Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why Read Fantasy?

The Lord of the Rings, The Song of Albion, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, The Wheel of Time, The Farseer Trilogy, Watership Down, The Prydain Chronicles, The Sword of Shannara, The Belgariad, The Chronicles of Narnia… All are well-known, well-loved fantasy series, many of them my personal favorites. Why do I love to read fantasy? Because, of all the genres, fantasy most leans toward illustrating important spiritual truths regarding why we are here and what life is about. Even secular fantasies do so—in rather great numbers, surprisingly enough. Typically, epic fantasies depict great battles between supernatural forces of good and evil, an obvious parallel to the invisible supernatural war Christians fight on earth. Knowing about this battle and our place in it gives our lives meaning and purpose. Even if we must engage in mundane activities, we can know that they have great significance in the unseen war.

Characters possessing the ability to recognize and fight the evil in a fantasy story reflect Christians who, through the filling of the Holy Spirit and the serious, daily study of the Word of God, acquire the ability to discern and defend against the deceptive forces of evil in our own world. The common presence of kings and other royalty provides an obvious metaphor for our relationship with the Lord, and illustrates not only the humility and devotion required of those who serve the king, but also the responsibilities and self-sacrifice required of the king himself.

Best of all, fantasy novels are almost always about great heroes. Courage, confidence, humility, self-sacrifice, virtue, perseverance, love—the qualities of a hero reflect our Lord’s character. Indeed, often a fantasy hero begins his story as a menial of unknown parentage who comes to realize there is a great battle raging—or about to break out—that he has been born to fight in. Frequently he discovers himself to be of royal parentage and possesses unusual abilities needed to win the war. After enduring many trials and difficulties (the cross before the crown), the hero defeats the evil and delivers the realm. Justice prevails and the rule of good triumphs.

All of those principles have important bearing on my own life, and I love to see them play out in the different ways authors develop them. I love heroes, love following them through their journeys. They always make me think of my Lord, and give me new ways to relate to Him. Finally, I love using the imagination God has given me to create in my own mind the fabulous and fascinating realms that others have devised for their stories. Not only is it just plain fun, it also provides ways of looking at spiritual truths from angles I might not have considered before.

With echoes of the Savior’s life and character, stories that remind me of who I am and why I am here, and themes that provoke thoughts of God’s sovereignty, justice and love—why would I not love to read Fantasy? Add in the elements of suspense, mystery, action and romance that characterize many fantasies, and how could I not recommend the genre to one and all?

[For more on the subject of Christian fantasy in particular, check out this week's ongoing blog tour on Christian Fantasy and Sf, starting at ]

Well, back to chapter 25

Have a great day