Fantasy Friday – Truth In Fiction

Over the past couple days, there’s been a small discussion over at author and friend Mike Duran’s site in response to an article I wrote here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction entitled “Realism In Fiction.” The central issue is whether or not authors have the same burden to be truthful about God as about Mankind.

In contrast, I recently read an article by Travis Prinzi over at the Rabbit Room about fantasy, particularly the fantasy tradition created by five writers who might be considered at the top of the genre.

In Travis’s article, he used the word “truth” nineteen times. Here are a few samples:

  • George MacDonald wrote that fairy tales are “new embodiments of old truth.”
  • G.K. Chesteron believed that “the world is wild,” and that the philosophy of the fairy tale was far closer to truth than “realism.”
  • Tolkien argued that in “escaping” to the world of Faerie, we often encounter truth in a more potent way than in non-fiction or in works of “realistic” fiction.
  • C.S. Lewis believed that in fairy tales, our imaginations allow us to grasp important truth about spiritual reality that our intellect alone, through reason and propositions, cannot fathom.
  • Madeleine L’Engle … criticized the idea that the “real world” was only found in “instructive books,” and wrote that “The world of fairy tale, fantasy, myth…is interested not in limited laboratory proofs but in truth.”

I’m not surprised by the marriage of truth and fantasy literature. I’ve long stated that the fantasy genre is best equipped to deal with spiritual realities. What surprises me most is that some aspiring Christian writers apparently find spiritual truth — specifically truth about God — so hard to pin down.

One commenter, for example, said

God by definition defies classification. You can’t pin Him down like a bug on a board.

Who is to say He isn’t portrayed realistically?

In those lines I hear an echo of Pilate’s question to Christ, “What is truth?”

Who God is cannot be known completely by any human being, but what God has said about Himself most certainly can be known. Fantasy allows us to explore His self-revelation and what that means to us.

Shouldn’t realistic fiction take up the mantle as well and strive to faithfully show God, not in the way a theology treatise would, but the way He works and acts in the real world?

So often art is defined using the terms “beauty” and “truth.” I guess I’m wondering what kind of art we Christians will create if we don’t pursue truth about God.

Andrew Peterson, Author of North! Or Be Eaten

When I was teaching, I had a few students who seemed to be good at everything. They were excellent students, the best soloists in choir, the lead in the Christmas program, the star athlete on their teams (and they played multiple sports), the speech contestant winners, the head cheerleader, the top artist, the best pianist or trumpet player. I’m only exaggerating slightly. Some students seemed loaded with talent—artistic and athletic talent.

Well, I don’t know about the athletic part, but Andrew Peterson, author of the CSFF Blog Tour January feature, North! Or Be Eaten, is one of these “bursting from the seams” talented people.

Let me say up front, I don’t think this is an enviable place to be. Andrew and others of his ilk must often decide how to divide their time between things they love equally, have the same talent for, and have found success doing. Either that, or they renounce sleep. 😆

Some of you know Andrew foremost as a musician. He is a gifted singer and songwriter. I heard him for the first time this Christmas as part of a Family Life Today program. One of the hosts remarked that Andrew is one of his favorite contemporary singers, and I thought, Do they know he also writes fantasy?

I became acquainted with Andrew as a writer when his debut novel, the middle grade fantasy On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness came out. I think I first heard about him from Jonathan Rogers, the outstanding author of the Wilderking Trilogy, who pretty much raved about Andrew’s writing.

Eventually I subscribed to Andrew’s group blog, The Rabbit Room, where he and a group of other artists discuss music and books and movies and the creation of art and theology and the Bible. What an encouraging look at a group of Christians engaged with our culture.

Among Andrew’s other endeavors, he produced a children’s book that captured my attention. From his Web site:

The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats
An Unlikely Royal Family Tree

Who says all those “begats” in the first chapter of Matthew aren’t fun to read?

Kids and parents will have fun reading and singing along with this joyful Andrew Peterson song. The lyrics tell not only of the Biblical list of relatives, but for the first time, kids will learn why the “begats” are extremely important. This story and song demonstrate that Abraham’s long lineage leads directly to the most important Bible character ever, Jesus Christ.

This special book bridges the Old Testament and New Testament, showing Jesus’ birth as part of God’s plan from the very beginning.

(So says the publisher. I’m really excited about this book, not just because I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, and not just because Cory Godbey’s illustrations are delightful, but because I love being a part of impressing the words of the Lord on children. With a banjo.)

Andrew has taken time to blog about the CSFF Tour where you can leave comments for him if you’d like. Also, if you want to learn his thoughts about writing, check out Chawna Schroeder’s interview with him.

And don’t forget to see what the other CSFF bloggers have to say about North! Or Be Eaten.

Disclaimer as per current FTC rules: Months ago, as part of the Children’s Book Blog Tour, I received a free copy of North! Or Be Eaten for review from the publisher WaterBrook.

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