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Courage, Dear Heart

One of the beautiful things about stories is the presence of fear. But more than that, the presence of courage in the face of fear.
| Sep 13, 2016 | 3 comments |

We’re all afraid of something. It may be something big, or it might be something small. Often, it’s both.

Our fears come in all shapes and sizes.

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear of heights
  • Fear of bats
  • Fear of the dark

One of my greatest fears is speaking in public. Take my books, stop airing Doctor Who, just don’t make me present a speech to people. Enter the irony. I’m pursuing a Communications degree. Alas, to my chagrin—and the questioning of my sanity—it requires a Public Speaking course.

*cue the creepy, haunted house music*

I dutifully started two weeks ago and said public speaking things (nassstty thingses, preciousss) is proving my fear to be accurate. I pretty much loathe it, but that’s not the point.

That’s the thing about fear. It incites a strong reaction. Either you can wither under the feeling like a rose in the Sahara, or you can press forward, daunted but undeterred—like Frodo and Sam on their way to Mount Doom.

What’s the opposite of fear?

Courage.

I Googled the definition of courage and found this (which gets at the heart of the point I’m trying to make more than the definition I found on marriam-webster.com):

  • The ability to do something that frightens one.
  • Strength in the face of pain or grief.

Fear and Courage in Stories

Getting back to Frodo and Sam, one of the beautiful things about stories is the presence of fear. But more than that, the presence of courage in the face of fear. Those are the stories we remember, the ones we laugh at and cry over, and that live in our memories. Those are the stories that stir a sense of wonder and inspiration deep within our souls.

frodo-courage-memeAfter all, in any good tale, we can’t help but become attached to and invested in the lives of the characters. It’s part of what makes a story work. The characters step off the page and transform into living, breathing people.

The fears they face, the trials that assail them, become every bit as real as the fears and trials we deal with on a regular basis.

Fantasy, in particular, presents this contrast of courage in the face of fear. A few examples:

  • Frodo undertaking the quest to destroy the ring
  • Peter and Edmund leading the Narnians against the White Witch
  • Harry facing Voldemort

What makes these moments stab into our hearts? We see the characters go toe-to-toe against the nightmares, the things in life they most dread…and ultimately conquer.

Speaking for myself, that always encouraged me. If Sam and Frodo can trek across Mordor, surely I can take on this horrible test I despise.

We find this realization at the intersection of story and reality, and suddenly we’re not alone. We’ve seen the fire-breathing dragon named Fear rear its ugly head, and we’ve seen it come crashing down, neck severed by the honed blade of Courage.

Take Heart, Be Courageous

Image from narnia.wikia.com

Image from narnia.wikia.com

At the end of the day, these truths and the stories expressing them point back to their source, found in the greatest story of all, where the greatest Truth shines forth like a beacon into a fearful world.

As Romans 8:31 (ESV) says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Fantastical stories reflect this truth in moving, memorable ways.

One of the most reassuring examples is found in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. They’ve sailed far toward the east, encountering dangers and facing the unknown. One such confrontation is the Dark Island, where nightmares come alive.

During this terrifying process, an albatross appears and we find this quiet reassurance (emphasis mine):

But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

A small yet profound comfort.

Courage. It’s not the absence of fear, it’s action despite that fear.

Time and again, this plays out in stories. Characters face their fears and accomplish amazing things. Sometimes that amazing thing is simply surviving. Or resisting temptation. Or pushing through when they want to give up.

Acts of courage can be as large as an army or as small as a hobbit. Ultimately, size isn’t important. The point these stories make, and that we should remember, is that we can stand up to our fears and watch them crumble.

Those public speaking woes can be overcome.

That fear of failure can be turned around, used as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Why? Because we have the ultimate Conqueror on our side.

Whatever fear or trial you’re facing this week, remember two hobbits trekking to Mordor. Remember that with fear comes the chance to be courageous.

And most of all, remember that soft voice whispering, “Courage, dear heart.”

What stories of courage have inspired you?

Zachary Totah writes speculative fiction stories. This allows him to roam through his imagination, where he has illegal amounts of fun creating worlds and characters to populate them. When not working on stories or wading through schoolwork, he enjoys playing sports, hanging out with his family and friends, watching movies, and reading. He lives in Colorado and doesn't drink coffee. He loves connecting with other readers and writers. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Goodreads, and at his website.

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Kat Vinson
Member

I think most majors require public speaking, even if they aren’t communications focused. I know I had to take it (and found it equally fun). This: ” If Sam and Frodo can trek across Mordor, surely I can take on this horrible test I despise.” – Yes. I’ve always found it fascinating that fiction can be such a source of strength to us. It’s the power of the truth behind the story. 🙂

Pam Halter
Member

So many stories with courage – which one can I choose? The very cool thing about doing something you are terrified to do is how you feel afterward. Like you can do anything! Sure, that’s a little short-lived, but for the time it lingers, it’s wonderful.

Great post, Zac! Thanks!

Kirsty
Guest

Another one from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe:
“Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do.”