Should Christians Read Fantasy?
by Heather L.L. FitzGerald
Is it possible to enjoy fantasy stories as a Christian reader? After all, the Bible is quite clear on darkness and light having no fellowship together. There are no grey areas when it comes to familiarity with magic and witchcraft. I agree! But if those two things are your idea of fantasy, then I’d like to challenge your beliefs.
Fantasy has an amazing capacity to convey big concepts and important truths precisely because it is other-worldly. A good fantasy story is like an epic parable, allowing readers to objectively see parallels to their own life, their own battles, their own evil tendencies. The idea of Good vs Evil is usually displayed in a much starker contrast than in our daily lives, yet it can help readers notice that such a battle is clearly happening all around, as well.
Personally, when a story transports me into the point of view of the hero, and shows his or her flaws and fortitude, it makes me want to emulate his or her strength of character and do battle with my own dragons disguised as problems. Most fantasy stories have a central goal . . . the princess must be saved, the kingdom is doomed without the heir to the throne, a powerful treasure must be protected from the forces of evil . . . and our hero has an integral part to play in helping to bring this about. When we as readers get caught up in the main character’s quest, it’s easier to believe that our Creator has a very specific and grand purpose for our lives as well. When we follow the character’s choices and see the impact he has on the overarching story, we are more likely to understand how our own choices have an impact, and that our ideas have consequences.
Those are great points, Heather, but what about the magic? The witches? The wizards?
Good questions! In answer, I’d like you to consider the lightning bug. You know . . . a firefly. Somehow that tiny, little insect is given the ability to ignite a fiery glow in its rear end and flash it on and off at twilight. Did these little guys read a book on the subject to learn how to make their magical, gleaming lights? No. They were born with that ability. It’s just a part of how God made them.
In my yard I can watch the dance of the lightning bugs and feel a thrill of awe. Although I know there’s a good scientific explanation for their ability, it’s magical to me. I can’t do what they do, no matter how hard I try, it’s not how our Creator set things up in this world. A story like The Lord of the Rings is filled with unique creatures (or treasures) that also have abilities that I don’t possess. It’s how their world was constructed, how their creator—Tolkien—set it up. But getting to observe his world, like I can observe a firefly, teaches me new things and takes me on amazing adventures. And although Tolkien’s elves have abilities I cannot emulate in my own life, their wisdom and foresight are qualities I can hope to cultivate.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the generalizations I’ve given you. There will be some fantasy books that blur the line between good and evil, that encourage a human character to practice witchcraft, or glorify evil—however this would be absent in Christian fantasy. Let’s be honest, there are stories set in our own world that encourage all manner of sin and godlessness. As parents, we cannot blindly hand a book, a movie, or a phone to our kids without doing our homework. Influences for evil are everywhere. Relentless.
In fact, one of the safest places for your child to play might be in their imagination. In Narnia. In Middle Earth. In Wonderland. In the Tethered World. If you’ve considered Christian fantasy an oxymoron, I hope I’ve given you a reason or two to reconsider! What kind of misconceptions have you had about some of the topics touched on here? Have there been other convictions that you’ve had to reconsider over the years?
Heather L.L. FitzGerald writes from her home in Texas. Her books include The Tethered World, The Flaming Sword (winner of the OCW 2017 Cascade Award for Speculative Fiction) and The Genesis Tree. Connect with Heather: website/blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram.