Fantasy and a Christian Worldview, Part 9

I want to garner some more thoughts from The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature, edited by Philip Martin (The Writer Books, 2002).

Interestingly, Martin’s comments indicate that the perception of fantasy as a genre appropriate only for children is not unique to Christians, but that some parents, not exclusively believers, worry about its effects on their sons and daughters. His response:

Might reading stories about dragons and magicians warp a child’s mind to confuse fantasy with reality?

The answer is no. Fantasy is unmistakably metaphor—even to a child. As C. S. Lewis wrote:

    We long to go through the looking glass, to reach fairy land ….[But] Does anyone suppose that [a child] really and prosaically longs for all the dangers and discomforts of a fairy tale—really wants dragons …? It is not so.

    It would be much truer to say that fairy land arouses a longing for he knows not what. It stirs and troubles him (to his lifelong enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it new dimension of depth.

    -C.S. Lewis, from “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” in Of Other Worlds, quoted in The Game of the Impossible: A Rhetoric of Fantasy, by W.R. Irwin

Martin continues with what I think is one of the most salient arguments against objections to fantasy on spiritual grounds:

As one writer noted, it makes no more sense to believe that children will turn to witchcraft because of reading Harry Potter than that they would feel they need to talk to furniture after reading Goodnight, Moon.

Adults and kids alike “get” metaphor. If we didn’t, then I think Jesus would have sought a more “listener friendly” mode of communication than the parable.

Some people argue, of course, that many of Jesus’s listeners did not understand his intent, and I would concede that point, with this explanation: spiritual things are discerned spiritually. They require God’s Spirit to lead us into the truth of what God has revealed. For reasons we cannot know, God chose at that time to harden the hearts of many in the crowd. It wasn’t the “fault” of the parables.

Not to mention, fantasy writers are not writing Scripture. We are writing in metaphor that hopefully points people toward Truth. Martin again:

Once we believe—even if only within stories—in the chivalry of King Arthur’s knights or in Harry Potter’s struggles at Hogwarts, once we have stood with the brave small creatures of Redwall against the foe-beasts, or swayed with Frodo on the edge of the Crack of Doom, we begin to see the forms of good and evil. First as children, later as adults, we come to believe that even creatures as small as ourselves can play a role, that the world is affected by the actions we take.

In other words, we begin to see how we fit into the bigger picture.

Published in: on May 25, 2006 at 11:07 am  Comments (10)  
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