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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm thankful for fantastic literature

I'm thankful for fantastic literature. I enjoy it. It speaks to me. It speaks to other people, too:

Best of all, fantasy novels are almost always about great heroes, which I see as illustrative of our Lord, the greatest hero of all. Courage, confidence, humility, self-sacrifice, virtue, perseverance, love—the qualities of a hero reflect our Lord’s character. They are also the qualities to which we ourselves should all aspire since we have been designed by God to be heroes just like Him in the unseen battle in which we fight. Especially significant to me is the fact that being a hero always exacts a price. Karen Hancock, "Why I Read Fantasy," Speculative Faith Blog, November 1, 2006.

As is my custom, I searched the Bible for an answer and found that Jesus taught using stories—but not just any old stories. Some clearly contained elements of fantasy. I read about a camel passing through the eye of a needle, an impossible event without God's miraculous intervention. Much of the story of the rich man and Lazarus couldn't possibly happen in the world Jesus' hearers knew, for they had never seen the afterlife dimension that Jesus described. These stories fall squarely into the realm of fantasy—stories that can't happen in our world without some kind of supernatural cause, in these cases, God's power.

And Jesus made fantasy stories come true. He made a coin appear in the mouth of a fish. A fig tree withered at His command. He calmed a storm with a spoken word. He walked on water. Without His power, none of these events could ever occur. They are fantasy stories brought to life. And each one taught us a lesson we will never forget. Why? Because fantasy brands images on our minds that cannot be erased. As we recall the images, we remember the lessons behind the amazing pictures. Fantasy creates indelible portraits of God's wondrous truths.

Jesus knew how our minds work, so he taught using fantasy elements in His stories. With such a powerful, authoritative fantasy trail-blazer leading the way, it seemed clear that I should simply follow. Bryan Davis, "Why Fantasy, Part 1" Speculative Faith Blog, Aug 23, 2006

Fantastic literature caught my imagination early. I fell down the rabbit hole with Alice. I wandered Barsoom, which we call Mars, with John Carter. I found authors who have stuck with me, and I with them. I discovered The Fellowship of the Ring in the stacks of the library of what is now the University of Wisconsin, Superior, while I was a student, working in that library. The Narnia books, by C. S. Lewis, discovered me, while I was a graduate student, wandering around the library of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, looking for something to read. (One of those books told me that there aren't any accidents.)

I was entertained, certainly. I escaped, for sure. But I have also learned about heroism, and endurance, and battling evil, and the perils of tinkering with what you shouldn't. I learned that there is another reality, more real than what appears to our eyes. I learned something of the power of the imagination. I learned, from some of my favorite authors, about human limits, too. Even Tolkien and Lewis seemed to leave some gaps in their imagined worlds. Only One author can create a consistent universe that really works.

I am thankful for fantastic literature, and for being made in the image of a God who imagines all possible things, so that I, too, can use my imagination, and profit from the imaginations of others.

Here is the last post of four, about my three favorite works of fantastic literature.

I am thankful
for Rebecca, who suggested that November be a month of blogger gratitude emphasis. I previously posted musings about my gratitude for Carbon atoms, and for the electromagnetic spectrum, and for cell division, and, subsequently, about carbohydrates.

Thanks for reading.


Clefspeare said...

Thank you for your contribution to clearing the air concerning fantasy literature. Thank you, also, for quoting me. I am honored.

Bryan Davis

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you. The honor is mine.