Christian Fantasy: Lewis, Williams, and ???

Teresa Edgerton

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There was some talk a while back about starting a topic like this one but it never materialized. However, with "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" coming out in a little over a month it seems like a timely subject.

Catholics that I know find Tolkien's work to be intensely Catholic in all sorts of ways that the rest of us can't see, even though religion never comes up in LOTR. I remember one of them saying that "Tolkien saw the world the way God sees the world."

Lewis, of course, addressed religious and spiritual themes much more overtly. Not precisely allegory, but something right next door to it.

Another of the Inklings, Charles Williams, wrote books that always seem to be about spiritual journeys -- sort of a mystical, neo-platonic Christianity as you might say.

And now there are the Shadowmancer books, which I've not read.

Can anyone else think of other examples? And what do you think of writing fantasy based on one's own religion? Propaganda, exploitation, or simply a case of authors using the themes and symbols that move them personally?
 
Kelpie said:
Catholics that I know find Tolkien's work to be intensely Catholic in all sorts of ways that the rest of us can't see, even though religion never comes up in LOTR. I remember one of them saying that "Tolkien saw the world the way God sees the world."
I beg your pardon ? :eek: :confused: I'm a Catholic and never saw anything slightly related to Catholism in LOTR.
 
I'm not sure if I'm just getting the wrong end of the stick on this, but Dune by Frank Herbert had a very 'religious' spine to it, with the Fremen prophecies and beliefs.

I'd hesitate to 'assign' a real world religion to it, though.

Oh and Leto, I didn't either, but I know some draw parallels with the Simarillion especially, and the Creation myth in Genesis.
Man cast out from paradise because of greed and 'wanting to know that which was forbidden to them' etc etc
 
Well, I always thought it was an interesting statement (how would you know how God sees the world?). I can't explain it because I didn't say it. I read it over at The Symposium, which is an offshoot of the Christian Guide to Fantasy, which I used to visit because I know some of the people who run it. As I recall, several people chimed in their agreement.

I'll try to hunt it up, if the thread in question is still there.
 
Winters_Sorrow said:
I'm not sure if I'm just getting the wrong end of the stick on this, but Dune by Frank Herbert had a very 'religious' spine to it, with the Fremen prophecies and beliefs.

I'd hesitate to 'assign' a real world religion to it, though.
That's the point of Dune and several other Frank Herbert novels : what's a God, what turns a man into a God, etc ? Not any real religion but a conglommerate of differents religious events (including crucifiction)

Winters_Sorrow said:
Oh and Leto, I didn't either, but I know some draw parallels with the Simarillion especially, and the Creation myth in Genesis.
Man cast out from paradise because of greed and 'wanting to know that which was forbidden to them' etc etc
I've heard this speech, but not from a Catholic background, from a fundamentalist evangelist (of Protestant obedience) guy who in the next sentence explained me Earth was created in 7 days and Vatican is home of all evil.

Guess, very zealous religious can find religion message on everything...
 
Kelpie... I mentioned Catholism once regarding Kate Elliott books and got hung! Could that apply to this situation now? I mean no disrespect to any religion when I say that, but in Kate's books are rich with religion, referring to The Crown of Stars Series and when I read it I thought of the early christians of the 1600-1700's and Caltholism.
 
Apparently, Tolkien himself said that his work was inspired by his Catholic faith. It's something that I had heard before and hadn't really done a bunch of research on. A quick google search yielded a few articles about it, though:

http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/Tolkien/

And he seems to both deny alligorical readings of LoTR and admit "accidental" symbolic elements in the following excerpt:

[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]
[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Tolkien rejected attempts to find Catholic symbolism in his work because he detested "allegory in all its manifestations." Indeed he frequently chided Lewis for trying to dress Christ up in the lion-suit of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. For Tolkien, to look for such correspondences is to miss the point of Middle-earth, which is meant to be a real place and not just some amalgam of historical and religious debris.[/font]

[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Still, Tolkien acknowledged that his Catholic sensibilities unconsciously inspired characters and objects in his imaginative world. In a 1952 letter to Rev. Robert Murray (grandson of the founder of the Oxford English Dictionary and a family friend), he readily admitted that the Virgin Mary forms the basis for all of his "small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity." It is not surprising, he admits, that the character of Galadriel—a created being endowed with radiant beauty, impeccable virtue, and powers of healing—resonates with the character of our Blessed Mother. [/font]

[font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Nor could Tolkien deny that the Holy Eucharist appears in The Lord of the Rings as the waybread (lembas), given by the elves to the hobbits to eat on their journey. The lembas reinforces the hobbits’ wills and provides them with physical sustenance in the dark and barren lands on the way to Mount Doom. As the Church teaches, while the Eucharist still tastes and looks like bread and wine, our sensations shroud a deeper mystery: The Eucharist is truly Christ’s body and blood. So in The Lord of the Rings the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Eucharist appear shrouded in the mysterious elements of Middle-earth. The best way to understand this is to see such examples of Catholic symbolism as literary "accidents." To leave them out would have diminished the story; they are parts of Tolkien’s effort to make his world complete, true for all times and places[/font]

The full article can be found at the following link:

http://www.crisismagazine.com/november2001/feature7.htm

I guess the surces of each should be taken into account, too. :)
[/font]
 
Leto said:
I beg your pardon ? :eek: :confused: I'm a Catholic and never saw anything slightly related to Catholism in LOTR.
I'm stunned that you can't see the obvious links. Although Tolkien has elsewhere stated that his works weren't a deliberate metaphor, there's obvious Christian mythology coming through in his writings.

Gandalf was a typology for Jesus. He was no ordinary man but more of a (lesser)God/man Facing up to a fiery balrog (i.e.devil), experiencing death, in the bowels of the earth and then resurrecting as a far more powerful being. If that isn't indpired by his faith I'll eat my socks. :D

But this is a common theme. I used to be a born again fundamentalist Christian a few years back and I think that there's fantastic story material in the gospel, which I have also used as a basis for my own writing.
 
I don't know how relevant it is to this thread but there is a subgerne classified in Fantasy as Christain Fantasy. I remember being involved in a discussion thread on this on another forum but can't seem to find that anymore...:(

If I dig it up maybe we could have a dicussion on Christain Fantasy?....
 
Paradox 99 said:
I'm stunned that you can't see the obvious links. Although Tolkien has elsewhere stated that his works weren't a deliberate metaphor, there's obvious Christian mythology coming through in his writings.

Gandalf was a typology for Jesus. He was no ordinary man but more of a (lesser)God/man Facing up to a fiery balrog (i.e.devil), experiencing death, in the bowels of the earth and then resurrecting as a far more powerful being. If that isn't indpired by his faith I'll eat my socks. :D

But this is a common theme. I used to be a born again fundamentalist Christian a few years back and I think that there's fantastic story material in the gospel, which I have also used as a basis for my own writing.
Yes but it's easy to make that analogy with a lot of stories in terms of religious analgoies, which is why I'm not a big believer in making those types of comparisons whether or not the author ever consciously or subconsciously intended it to be so.

As someone has already pointed out on this thread its easy enough to find all sorts of analogies depending upon ones POV.

I've heard the same discussions about Tolkien but how closely you can begin to line up specific characters in the story with biblical figures I'm not sure, it's all a bit of hit and miss to me. For example I've read somewhere where Frodo and not Gandalf is supposed to represent Christ and the ring he carries the Cross with Gandalf being more of an Archangel like Gabriel. Go figure!!..:confused:
 
GOLLUM said:
If I dig it up maybe we could have a dicussion on Christain Fantasy?....

Sounds good Gollum.

Has anyone heard of Russell Kirkpatrick? His books are rich with Christian metaphors, and not just basic Christian stories such as Creation or the Crucifixion (which also feature), but commentaries about the character and sometimes hypocrytical behaviour of modern Evangelical Christians. I wrote and asked if he was a Christian, but he was not able to give me a clear answer ... unlike Lewis who was very clear and outspoken about his own faith.

It is human nature to be coloured by our experiences, and ALL writers, whether they are Christian or not will, conciously or subconciously allow their beliefs to enter into their work.

And goodness me, the genre is well and truly loaded with stories about this demon god or that high witch - Christian fantasy seems like a nice balance to all that. :)
 
The Blackfish said:
Has anyone heard of Russell Kirkpatrick?
HMM.. we're not twins are we?...:D Just that I posted this guy over on the maps thread if we're talking about the same fantasy author, he's a New Zealander.
 
I have found that a lot of Arthurian legends are heavily based on religion, in symbology and in actual telling. Like the Mist of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. The whole basis of the story is the fact that Chirstianity is starting to over power the old pagan religions. The holy grail is huge in religion. There are many more points that could be made but i am not much of a writer and it would probably just sound stupid, but it makes sense to me i swear! :p
 
GOLLUM said:
I don't know how relevant it is to this thread but there is a subgerne classified in Fantasy as Christain Fantasy. I remember being involved in a discussion thread on this on another forum but can't seem to find that anymore...:(

If I dig it up maybe we could have a dicussion on Christain Fantasy?....

This is a discussion on Christian Fantasy. (Note the title of the thread.)

I've thought of another author: Orson Scott Card. He incorporates Mormonism into some of his stories, and I've heard that the Alvin Maker books are based on certain early aspects of the LDS church.

You're right, Blackfish, about elements of other religions turning up in Fantasy. I know a number of neo-pagans who write Fantasy and incorporate some of their beliefs. The funny thing is, nobody seems to notice and take offense, because all of the people who would take offense are too busy looking for hidden paganism and occultism in books by authors who have no such affiliations.

Alia, I know that the religion in Kate Elliott's books is indeed based on the Catholic Church (with a feminist slant), but I believe of a much earlier period than you are thinking.
 
Kelpie said:
I've thought of another author: Orson Scott Card. He incorporates Mormonism into some of his stories, and I've heard that the Alvin Maker books are based on certain early aspects of the LDS church.

Yes, I read Orson Scott Card for a while, and really enjoyed the Homecoming series (about leaving the planet Harmony to return to earth), but when I tried some of his other books, I found them really too overpowering wiith Momonism. I think his priorities became more about preaching his religion through a story, rather than telling a story with references back to religion.
 
Kelpie said:
This is a discussion on Christian Fantasy. (Note the title of the thread.)
Yes I was aware of that thanks but I was thinking more of modern day writers who are classified or pidegeon holded or whatever you wsih to call it into that subgenre because I'd seen a lot of literature in recent years on this topic although obviously you're right there's plenty of earlier examples of these writers as you have already cited. Point taken.
 
amara said:
I have found that a lot of Arthurian legends are heavily based on religion, in symbology and in actual telling. Like the Mist of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. The whole basis of the story is the fact that Chirstianity is starting to over power the old pagan religions. The holy grail is huge in religion. There are many more points that could be made but i am not much of a writer and it would probably just sound stupid, but it makes sense to me i swear! :p
Most Arthurian legends were based on old celt faith myth then transformed to christianized Britain island, of course they have religion in it. That's the reason why they were written and told in the first place.
In Middle Ages, when Arthurian legend was built, fantasy didn't exist as such except to explain a religious (or non-religious) point !


Now, for modern days so-called Christian fantasy, my opinion on it is similar to the one I have on so-called Christian rock or on Ron Hubbard work : B.S.
Faith and fiction or music for leisure don't mix.
 
My own take is that it really depends on how the author handles the religous aspects of the story. Does the religion serve as a plot point to advance the story, or as explication of a particluar belief system, and that is all? Then that's fine. Does it serve as prosleytizing? Don't like that at all, although it can be a very fine line sometimes. Let's just say that I have no interest in reading the "Left Behind" series. But that probably has a lot to do with my own religious background, which has very much soured me on organized religion of any kind.

I do find The Blackfish's comments on Orson Scott Card and Mormonism in his books to be interesting. I've not read the Alvin Maker series, which is based loosely on the life of Joseph Smith, nor his books that he claims to have based on the Book of Mormon (that might be the Homecoming series, but I'm not sure). I've avoided them consciously because I've been there, done that, and don't wish to be exposed to it further. But, I do like Card's writing, and find that while his essay writing is often quite laden with his religious beliefs, his fiction that is not directly based on aspects of his religion (the Ender books, for example, and some of his stand-alones) are not weighed down by his religious feelings much at all, and what does creep in probably could not be identified by anyone who isn't fairly familiar with Mormonism. In fact, I can remember at least one scene in his Pastwatch (a very good stand-alone that deals with time travel), where he uses a key event in Mormon history and doctrine in a way that probably wouldn't please the church authorities much at all.

Not having read much Tolkien, and not being that familiar with Catholicism, I couldn't say how much his religion invested his writing. However, I can see how Gandalf could be interpreted as a Christ figure.
 
Since I'm not all that familiar with any religion beyond the basics, it is easy for me to miss these types of things and as long as the story is still good, I don't have a problem with it.

If any of them are intending to convert anyone, they must realize that they are 1) too subtle and 2) using stories that are designed to take the person out of a 'reality sphere'. Seems rather silly and harmless to me. If it all happens accidentally due to the author's beliefs, that shouldn't be a problem either - if the author didn't notice, the reader is less likely to.

In other words, preach at me all you like, just give me a good story to go with it!!
 

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