Tag Archives: On Fairy Stories

Reading Fantasy Can Bring Us Joy

dragon

Fantasy is a matter of taste. Some people just aren’t interested in it. I think it’s a matter of the leap of faith that you have to make as a reader, deciding to suspend your disbelief. Some people don’t want to do it or have difficulty doing it.

But for Christians who love fantasy stories, there is always a challenge in the wings from Christian skeptics. Isn’t this a genre that speaks of magic, witches and werewolves? Doesn’t the Bible forbid consorting with witches?  Isn’t fantasy therefore leading you, the reader, away from God?

Fantasy stories that have blessed me greatly all have a fantasy world set up by the author which has a moral compass.  You can tell which is right side up. The evil bad guy acts evil. The good guys act good.  There is conflict. The fantasy setting allows for magic, dragons, and other things that are not “real” but that nevertheless can help tell a good story.  Having the possibility of using magic increases the author’s creative vocabulary mightily.

In 1947, JRR Tolkien published an essay, “On Fairy Stories,” framing the “fairy story” or fantasy story as an art form that dates from the dawn of time. We are made in the image of God. What does that mean? It means that we love to create, he argues. So we love to make up stories, including stories with elements that are “not real.”

For Tolkien, the heart of the great “fairy story” is the happy ending. That’s not just any happy ending, but one that happens suddenly, when all seems totally bleak. That is what gives us joy.

As a Christian fantasy reader, I have experienced joy, when reading the Narnia tales and Lord of the Rings. I have experienced a letdown and disappointment when reading fantasy books that seem to have been written for the purpose of scaring me.  And I have also experienced a letdown and disappointment when reading tales that have a wrong view of God.

I am hoping that you, my readers, and I can discuss a variety of books and our reactions to them on this blog.