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Monday, March 15, 2010

Why isn't there a Jewish Narnia or Middle-Earth?

I confess that I had never pondered that question, until reading an essay on that subject in what appears to be the first issue of something called The Jewish Review of Books, by Michael Weingrad.

Weingrad, clearly a Jew himself, is very familiar with C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, and has at least a nodding acquaintance with George MacDonald. The essay would have been worth reading if it had been only a consideration of those authors. But Weingrad attempts to answer the question, and his answer is multiple.

Historically, he says, Jews do not view the middle ages, which have so influenced Sword and Sorcery fantasy, because they were often persecuted, even put to the sword, during that period.

Weingrad says that the Jewish religion is less open to paganism than Christianity. (For a little more on that matter, see here.) Most fantasy literature has some pagan elements. (Bacchus appears in Narnia, for example.)

The author also says that Jews have "invested in modernity," and that, Weinberg points out, may explain the abundance of Jewish science-fiction authors, including Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, to name two of the most prominent. (I would classify much of Silverberg's writing as fantasy, rather than science-fiction.) See here for more on Silverberg and religion.

This is a fine essay, and I'm glad that I found it, and read it.

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