The Bronze Age is a time period that many people are vaguely aware of, but few actually have a good understanding of. It is the time period between about 3300 to 1200 BCE and full of advancements in technology, communication, and art. It is an exciting time, but very little media exists that is set in this era.
Bronze Age fantasy is a rather small subgenre of fantasy and one that is not very popular. However, just because it isn’t the most popular doesn’t mean that it is not worth reading. There are hundreds of fascinating books that take place in the Bronze Age, many of them fantasy novels.
And while most readers are very accustomed to medieval fantasy, trying out fantasy set in a new time period is something any fantasy fan should consider doing once in a while. If you are looking to expand your fantasy repertoire, the Bronze Age is a great place to start.
The Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is an interesting era in world history. Not only is it considered the beginnings of urbanization, but it is also characterized by the use of (surprise!) bronze. As I mentioned, most historians think of this era as the time period between 3300 BCE to 1200 BCE, making it the second period of the Stone-Bronze-Iron system.
A civilization is considered part of the Bronze Age if it either produced bronze or traded for it. Bronze was the most durable and long-lasting metal at the time, so bronze age civilizations had an advantage over those who did not use bronze. Trade networks were also developed at this time, and the world was becoming more connected than it had ever been.
The first evidence of writing is thought to come from the Bronze Age. Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Chinese script had their start during the Bronze Age, making it a time of great advances in literature, communication, an art in general.
Bronze Age Literature
Ancient texts are often difficult to date, but some of the earliest evidence of writing is found in the Bronze Age. The earliest known literature is from around 2600 BCE. Most of this early literature is either Egyptian or Sumerian. But by the end of the era, there was also plenty of Akkadian and Hittite literature as well.
Most of this early literature has to do with laws and rules from their respective communities. But there is also plenty of storytelling, too. The Egyptians wrote many biographies of their leaders and important figures. And the Sumerians wrote hymns, folklore, and fiction. The literature from this time period is a fascinating look into life thousands of years ago.
Bronze Age Fantasy
Again, Bronze Age fantasy is a rather small subgenre of fantasy. There are not hundreds of thousands of books to choose from like in other genres. The main requirement of a Bronze Age fantasy is that it takes place in the Bronze Age, of course. Because this is such a large period of time, the Bronze Age can look different in each book. There are no rules as to what has to happen in a Bronze Age fantasy. As long as it is set in the correct time period with fantasy elements, it is a Bronze Age fantasy.
There are a few more “rules” as to what takes a Bronze Age story from fiction to fantasy. Fantasy novels almost always include some element of magic or the supernatural. It doesn’t matter what form this magic takes, so long as it exists. Magic could be the focus of the novel, or it could just be something that happens without much notice from the characters in the story. Magic does not have to be the device that progresses the story, but it can be.
Bronze Age fantasy is a great genre for anyone who is interested in some of the earliest urban civilizations. Humans were just beginning to create weapons out of metal, they were starting to communicate with other civilizations, and they were beginning to create literature of their own. It is a fascinating time period, and one that we don’t usually hear much about.
Examples of Bronze Age Fantasy
As previously stated, there are very few novels that are considered Bronze Age fantasy. It is a time period in which there was great technological advances, yet it is not one that is written about very often. In contrast to the Medieval Era, the Bronze Age gets very little attention in fantasy media. Regardless, there are some excellent novels to dive into if Bronze Age fantasy is something that interests you.
The Earthsea Cycle is a series of novels by Ursula Le Guin. There are six novels in this series, and they largely take place in the Bronze and Iron Ages. These novels are considered high fantasy, which means they take place in a fantasy world with no relationship to our own world and one that is a completely original creation of the author.
These novels take place in the world of Earthsea. It is a large collection of islands that are surrounded by uncharted sea. The people of Earthsea are completely isolated from the larger continents. This group of islands is so large that it experiences tropical weather as well as winter snowstorms.
The people of Earthsea make their weapons, homes, and other supplies from wood and bronze. This is a hallmark trait of the Bronze Age. The residents of Earthsea are described as being dark-skinned, which is uncommon given that many fantasy novels are about white people in the Middle Ages.
The magical elements in the Earthsea series are a prominent part of the story. Magic exists on every island, except for one, and there is both good and bad magic. Children can even be trained in magic.
Many claim that the Earthsea series is a fantastic fantasy series. Plus, it’s one of the few examples of takes place in the Bronze Age. It is a period of time that we rarely read about, so it gives the novels an interesting twist. If you are tired of medieval fantasies and their tropes, give Bronze Age fantasy a try.
The Burning is a series of fantasy novels by Evan Winter. There are currently two novels published in this series, with the third installment expected to be released in late 2022 or early 2023. This series is a Bronze Age fantasy that takes place in a fictional civilization in Africa. This civilization has women who control dragons and men who are strong warriors, yet they are constantly at war. The main character of this series is tired of seeing his loved ones die, so he decides to take matters into his own hands.
This series is vastly different from the Earthsea series, though they are both Bronze Age fantasy. The Burning is much more focused on war and less on magic, though magic is still important to the story. In this series, the main character goes on a quest to end the wars his people are fighting. The stakes are high and each book is full of action and suspense.
Whether you enjoy action-packed novels or novels that are more about magic and community, there should hopefully be a Bronze Age fantasy story that you will enjoy. It is a time period of advancement, which means there are many things that an author can do to keep the reader interested.
Bronze Age Fantasy: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped you understand a bit more about this unique fantasy subgenre.
And as usual, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another fiction literature-related topic!