Monthly Archives: April 2014
Harry Potter is struck down by his archenemy, visits the in-between, and makes the choice to return and finish what needs to be done – that is, conquer evil in the form of Lord Voldemort, thus saving not only the wizarding world, but the world entire.
Death, for Harry, meant life.
Gandalf the Grey is taken down into darkness by the Balrog, only to later return a much greater and stronger wizard: Gandalf the White.
Death of the Grey meant birth of the White.
Persephone is taken by the god of death, Hades, every autumn and made to live with him in his kingdom of darkness beneath the earth. Yet each year she returns to the world above, bringing spring and new life in her wake.
Death, for Persephone, meant the promise of life.
The mythical creature, the phoenix, is famous for its ability to rise from the ashes of its own fiery death.
Death means life.
Neo moves between the Matrix and the real world, doing and understanding things no one else can. He is The One. After death has claimed him, Trinity kisses him, commands him to get up. And he does.
So his death meant life.
Aslan the Lion dies to save one boy, Edmund, whose life was forfeit because of the wrong he had done. In saving this one child, Aslan saves all of Narnia from the clutches of the White Witch. But it wasn’t his dying that saved Narnia – it was his use of the Deeper Magic to turn death backwards, and rise again.
Thus, death means life.
There isn’t one of these stories or characters that fails to affect me deeply. Their stories are ones I love to read and watch and ponder time and again. In fact, a few of them hold places in my heart as the best stories I’ve ever read.
The best, save one.
For there could be no life after death without Jesus, could there? There could not even be the thought of it – the very idea of it – without Jesus. We humans could not even begin to imagine such a vast concept.
Stories are about hope, more times than not. We love them because they give us a promise that our lives, no matter how dark, can one day stumble into the light.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
A phoenix rising can give us the confidence of new beginnings. The Matrix can remind us there is a truer world than the one we live in – one that eyes cannot see. Aslan goes a step further still, and gives us a direct idea of what Jesus did for us. For you are the Edmund Aslan died for. I am the Edmund he died for.
Yet still, nothing compares to the true story, the one that happened in our very own world more than 2,000 years ago.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Had you guessed that you are living out a fairy tale? Can you fathom that your life has the capability of being more thrilling than any fantasy? Did you know the hope you have is greater than anything found in a novel?
Because this is the True Fairy Tale. The one that started the rest. The one that turned death backwards and conquered the darkness.
I’m thankful for books – so thankful for them. And the Bible is closer to my heart than any other. But these other stories are God’s work as well – the stories that bring us back to the Bible, to a better understanding of Jesus, His death, and what his resurrection means to us: life eternal.
This is a guest post by Brent King.
Deeper than our deepest longings, fairy tales tell truths about our inner and outer world, truths that are either too obvious for modern men or too truthful. Take, for instance, Little Red Riding Hood. It affirms that the world is dangerous, that there is an evil wolf that will eat us up if given the chance. Yet there is also a huntsman who can slay the wolf and save us. The great themes of sin and redemption are encapsulated in such a story in a clever and deeply symbolic way.
It’s All About the Good News
GK Chesterton said that the deepest truth about fairy tales was not that dragons exist, but that they can be beaten. Who doesn’t see the bad news about dragons? They lurk all around us in our broken world. It’s the good news of their defeat that we need to hear.
The Pagans Knew More!
Many of our modern tales do not reflect this reality. In these stories, the young girl easily defeats the wolf or the protagonist befriends the dragon and they live happily together ever after. Consequently, our children are assured that wolves and dragons can be effortlessly vanquished. The pagans of old knew more about the dragons than we do!
It Seems Impossible
The good news in those ancient stories is that, beyond all hope, the dragon has been defeated. They are stories that seem impossible. We have all seen the pictures of the hideous monster dwarfing the brave knight wielding a sword. How can that story ever have a happy ending?
Yet it is this hope that lies at the root of our fascination with fairy stories: that good will triumph against all odds. The eucatastrophe, as Tolkien called it, of the fairy tale represents the heart of the Gospel: the dragon has been destroyed. The princess has been rescued, and she will live happily ever after with the prince.
A Primal Story
Fairy tales hold power over the human heart because they reflect the Gospel story, a story that rejects the idea of the princess saving herself. Of course, this is the primal story. It tells of a God who made the world and man. It tells of a malevolent angel’s attack, and man’s defeat and captivity. It was a rout so complete that, to save men, God had to become a man and fight the enemy Himself.
That is What Happened, but We Tell the Story Like This:
Once upon a time there was a lovely damsel who fell in love with a prince. Through her own folly, she was captured by a necromancer, drugged, and confined in his dark tower. The prince disguised himself as a commoner and entered into his shadow-shrouded stronghold to rescue her. But the sorcerer was too strong and slew the prince. Yet he could not combat the ancient magic that brought the prince back to life. The prince subdued the sorcerer and his minions, rescued the princess, and took her back to his kingdom where they lived happily ever after.
An Enduring Story
We tell and retell this story, as if we can’t get enough. Somewhere deep inside, we all know it is true. It awakens our imagination, rousing us in a way that religion cannot. No one, anywhere in this world, is immune to its power. It revives a hope of victory that reaches down into this broken world from beyond.
This is the Fairy Tale Gospel
The fairy tale world shares the darkness of our world, yet its world powerfully pictures a place where marvelous and unbelievable things truly happen, where good battles evil and survives to tell the tale. This is the fairy tale gospel: a gospel that introduces us to the true Gospel so that our once upon a time can indeed become a happily ever after.
Brent King is a freelance writer of Christian fantasy and historical fiction from Lake Oswego, Oregon.
The word Hobbit was soon to be as much a magical word for Professor Tolkien as Hocus-Pocus was for any fairy-tale magician. In fact, Hobbit was the most important single word that ever inspired him to invent a story. (David Day, The Hobbit Companion)
A short enough word, simple and unsuspicious. Is this how it all began for Tolkien many years ago? Looking at it, as a word in and of itself, and as a prefix to many other words, we can find a wealth of meaning and inspiration that Tolkien himself was almost certainly aware of when creating the world of The Shire and beyond.
A word in existence long before Tolkien took it for his own purposes, a Hob was a fairy, an elf, or an imaginary being. Hob comes from the root word hump, originally meaning hill in Low German. A Hob can also be a spirit that builds its home in a hollow hill.
Imaginary being? Home in a hollow hill? Any of this sounding familiar yet?
Now for words beginning with the prefix ‘hob.’ See if you can spot the ways Tolkien may have taken the following words and used them when assigning characteristics to his beloved Shire-lings.
Hobnob: To drink together; a friendly chat.
Hobbyhorse: A medieval morris dancer.
Hobnail: A country clodhopper.
Hobbyhorsical: Whimsical, amusing.
Hobbyist: Someone who pursues an interest for pleasure or relaxation.
Hobbiler: A name used in the Middle Ages for a farmer who may also be called upon to fight.
Hobbler: Someone who tows a boat with rope along the shore.
Hobo: Originated as “hoe boy” or itinerant farm worker.
We’re plain, quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things, they make you late for dinner. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit)
Tolkien was to have been quoted as saying, “I am in fact a hobbit in all but size.” And I think he must have been. The astounding work and depth of heart he put into this group of peaceful, quirky creatures made his love for them obvious.
At a height of just over 5 feet, I also happen to be a lover of peace, and quiet, and good-tilled earth. I sometimes wonder if I’m only missing the hole in the ground … and the large hairy feet, of course.
“Never laugh at live dragons.”
“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles
“My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
“No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and of wasting time trying to understand it.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
― S.G. Rogers, Jon Hansen and the Dragon Clan of Yden
“The hunger of a dragon is slow to wake, but hard to sate.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin
“Let me tell you: the only way to get rid of dragons is to have one of your own.”
― Evgeny Shvarts
“He had turned into a dragon while he was asleep. Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
“And that is the story of the boy who cried ‘Dragon!’ Of course, when dragons sit around the campire at night or tuck their children into bed, they tell the story of the dragon who cried ‘Boy!'”
― Mike Resnick, Young Warriors: Stories of Strength
“There is so much more to slaying dragons than a code of honor and a damsel. It’s a complicated series of fate and destiny.”
― Yesenia Barkley
“The age of chivalry is past. Bores have succeeded to dragons.”
– Charles Dickens
― Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
“Come not between the dragon and his wrath.” – William Shakespeare, King Lear
“They say dragons never truly die. No matter how many times you kill them.”
― S.G. Rogers, Jon Hansen and the Dragon Clan of Yden
“He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
“Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain; / If we perish in the seeking, why, how small a thing is death!”
― Dorothy L. Sayers, Catholic Tales and Christian Songs
“Noble dragons don’t have friends. The nearest they can get to the idea is an enemy who is still alive.”
― Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!
“Speak politely to an enraged dragon.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
The two following reviews are by Christians who express these opposing extremes of opinion. Click on the links if you’d like to read the entire review(s).
Austin Gunderson wrote a review of Noah for the Speculative Faith website (one of my favorite websites ever, by the way), in which he claims the movie is “the greatest work of Christian speculative cinema” he’s ever seen. Strong words! He nearly had me convinced to jump up and head to the theater … until I read another review….
This one is by Matt Walsh, radically outspoken conservative/Christian blogger, and he calls Noah a “ridiculous train wreck,” which is amongst the least of his strongly-opinionated views of the movie.
So what’s a Christian to do?
Have you seen the Noah movie? What’s your opinion?