Fiction’s been around for a long time, and the number of imaginary worlds in our universe just keeps expanding. But where did it all begin? Who first wrote their daydream down and called it fiction?
Funny enough, the history of fiction is linked to the origins of the word history itself. The earliest lead is from way, way back in the 12th century. Back then, books were uncommon. It’s rather questionable why books wouldn’t be popular, but that’s a debate for another day. Now, despite that, there was one household title almost everyone knew: the Bible.
The Bible contained parables that were believed to be true. In the old days, any story that anyone told was accepted as fact simply because it was told. The fact that the religious scripts were written in Latin and Greek (AKA the Words of God/s), and that only officials of the faith could read them likely contributed to the prophetic mystery. So people took word at face value. There was no line at all between fiction and nonfiction.
This is also how history began. Yes—plot twist!— history actually came from story, not the other way around. Historians made things up to fill the gaps and create a consistent and believable record. An example is the medieval history of Denmark, Saxo Grammaticus, which came from the same century as the Bible. It contained legends bridged with fictional tales to make the whole thing coherent.
Suspicion arose when Chrétien de Troyes, creator of medieval heartthrob Lancelot, published his Arthurian novel in 1770. This tale about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table became extremely popular, but it was written in French. God’s messengers weren’t known to speak French, so it struck the populace as odd. From there, books started losing their absolute credence.
As the century went on, reading books started to become everybody’s favorite pastime. Books of assorted languages and genres, each with their own versions of reality, popped up here and there. People started asking, “Is this the real life or is this just fantasy?” So writers and readers got really careful about what fiction and nonfiction were.
It took nearly an entire millennium for libraries to officially separate fiction and nonfiction. It only became common practice by the 19th century, heralding the recognition and take-off of the ever-growing collection of fictional stories we know today.
So long story short, fiction actually started out as fact. But even if the credibility of fiction has been downgraded from being universal, they still hold a lot of power. Many still turn to fiction for wisdom and guidance. At its core, fiction is still a reflection of our experiences and endless possibilities—and we will never stop adoring it.
We hope this helped you understand and love fiction more—it certainly deepened our appreciation of the creative word. If you have questions about the topic, just send us a message and we’ll do our best to answer. Ta-ta!
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