Young Readers and the Allure of Fantasy – Part II
- Monday, April 10, 2006
Your daughter immerses herself in a fantasy novel. Her dinner conversations revolve around an imaginary world that focuses on the fantastical, including dragons and wizards. Your son buys the latest fantasy movie, watching it again and again, acting out its plot with imaginary swords.
Literary greats like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are known for creating a fantasy world that epitomizes biblical truth, but you feel uneasy with all this talk of special powers. And part of what your children choose isn’t Tolkien – in fact, the "Lord of the Rings" and "Narnia" fuel a hunger in them for more fantasy. You’re not sure how you feel about that.
You research the issue and find that Christians and non-Christians alike disagree on the merits of fantasy. Specific books and movies, like any of the "Harry Potter" titles, seem to cause especially heated debates, with one respected Christian leader expressing concern and another saying they’re okay. What’s a parent to do?
According to Bryan Davis, Christian author and homeschooling dad of seven, who writes the fantasy series, "Dragons In Our Midst," there is reason for concern. “Good fantasy,” says Davis, “begins with an unlikely hero who sees himself as good and decent, yet is lacking in complete submission to the higher power. Part of his journey lies in discovering that truth, and giving himself over to God after realizing his need.
“But, there is fantasy that promotes evil thinking and practices,” adds Davis. “Still, it is far too valuable of a genre to reject and toss away simply because some use it for the forces of darkness. That would be like giving up singing because so many people sing evil songs.”
Davis suggests studying the attributes of the specific work to distinguish good fantasy from bad. He says that in good fantasy the heroes and heroines are good or learn to be good. Right decisions are rewarded, and deception, disobedience and dishonesty have consequences. God is good and powerful, not evil, weak or capricious, and adults are balanced. Violence has a definable and justifiable end and is not gratuitous.
“Once parents learn how to distinguish good from bad fantasy, their concerns can be eliminated,” says Davis. “They can feel equipped to hand their kids a great fantasy book without any qualms or say ‘no’ to inappropriate books and give solid reasons for rejecting them.”
In regards to the concern of fantasy’s use of supernatural powers, Davis points to Christ. “Through His miracles Jesus brought fantasy to life, using His supernatural power to bring us fantastic, unforgettable illustrations that would never have happened had He not intervened against the natural forces of this world. And what is fantasy but a story that cannot be true if not for supernatural power?”
Davis believes that in good fantasy special powers have their origin from a higher power of goodness, and can be used as a symbol of spiritual power that we receive from above. “In my books,” explains Davis, “my hero obtains Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur, but he is unable to use its power until he submits himself to God. Then, the sword flashes with light, and the light cuts anything in its path. This is a superhuman power that no one really has, but it is a symbol of the power that God can give, the power of the sharp, two-edged sword, God’s Word.”
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