Friday, January 11, 2008

Debate about Fantasy Literature

The Hobbit is being made into a major motion picture. I’m sad. There is a terrible fear in me that this will be like those daily cartoon spin-offs from excellent Disney movies. All my friends tell me how necessary the story of The Hobbit is to the plot of The Lord of the Rings. I am glad of its existence, and even glad I read The Hobbit. There are some enchanting passages about moons and maps and elves and mountains. Of course Tolkien’s fame and further publications were built on the success of The Hobbit, too.

One part that excites me in seeing Peter Jackson’s skill at fantasy movies is to see Smaug, the dragon. I love seeing dragons in action. Not the silly Chinese paper ones that have hundreds of little human feet sticking out the bottom as they run in the parade. But the dragon in Sleeping Beauty, or those in Reign of Fire, in the old Chronicles of Narnia movies… and now The Hobbit. What’s more, this dragon must talk. That will be interesting.

As I first pondered this one positive point of the upcoming Hobbit movie, I found myself being reproached. “How could you be a fan of dragons? You’re a fantasy lover, aren’t you? Don’t you know that there is a group of Christians who reject fantasy literature because of things like dragons?” The criticizer was also myself, so I suppose I could be as hard as I wished, in defense or offense.

I think the defense began with a afore-unthought fell blow. God used dragons in His stories. Revelation is the most prominent example. Though my interpretation is generally literal, I believe the dragon in Revelation is an image for a being invisible on the earth, but powerful. But isn’t the imagery powerful? Our imaginations are excited. We shudder. In most myths, the dragon is a feared and loathsome beast.

God used dragons and other fantastic imagery to connect to our imaginations, which He also created. Have you ever wondered why God gave us imagination? Michael Card calls it “the bridge between my heart and mind.”

Respecting Dr. Paleo’s reasoned position on fantasy literature, which he was so good as to share with me, the offense half of myself recovered from this powerful strike to offer further evidence (borrowed from my fellow blogger). Why would you want to read a story in which the laws God created don’t exist?

Testimonial rebuttal was provided by the defense. When I read fiction – and fantasy especially, it is like a lens by which I can focus in on one issue. CS Lewis wrote his Space Trilogy addressing hypothetical questions. What if God hadn’t given Adam and Eve the choice in the garden? Through his fantasy world in which there was no choice, I came to better understand my world where there is one. Lord of the Rings is excellent at showing a strong line between good and evil. There were falls, temptations, and betrayals. But the moral right and the moral wrong were always clear. Good guys could fight bad guys without doubting who was bad.

Tolkien was Catholic, and his worldview is pervasive in his work. Harry Potter is, I understand, also a series of fantasy books reflecting the author’s worldview. The reason I am opposed to Harry Potter is that the book directs children to real Satanism, and employs real language from the occult. There are other more minor issues, like the portrayal of parents and authority, that would make these books unsuitable for children.

My objecting side refused to surrender the point that the two forms of fantasy are substantially different, and made another attempt at dissuading my Lord of the Rings loving side from its stand. Don’t you have anything better to do or read?

One of my best friends was aghast when I informed her that I am willing to give up my Lord of the Rings collection if the man I marry disapproves of them. They helped form my philosophy and interests. At this moment I do not believe God wanted me not to read them. But it seems remotely possible that with the other characteristics and values I’m praying my husband will have, he might also disapprove of fantasy literature and even of dragons. In which case there are a lot of things more valuable to me than my stack of Lord of the Rings books, movies, memorabilia, and games.

For a black and white person like me, strong-willed and defensive, a resolution to change my mind if warranted in the future is an interesting position. I am in a similar place regarding skirts. I love skirts, and feel I can do almost anything in them. But I enjoy wearing a good warm pair of jeans some days, too. It’s always better to err on the side of excellence, isn’t it?

At the end of the debate, the defensive me was winning. That point about the Bible using a dragon to represent the manifestation of evil encouraged me. Tolkien, at least, classifies dragons in the same way: representing embodied evil: greed and destruction and deceit. Without familiarity with these or other mythological dragons, how could one even come close to comprehending the abhorrence intended by John in describing the devil on earth that way?

To God be all glory.

16 comments:

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Excellent post, Lisa! I must commend you; one of your absolute best yet.

As to dragons, I don't see them as strictly fantasy at all. They're much more real to me (I'm an absolute dragon freak). I can delve into it deeply if you don't see what I mean (Remember this post? http://drpaleophd.blogspot.com/2007/04/dragons-world-review.html#links And if you like to see dragons in action and haven't yet seen this one, I tell you, wait no longer!)

And I also like your resolution concerning your future husband.

On a side note, I find that part of life as a Christian involves constant change. I'm always learning new things.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Thank you, sir. I consider that high praise.

But of course I believe that dragons have their basis in reality, just as you do. I was, in fact, informing an evolutionist of the fact during an out loud debate (as opposed to in my head) this week.

Actually, I believe that a lot of mythology and fantasy has its basis in fact. Many times its basis is demonic, but no less real. Sometimes I think mythology is a perversion of the unrecorded prophecies communicated to Adam and Noah, passed on to their descendants but distorted as they rebelled against God and abandoned the truth.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

You mean giants like Goliath, and the nephilim, etc.? Makes me wonder what trolls and goblins are. Trolls at least were mentioned in my edition of Beowulf (trans. Seamus Heaney); can't remember if goblins were or not. The thing is, was it a translational thing, or not?

And what sort of prophecies?

Spencer

P.S. Oh yeah, and, by the way, you're welcome. Any time, Lisa. :-P

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Prophecies about the coming redemption, the Messiah. It's been speculated. Dr. Henry Morris mentions it. But I'm not saying I believe it; just that it is interesting to consider as a possibility. Some people say that astrology was based on a God-revealed prophetic zodiac and got perverted, maybe even as far back as Babel.

I got Beowulf for Christmas from a dear friend, and it's the version with the Old English in it, too! I'm so excited! I have never read Beowulf.

But, hate to admit it; I'll probably re-read Persuasion first after the movie tonight. Did you see it? Masterpiece (formerly Theater) is doing a Jane Austen season, and started with a short 90 minute Persuasion. Next week is Northanger Abbey, which is a hilarious book plot and dialogue, so if they can't fit in both, we'll still get something. I remain hopeful. Nothing like reading, though.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Ha ha! That makes me want to laugh; my sister made quite the big deal about being home in time to see the movie! ;-P I didn't watch it myself though; figure I'll see it eventually. But, definitely, read Beowulf. It's one of my absolute favorites. Gory, but that doesn't make me like it any less!

And speaking of movies...are you going to see Dragon's World?

Lisa of Longbourn said...

You mean the documentary? Hm. I might. It makes me embarassed every time, because I believed them. But I oughtn't be embarassed, because I believe in flying reptiles, just like everybody. = )

You should really watch Northanger Abbey (next Sunday). I think it's the funniest of Jane Austen's stories (less witty, more sitcom).
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

You've seen Dragon's World before?

Oh, and believe me, I've seen the 1987 or 1986 (whatever it is) version of NA so many times I can't even count. I can quote, though.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

You poor thing! That version of Northanger Abbey is dreadful. The music! Yep, definitely '76.

I haven't seen Dragon's World, just the commercial.

But I requested it from my library today, 'k?
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Robert said...

It would take someone who is strong-willed to consider giving up something that is important to them.Your reason for doing that is a good one.

I would say to err on the side of dresses/skirts!

I watched Persuasion on Sunday and was wondering what you thought of it? I'm looking forward to Northanger Abbey as it's the only one I haven't seen a movie version of.

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

My sister would be horrified. She really likes that movie, so I'm positively predisposed towards it for that reason. (And it was '86, btw.)

You checked it out? Okay. As long as you watch it, I'll calm down. :-) Just lemme know when you see it, okay?

:-P

Spencer

P.S. Thanks for humoring me; not many people do, or at least it seems that way to me sometimes. :-P

Clara said...

I'm so glad that we got to discuss this in real life, haha! Oh, the joys of the Tolkien aisle!

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Clara,
I still say that four or five years of unexpected waiting and refining ideas of your future will cast your priorities in a different light.

Once on this blog (I think), I wrote about how I used to expect to be friends with any Tolkien fan. But especially after the movies, I've met so many with different values and personalities that I gave up on that as a test of friendship or more.

I do agree with what you said in the bookstore, though, that it would be hard to respect or befriend someone who dismissed or disliked Tolkien for no reason. On the other hand, it would be hard to be friends with someone who disliked anything for no reason. I want thinking friends. = )

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Melian said...

If Mr. Wonderful doesn't approve of Tolkien, I may have your collection, right? =)

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Melian,
I think I can promise that.
To God be all glory,
Lisa

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

I do agree with what you said in the bookstore, though, that it would be hard to respect or befriend someone who dismissed or disliked Tolkien for no reason.

If I can ask Lisa, why?

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Dr. Paleo,
You may certainly ask, though I thought my next sentence pretty much summed up my feelings. I'll elaborate.

If someone dislikes something for no reason, they have not thought about it, are just being contrary, subscribe to dogma they don't understand, parrot the views of others. The reasons you gave for not approving of the Hobbit are not like that. You've thought about them, and are taking a moral stand. Someone could say they like shorter sentences, or that they don't understand old words like Tolkien uses. Maybe they are afraid of dwarves. They may not like Tolkien's faith. Those are real reasons, and I'm ok with those.

I repeat: it would be hard - impossible - to respect someone who dismissed or disliked anything without a reason. I don't just think myself. I don't merely want thinking friends. I believe in thinking. Life should be faced intentionally, and with conviction.

That's why.

By the way, I watched Dragon's World. I find documentaries boring. This imitation documentary, with made up evidence and made up problems with the evidence before the scientist - I really didn't like it. Plus, being a dragon believer myself, I didn't find the scientist believable. Dragon is the ancient word for dinosaur. Dragons were real reptiles. They didn't evolve back and forth. I would have better enjoyed the movie if it had been less fantastic. But like I said, documentaries aren't really my thing if they involve reenactment and strange narration. Thank you, though, for the recommendation. I am glad I finally watched it.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn