Fan-fiction is centuries old. As someone who enjoys reading fan-fiction, I thought it would be important to share that fact. Fan-fiction is nothing new under the sun. As avid fangirls, it is crucial to remind family and friends who look at us askance that classic literature is rife with reminders that always, ALWAYS, humans will read or see something they love and try to infuse this ‘something’ into their own lives and creations. Of course, if you look at that one skeptical person in your life who believes you are wasting your time over trivial fictional characters, look right back at them and say, “Even the greatest authors were fanboys and fangirls.” And if you need to, direct them here to read this. Here are some of the top writers who integrated fan-fiction into their works.
1. Dante Alighieri
The Italian poet from Florence, Italy who wrote The Divine Comedy couldn’t help himself. He portrayed himself and his literary hero, Virgil, the Roman poet, in this epic story of his journey from Hell to Paradise. Virgil became his traveling companion throughout the story until they reached Heaven, and Dante committed the hilarious felony of self-insertion into his story. Along the way he encountered Achilles and Odysseus, among others. I am pretty sure that, all seriousness aside, Dante was grinning to himself as he wrote, thinking, “Ah, yes! Watch me now, Homer! Watch me stick your hero Achilles in the Circle of the Lustful. Watch me!” And it worked. The Divine Comedy is considered one of the pinnacles of Western literature.
Apparently, Bronte was so intrigued by the character of Jane Fairfax in Jane Austen’s Emma that she decided to explore Fairfax further by writing Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre finds herself bound by necessity to find a job as a governess, just as Jane Fairfax in Emma must make her own livelihood as a governess. If this isn’t alternate-universe fanfiction, I don’t know what is.
3. John Milton
Yet another example of a curious writer—Milton was a Puritan Englishman who wrote his renowned epic poem Paradise Lost based on the structure of The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, as well as the Aeneid by Virgil. He intended to create a Christian epic and portray the Biblical origins of humanity. Whether or not he intended to, many read Paradise Lost as a unique perspective on the character of Satan. In fact, some claim that Milton was attempting to justify the motives of Satan and stir our sympathies in favor of the fallen archangel. I suppose this would put Milton in the same category as one of those people who write paragraphs of meta about Kylo Ren and Loki (I am one of those people).
Even more ironic is how Milton chose to depict God—as an old man who glared down at his recently created humans, Adam and Eve, waiting for them to screw up. I’m not sure how intentional this was on Milton’s part.
So, to sum it all up, we fangirls are in good company. Classic literature is rife with people contemplating their favorite stories and writing up follow-up tales to explore the characters even more. To be a fangirl is more than squealing over Captain America or Luke Skywalker. It is about delving deeper than the average person and creating head-canons that explain that character’s personality and motives more thoroughly, more deeply. Therefore, whenever anybody looks at you and tells you that fan-fiction is ridiculous, you look right back at them and say, “Hey, Dante was a fanboy.”
Rebecca Elise//19 yrs old//INFP//UD '19//history fangirl//too involved with fictional characters//artist