Fantasy is this librarian's passion - WATERVILLE -- Marilyn R. Pukkila, a librarian at Colby College who teaches a course on J.R.R. Tolkien, bemoans the reluctance many in this country have to open a book of fantasy.

Twenty years ago, she said, writer Ursula K. LeGuin wrote the essay "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?" That essay still applies today, Pukkila said.

That enduring fear is in part an intellectual insecurity. Many dismiss fantasy, as well as its more earthly cousin science fiction, as the bubble gum for the mind, not serious literature.

Pukkila begs to differ, especially in regard to the fantasy of Tolkien.

"I think "The Lord of the Rings" (trilogy) is among the best books of the 20th century, and some would even say of the millennium," Pukkila said.

Pukkila is one of the local people interested in the effort to increase the number of fantasy and science fiction books at Waterville Public Library.

Pukkila is convinced that more people would enjoy the two genres if they simply gave such books a try.

While fantasy to a great extent is a means of escapism, a way to take leave of the mundane tasks and concerns of the real world, Pukkila argues great insights can be gained in the process.

"It is like going on a trip to another place," she said. "You learn about people and places and come back a new person with a new perspective and a new appreciation of your own world."

Pukkila ranks Tolkien as the master of fantasy, a writer who created a world with its own languages, cultures and geography, crafted to the most minute detail. This was a fantastic place eminently believable. --Source:

By COLIN HICKEY, Staff Writer

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