Take a step back and think for a moment, we aren’t leaving for Narnia or Wonderland, we haven’t traveled to Middle Earth for a tale of hobbits and wizards. Fantasy is happening in our world now, from Harry Potter to Twilight to American Gods. Last year a Norwegian film called Trollhunter came out (it’s on Netflix Instant Watch, by the way, and you should check it out if you haven’t already).
It’s a completely genuine mockumentary about a guy who travels around Norway hunting trolls. He’s employed by the government to seek them out and kill them, and when he’s finished, another group of government employees arrives to clean up the mess. The movie draws from traditional mythology: the trolls turn to stone when hit by sunlight, there’s a lengthy sequence where the trollhunter lures a troll out from under a bridge, and all of the trolls have it out for Christians. Additionally, the trollhunter spends a lot of time explaining troll morphology and behavior. The entire movie wants its audience to dive headfirst into believing that trolls could exist in the real world, and it actually works.
Modern fantasy is less allegorical, less an escape from reality, and more a way of opening us up to new ways of thinking. We know, of course, that trolls don’t exist, but we start to wonder, “What if they did?” The same thing happens in Harry Potter et al. We’re in a time of speculation in any direction you please, because modern audiences are ready to believe.