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Elements Of Fantasy In Catwings Return

1404 words - 6 pages

    Although it is a children's book, Ursula Le Guin's short story "Catwings Return" is a perfect example of the Fantastical genre. Published in 1989, "Catwings Return" has some elements similar to those found in Magical Realism, but the story mostly has elements of Fantasy in it. By examining the American story "Catwings Return," a reader will be able to see the similarities and differences between Magical Realism and Fantasy.


In order to have some characteristics similar to those in Magical Realism, a text must contain both realistic elements and magical elements (Flores 112). In "Catwings Return," one of the realistic elements could be the setting. Rather than taking place in some other fantastical world or realm, the main part of "Catwings Return" takes place in a city near the little country town called Overhill. Since it has a "street crowded with whizzing cars," the city seems familiar to the reader (Le Guin 32). Another realistic element in the story is that the cats have the normal names of Thelma, Roger, Harriet, James, and Jane. Even though they have wings, the cats are given the realistic description of being tabby cats. Furthermore, the cats appear to do normal cat activities such as eat kibbles, purr, and play with one another and with the children who take care of them (Le Guin 3-5). Because of the "extensive use of detail," Le Guin's story exhibits at least one of the characteristics that Wendy B. Faris gives Magical Realism (Faris 169).


In Le Guin's story, the most prominent magical element is the sets of wings on the cats. Because of the magical element of the wings, "Catwings Return" is similar to "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," written by the Magical Realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Both stories give a creature wings when ordinarily the creature would not have any. Along with the wings, a second possible magical element in "Catwings Return" could be the conversations held between the animals. For instance, the cats actually discuss with one another how much they miss their mother and how they would like to visit her (Le Guin 6-7). Later in the story, two of the cats, Harriet and James, listen as their mother tells them how she lost her kitten and her old home (Le Guin 36-39). Since it is scientifically possible to give cats wings today and since it is known that animals can communicate with one another, then these elements, although still magical, are proof of supplementation within the text.


Although "Catwings Return" is similar to Magical Realism because of its realistic and unrealistic elements, the manner in which the reader treats the magical elements is different from how he or she would treat them in Magical Realist literature. In Magical Realist literature, the reader may hesitate between the real and the unreal, but may eventually accept the unreal as being real (Faris 171). While reading "Catwings Return," however, the reader does not hesitate between the real and the unreal....

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