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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fantasy According to C. S. Lewis

I thought that I would take the opportunity to blog about a few topics near and dear to my heart as I wait for my manuscript to come back from my editors. I have made it no secret that I have a passion for good fantasy literature, my favorites being the works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and J. K. Rowling. Some critics of fantasy literature accuse it of being (among other things) juvenile, escapist garbage, commercial trash, or even wicked (based on the presence of magic, witches, wizards, warlocks, sorcery, etc.). I freely admit that some fantasy literature falls into these categories, but nobody should write off the genre as a whole based on these presuppositions. In fact, I find that fantasy as a genre is more edifying in many cases than any other genre of literature, for many reasons. Rather than continuing to hear me wax philosophical on this topic, however, I thought I would present a few quotations from the late, great C. S. Lewis for your consideration:

"Admitted fantasy is precisely the kind of literature which never deceives at all. Children are not deceived by fairy-tales; they are often and gravely deceived by school-stories. Adults are not deceived by science-fiction; they can be deceived by the stories in the women's magazines. None of us are deceived by The Odyssey, the Kalevala, Beowulf, or Malory. The real danger lurks in sober-faced novels where all appears to be very probable but all is in fact contrived to put across some social or ethical or religious or anty-religious 'comment on life.'" From An Experiment in Criticism

"The boy does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted... the boy reading the fairy tale desires and is happy in the very fact of desiring. For his mind has not been concentrated on himself, as it often is in the more realistic story." From 'On Three Ways of Writing for Children,' Of Other Worlds

"...When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." Ibid.

I particularly love the middle quotation. Anybody who spends any amount of time with teenagers has witnessed the malignancy which is the self-centeredness of the American teenager. We live in a society of "YOU." Everything is always all about YOU; what makes YOU happy, finding YOUR hidden potential, being true to YOURSELF, etc.... Reading good fantasy (or fairy tales) can take a person outside his or herself in a way that causes him or her to desire a power and a fulfillment outside of him or herself, as well as encouraging them to see him or herself as part of a larger, more beautiful story. Anyhow, I'm ranting now, I suppose, and I could go on for much longer, so I'll cut myself off. Any thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. In general I agree wholeheartedly. However, there are some children that cannot distinguish between fantasy and how the real world works. Parents must know their child and meter the fantasy and help them learn to distinguish the two. Its good to have fantasy stories for the young, as it give parents the opportunity to help the child distinguish the two.