By Jenny Fulton
Life can be tough. Sometimes it’s boring. We long to escape, to immerse ourselves in an adventure.
So, we pick up a book. Maybe it’s a fantasy book.
What’s the first thing you do when you open a fantasy book?
I go straight to the map. What is this new world I’m about to enter? What are its features? Where are its major cities and points of interest?
And then, I let the adventure begin.
The troubles and mundane existence of my own life disappear as I’m whirled into an exciting adventure filled with passion and purpose.
But then I discover something within the pages of that adventure: truth. No, I haven’t found a truth that only applies to the imaginary world, but Truth that reaches beyond the story and inserts itself into my reality.
Now, on the one hand, according to J. R. R. Tolkien, “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
On the other hand, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” ― Lloyd Alexander
Which one is it?
Both, of course!
The Need for Escape
Sometimes, we need a break. Our minds get bogged down with the practicalities and stresses of life. Maybe we’ve lost our passion and sense of purpose. In these moments, we want to simultaneously relax while also becoming part of a meaningful adventure.
With our guard down, and our mind and body at ease, we step into a story so very unlike our real one.
There are interesting characters, a place we’ve never been, an exciting story, a tangible evil to be defeated…
And in the midst of all that, there is Truth.
The Reality in the Story
Fantasy characters have something about them we can relate to, otherwise we couldn’t care about who they were or what they did. Maybe it’s a certain personality trait, a strength, weakness, or insecurity. We see something of ourselves in the character and the stakes instantly increase, because inwardly we believe, “If they can succeed, then I can succeed.”
Every story has some form of conflict. Every character faces obstacles and goes through difficult times.
This is no different than real life. Every day there are problems to solve. Life isn’t easy and it’s rarely what we want or think it should be.
The difference is that through the eyes of the main characters, we get to see these trials and tribulations in a new light. We become aware of other perspectives we couldn’t see before.
The courage of the characters in the fantasy story gives us courage and a renewed desire to persevere through the troubles of our reality. #fantasy #realityTweet
Sure, we may not be delivering a magic ring to the fires of Mordor, but, as Sam Gamgee says, “There is good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
A Doorway Into the Spiritual
In addition to helping us process our physical reality, fantasy enables us to connect to our spiritual reality.
When we read fantasy, our minds imagine a world we cannot see. Throughout the story, this unseen world becomes as real to us as the world in which we live. That which we would dismiss in the visible world becomes a natural thing to accept in this invisible one.
I’m convinced this is why God gave us imaginations: to help us understand and be able to accept the realities of a spiritual world and a spiritual God we cannot see. #fantasy #Christian #imaginationTweet
Seeing God in a tangible way in a fantasy story makes Him more real and relatable in our own story. His Truths that we so easily and readily accept in the unseen world become easier to grasp, acknowledge and recognize in the seen one.
Through various Christian fantasy authors, God reveals Himself in a clear and relatable way through the story so that what we learn of Him there will enable us to know Him better here.
I’m going to end with this dialogue by C. S. Lewis, found near the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
May God grant us eyes to see and ears to hear His Truth. May our relationship with Him grow as we draw ever closer to who He is. May He become as real to us here as He is to the characters in the stories.
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