I think everyone should read fantasy.
Or any derivative of speculative fiction for that matter. Let me explain.
This past year I was contemplating God, life, and writing fantasy. And a thought struck me. Fantasy gives us something that no other genre can give, or at least not as well as fantasy can: Wonder and awe and the greatest portrayals of battle between good and evil. Something that the awesome David Farland reiterated at Realm Makers this past year.
So I decided to sit down and write up why I think everyone should read fantasy.
When I get done reading books like Cast of Stones or watching a kick-butt movie like Avengers, I feel motivated to learn how to fight with a staff or take up sword play. Or, you know, learn astrophysics overnight. Not only do I feel motivated to improve my life, I feel like I CAN do it. Well, maybe not the astrophysics. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I want to be ready for it. The only problem is I like food too much. Ha!
Books like Blaggard’s Moon and movies like Man in the Iron Mask make me want to BE a better person. Samwise makes me want to be a better friend or their fight against such insurmountable odds inspire me to never give up. There are so many! Merlin in Merlin’s Blade. Anna’s sacrifice and love for her sister, Elsa. Tinkerbell standing up for the Neverbeast. The My Little Ponies and the magic of friendship—we can be friends despite our differences. Can you tell I have young kiddos in the house?
The loyalty and honor, the self-sacrifice, the kindness that I all too often fall short of. That’s the kind of life I want to live. Those are the kinds of stories I want to write.
Fantasy can be a reflection of life, the world around us, and our inner journeys. It challenges us to look beyond ourselves while it holds up a mirror to our souls.
It helps us to understand our world better, explore concepts of right and wrong, and the possible consequences of people’s decisions on a world-wide level. We can get so caught up in our bubble and forget how our choices and actions affect others.
Pirates of the Caribbean. I almost hated the third movie. Where was my happy ending??? And then I realized that it was as about as happy as Will or Elisabeth could have had. Then the movies deepened for me as I shared in an older post, What Pirates Taught Me: It’s no longer about the fun and the adventures to be had, but about the consequences of our choices, standing up for what we believe is right, whether or not it is acceptable in other people’s eyes, whether or not it brings us happiness or not, but because it was noble, self-sacrificing, putting others first, etc.
The Mummy & The Mummy Returns. LOVE those movies. What I find amazing in Mummy Returns, is that we see the contrast of committed love (Rick & Evie) and lust. (Imhotep & Anck-Su-Namun) What a great way to demonstrate the principles of God in action!
A Time to Die challenged me to live life to the fullest. What if I had only one year to live? How would I live?
Fantasy is also a reflection of our inner world. Just like Zachary Totah mentioned in his post about Epic Journeys, we can all relate to characters setting off on quests and adventures, because it echoes our own journeys. Journeys of overcoming great obstacles, of healing, of finding hope amid the darkness, and finding our way in this crazy thing called life.
And because fantasy can be a reflection of life, the stories can get dark.
I appreciate the darker stories, because life is dark. You’d think reading darker novels or watching darker movies that we’d be more depressed or something. And perhaps for some that is the case. Only you can answer that. But for me, it can inspire us to overcome our own darkness. Like G.K. Chesterton said: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” I think that’s why I love the Tales of Goldstone Wood so much. I can recognize the dragon in me and I know I need the Prince of Farthestshore to help me fight it.
If you are a Christian and you’re reading the Bible, you would know that we serve an amazing, fantastical God. The God who created the world, set the planets spinning, and the stars a burning. The God who set aside His glorious immortality and took on mortal flesh to live among us and redeem us. How crazy amazing is that? And then we have the stories. Balaam and the talking donkey. Angels. The walls of Jericho. The day the sun stood still. Parting the red sea. Healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, raising people from the dead. What other genre can better demonstrate the wonder and power of God? Or make the invisible visible? Or see His principles in action?
There have been many times that God has spoken through a story to me. The above paragraphs point to a few examples. Many times fantasy books and movies have given me greater insight into my journey or God’s Word.
Example. Harry Potter. When I read that Voldemort couldn’t touch Harry because Harry’s mother had sacrificed herself to protect him, I had an aha moment. Satan cannot touch me because of what Christ did on the cross. Sure I’ve read about it in scripture, but it hit me. Now. I’m not trying to Christianize anything here. All I’m saying is that God can use stories to speak to us. But we all knew that already. Jesus did it. A lot.
Last but not least, when I finish watching an out-of-this-world movie like Stargate, or turn the last page in a book like The Shock of Night, I am THANKFUL. Thankful to be alive here and now. Thankful that we don’t live in a world with aliens trying to eat us. Thankful that we don’t have to deal with zombies or monsters or fire-breathing dragons. Thankful that we have things like the laws of Thermodynamics and gravity and such. I’m thankful that we know how this story will end and Who wrote it.
Some might think fantasy is pure escapism, but in reality, it helps us deal with the darkness in our own lives, inside and out. It can give us the motivation for self-discipline, the inspiration to rise above and become better, and it can challenge us to look at life and ourselves differently. It can help us understand our spiritual journey better and help us to see the light oh so much brighter. And the escaping part isn’t too bad either. I should know. Books were once my drugs.
So what say you? What stories have inspired or challenged you?
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Writing as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with a wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril. She has two short stories published in The Clockwork Dragon anthology, and four short stories set in the world of Nälu. Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award, and its sequel, Darkened Hope is coming May 2016.