Dragons aren’t as popular as they once were, certainly, but they represent fantasy in many ways. Off and on I run across comments that seem to indicate an element of conservative thought that is still suspicious of fantasy, and hence, of dragons. I hesitate to say this kind of thinking comes from Christians, but certainly it comes from those who cling legalistically to a set of do’s and don’ts they want to impose upon others. And truth be told, for the most part, any objections to fantasy come from those who would include themselves in the camp of Christians.
Some years ago I read Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings by Richard Abanes (Harvest House). In this discussion, Abanes opens with an apology for fantasy. Perhaps his most powerful statement, however, is this:
We must never underestimate the power that a certain piece of literature, or body of literature, can have over a generation. It can ultimately affect society in general on a very large scale in years to come.
Especially with society’s current band-wagon mentality, it seems that an author’s influence can be widespread. What disturbs me is that critics holding to a legalistic view of fantasy elements are missing that truth. Or more accurately, their answer to that fact is to cocoon their children. If J. K. Rawling, for instance, is writing something outrageously popular, something that a generation of young people have been influenced by, but . . . horrors . . . which involves magic and wizards and ghosts and magic, well the answer is to condemn all fantasy and keep children away from it!
There are legitimate questions about magic and wizards and dragons and ghosts. The Bible is not silent on the subjects of sorcery, and reportedly mediums are under God’s judgment. But what does that have to do with fiction?
As Mr. Abanes points out, literature, and especially fantasy, creates a world that entwines the material world with the spiritual. I can’t help but wonder if the great rise in spirituality (often expressed in forms of Eastern religion) in this postmodern era doesn’t account in part for the elevated interest in fantasy, whether traditional, dystopian, supernatural, or steampunk.
Here, then, is the crucial point. If we as believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior want to engage our culture and give our eyewitness accounts of the good news, should we not enter the arena that offers a ready forum? Should we not be the premier fantasy writers? As yet, however, Christian fantasy, apart from the greats, has not taken our culture by storm. Not like Rowling did or Stephenie Meyer.
Perhaps the Harry Potter phenomena or the vampire fixation were passing fads. But perhaps they are reading experiences that are helping to shape the thinking of a generation. Shouldn’t Bible-believing Christians see that as our job?
So what should we make of dragons . . . or magic or wizards or trolls or faeries? Do they belong in the stories our children read? Do they belong in the stories we Christian authors write?
This post is a revised and edited version of one that first appeared here in April 2009.