J. R. R. Tolkien’s four functions of fantasy stories, as developed in his Andrew Lang lecture “On Fairy Stories” (1939), have become a key conceptual tool for discussing human beings’ attraction to fantasy stories, particularly when attempting to push the analysis beyond the literary into the aesthetic, and beyond the aesthetic into the existential. Applying this interpretive key to an analysis of the expanding genre of post-apocalyptic fiction reveals that post-apocalyptic stories, despite superficial differences, are surprisingly close to fairy stories in their aesthetic core and orientation, and that post-apocalyptic stories are well-suited to fulfill—albeit with their own distinctive aesthetic feel—the functions of Enchantment, Recovery, Escape and Consolation. Furthermore, in exploring the function of Consolation, a number of motifs come to surface that suggest the presence of a religious dimension common to many of the most celebrated exponents of the genre.



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