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Why Are Fantasy Worlds Less Technologically Developed Than Our World?

So I have recently got into audiobooks. These things are great, because it lets you effectively read when doing activities that permit you from focusing on a printed book. For me, this means while driving and cycling. However, these are the two activities during which I get most of my thinking done, leading me to some interesting thoughts that you will now be subjected to, if you choose to read on.

I was listened to A Game of Thrones, and the mention of chamber pots and oil lamps caught my attention. I might have thought nothing else of it, but similiar mentions had caught my attention in The Heart of Betrayal, which I had just finished reading. When I started thinking about it, I realized that most of the fantasy books that I had read, especially the high fantasy ones, were similiar in their lack of electricity, central heating, and indoor plumbing, though these people should have been able to develop such things by now.

Below, I present the theories I have come up with for why this happens. I sincerely doubt any of them are right, but I also couldn’t find anything when I Google-searched it, so maybe some are heading the right direction.

Theory #1: Survival takes up most of their lives, leaving little time to work on developing new technology.

This is probably my best theory, based on what I’ve read and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Most of the books that seem to have this lack of technology also have large portions of their world’s population struggling to survive. In the grand scheme of things, surviving comes before trying to come up with new ideas, so there are fewer people working on new developments, leading to slower discoveries.

Theory #2: Magic negates the need to develop new technology, as it provides everything the land needs.

This obviously only works for fantastical worlds that have magic that can be actively used, either by a select number of people or by everyone. Since you can create light or heat or anything else with magic, you don’t need to develop technology.

Theory #3: All fantasy books take place in the distant past.

Think about it, it may not be that unreasonable.

Theory #4: Many fantasy worlds have a strict ruler, who dictates what people can and cannot experiment with. 

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to every book out there. But many fantasy books have a king or ruler who keeps a tight reign on their lands, which may mean that people are not allowed to research and experiment as needed.

Theory #5: Someone did it, and it became a norm amongst fantasy writers.

This is probably the most likely theory of all the ones I’ve listed. Someone, at some point, decided to write their fantasy story in an old-timey land, and it caught on. It was popular enough that everyone started to copy the idea, until it became an expectation within the genre.

What do you guys think about this? Has it ever crossed your mind? Agree or disagree with the theories I’ve come up with? Let me know, because now that it’s popped into my head, I’m really curious about how this happened.

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12 thoughts on “Why Are Fantasy Worlds Less Technologically Developed Than Our World?

  1. I can honestly say it’s never crossed my mind, but I like that it crossed yours!!
    What interesting theories. I feel it might be that magic and fantasy makes people think back to Renaissance times, and back then they didn’t have the modern technology that we have now. I mean, fantasy is synonymous with dragons and princesses and that all was placed during a Medieval era (I should say pre-Renaissance really).
    So that’s my theory. But yours are all such good points!! I think your last one could be it, too, because it makes complete sense!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such an interesting post!! I have thought about it.. But it makes sense in stories like GoT which is not really all magic (no wizards with wands or anything) . But more like pre-medieval era and any magic is minimal and usually invoked by praying to the Gods

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As Geraldine said, magic is really convenient and probably a huge reason the worlds aren’t the t technologically developed. But I think, especially with high fantasy, that number five is the most important one. Let’s just name the one who might very well be the reason behind what we think of as high fantasy today – J.R.R. Tolkien.

    Liked by 1 person

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