingly, the upcoming symposium takes MacDonald’s 200th birthday as a cue to explore the role of children and childhood in fantasy. We invite contributions investigating the connection between children and the fantastic, including but not limited to the following possible topics:

  • the role of the fantastic in the work of the Inklings
  • the fantastic in the work of George MacDonald, Lewis Carroll, Edith Nesbit or Lord Dunsany
  • Child characters as redeemer figures, (anti-)heroes and antagonists in fantasy, science fiction, horror, animal stories or children’s and young adult literature
  • Fantasy and its role in identity formation
  • modern retellings of fantastic narratives
  • diversity and representation in fantasy
  • fantastic narratives as coming-of-age story
  • critical discussions of fantasy as escapism
  • fantasy and (re-)enchantment
  • ethical, philosophical and religious readings of fantastic narratives
  • coping and coming to terms with trauma through fantasy
  • emotional security, love and friendship in fantastic narratives
  • childhood and heroism in fantasy
  • fantasy and games, especially tabletop role-playing game

Please send proposals (300–500 words, either in German or English) as well as a short bio to Please use the subject line “Inklings Symposium 2024”. The deadline is 15 March 2024. Presentations at the symposium should be 20 minutes long and a selection of them will be published in the Inklings Yearbook.

Location: Schloss Malberg, Kylltal (
Date: 3 to 5 Mai 2024
Travel Allowance: There will be a small allowance available to speakers for accommodation and travel expenses.
Further information on the Inklings symposium 2024 see