The Fantasy Worlds of Peter Beagle Critical Essays

Peter S. Beagle


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This collection displays the variety of topics with which Peter Beagle is able to work in his artistry. He possesses the ability to produce extremely realistic stories set in ordinary places during the twentieth century. Excepting the few strains of the fantastic arising within “Lila the Werewolf” and A Fine and Private Place, those stories are believable tales. Beagle’s writing style is reminiscent of that of other twentieth century realists such as Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway, yet Beagle is also an accomplished writer of fantasy fiction, able to transport the reader into magical worlds brimming with extraordinary people and creatures.

The Last Unicorn falls into this category and is arguably Beagle’s masterpiece of fantasy fiction. Because of his mastery of fantasy fiction, critics and scholars often compare Beagle to other twentieth century fantasists, including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. The Fantasy Worlds of Peter Beagle allows the reader a chance to witness a writer exercising his skills in versatility.

For this collection of stories, Beagle wrote an introduction providing his personal insights into the creation and publication of each story found within the volume. This introduction, providing Beagle’s explanation of why he writes works of fantasy, will be of interest to scholars, lovers of fantasy fiction, and avid Beagle fans. The introduction serves as a means for Beagle to give his views on the topic of fantasy fiction but also affords the reader a glimpse into the activity of writing fantasy fiction. Beagle discusses how and where he wrote the stories, the means of publication, and his retrospective opinions about them. In essence, he provides a short critique of each work.