You ever had one of those weeks when you feel as if you got run over by a pack of orcs? And then dropped down the deepest mineshaft in Moria? And then stranded in the Emyn Muil?
Coming off one of those weeks, I can say it’s about as fun as getting toasted in Mount Doom.
Yet such times—whether they feel more like trials by endless fire or wandering through darkness with no idea where you’re going and wondering how anything can make sense—are part of life. A necessary part, in fact.
Often, the dark trials are what strengthen us, not the ease-filled traipses through flower-strewn meadows.
This is a recurring theme in fiction, nowhere more apparent than fantasy.
Tales of wonder and exploration and pure adventure, to be sure. Yet also ones that speak to reality in a powerful way, taking the ordinary and re-framing it in the extraordinary. A new context that lets us see truth from a different perspective.
Too many times, it’s as if we’re driving down the familiar roads we’re so accustomed to—heading to work, school, church. We don’t appreciate our surroundings as we should. Fantasy stories present an opportunity to see those same surroundings, but in a completely different way—driving down the road in a different city, different state, different country.
When that’s the case, we value those surroundings. They pop with new vibrancy and make us take notice.
The same is true of truth in fantasy. Let’s explore some examples.
What better story to turn to than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? There we find one of the most telling illustrations of finding truth in fantasy. Aslan dies for Edmund, a worthless brat of a kid who deserved his punishment at the hands of the White Witch.
Or think of Sam. Good old Sam, who left his peaceful garden and simple life to accompany Frodo into the wide, dangerous world. Who refused to turn back or give up. Who stuck by Frodo’s side during Frodo’s worst moments.
2. The triumph of good
Talk about a common theme. It’s as bountiful as wizards at Hogwarts. And well it should be, as one of the foundational aspects of fantasy storytelling. In the end, the good side wins.
- The Ring is destroyed and Sauron defeated forever.
- Aslan comes back to life and kills the White Witch
- Eragon defeats Galbatorix
One of my favorite characters is Achan Cham. He’s a failure. He struggles mightily at times. He doesn’t always do the right thing for the right reason. In a word, he’s relatable.
We’ve all been there. Gripped with doubt, crippled by failure.
In spite of his shortcomings, Achan’s faith helps him remain strong. It’s a good reminder for us.
Returning to Narnia, we have the obvious examples of two of the most hated and loved characters in fiction. Eustace and Edmund. Selfish, unloving monsters who didn’t deserve the second chance they both were given, the mercy they received, the forgiveness for their awfulness.
Applying Fantasy Truth to Real Life
As I said, there are those days and weeks when we’re certain we’re drowning. There’s no escape from the relentless pounding of the surf.
Fantasy is a distant island filled with troves of treasure we can mine if we only pay attention and know what we’re looking for.
Sometimes we feel like Eustace with his dragon skin. We try and try to claw our problems and weaknesses away, but our efforts are futile. We need Aslan to come in and rip down to the deepest parts of our soul. Because only then can we be restored.
Sometimes we feel like Sam and Frodo, lost in the suffocating darkness of Shelob’s Lair. How can life be so dark, so void of hope and the promise of light? We stumble about, uncertain, disoriented by some darkness that has swallowed us.
Yet there is hope that darkness will pass, as we’re poignantly reminded by Sam.
Sometimes we feel like Nym from Storm Siren. Looking into the deepest recesses of ourselves, we see something we hate. The darkness, the despair. Or we’re like Shallan, hiding something from our past too horrible to let out from the corner of our souls in which we’ve locked it. How can there be any hope? How can the burden be lifted?
Then the reminders come. Truth breaks through, rays of sunshine penetrating the gloom-ridden clouds.
Throughout the pages of fantasy, we find these rich truths that reflect life in so many ways. Not only is that encouraging, it’s a comfort. We remember the redemption stories. We think back to those characters who suffered, who we identify with in so many ways.
We know they survived. They were given new life, saved from the deepest darkness, and rescued when it looked hopeless.
That is their story, and it’s our as well.
What are some of your favorite truths you’ve discovered in fantasy?