The Witch. The Magical Prodigy. The Damsel. The Rogue. The Companion. All of these — and 15 more — are archetypes of fantasy fiction, represented at EMP Museum’s new exhibit “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic.”
Want to see a Witch? Check out the massive feathered cloak worn by Ravenna (Charlize Theron) in “Snow White and the Huntsman” — it’s iridescent black, shimmering with greens and blues, with a collar that looks like it might take flight and, if you look closely, holes throughout its length, as if attacked by angry birds. To clothe a Rogue, note the coat of Sirius Black (played by Gary Oldman in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”), tattered and dusty, as if it had traveled many miles. And what better Companion could there be than the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) from “The Wizard of Oz,” whose tawny costume — made of genuine lion pelt that looks almost unbearably heavy — stands fearlessly next to a faded but nonetheless forbidding Winkie Guard?
Opening to the public on Saturday, “Fantasy” begins with an introduction to the 20 archetypes, who then pop up throughout the rest of the exhibit. Though the costumes are a highlight — there’s also Princess Buttercup’s wedding gown from “The Princess Bride,” the White Witch’s melting headdress from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and David Bowie’s Goblin King costume from “Labyrinth” — much of “Fantasy” is interactive. A throne from “Game of Thrones” sits at the entrance, ready for a photo op. A “Wizard’s Kiosk” provides digital access to a wealth of manuscripts, sketches and photographs from the likes of J.M. Barrie (“Peter Pan”), C.S. Lewis (the “Narnia” books), Roald Dahl (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) and more. Visitors can create a personalized fantasy world map by touching and dragging elements on a computer screen. Kids can crawl through caves, pet an animatronic dragon’s tail (it just might purr), and explore a tree clad in armor.
In the exhibit’s center lies a treasure, borrowed from Marquette University: original manuscript pages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” in which you can see the author’s handwritten revisions (and learn Frodo’s original name). Also included are drawings by C.S. Lewis, and a letter from Tolkien to a University of Washington professor who wondered, years ago, whether the word “hobbit” was in any way influenced by Sinclair Lewis’ “Babbitt.” (It was.)
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“Fantasy” is a new permanent installation, like the museum’s Science Fiction and Horror galleries, though items in it may change over time (the Tolkien manuscripts, for example, are only available for six months, and some of the costumes will be switched). With its fanciful environment, dim lighting and evocative artifacts, it feels like entering another world — one where magic just might happen.
Moira Macdonald: email@example.com or 206-464-2725.