Some people object to fantasy and fairy tales because they contain magic or are simply not “true.” While these forms of literature require discernment like any other, we’d like to point out that the Bible is the greatest model of such imaginative stories.
Creation, Fall, Redemption.
A princess captured by the enemy and rescued by a prince at great sacrifice to himself; he marries her and they live happily ever after. Isn’t this the theme of the book of Revelation, and, indeed, of all of Scripture? This wonderful story is God’s idea, and we, His people–His bride, are still hanging out the dragon cave awaiting our great Hero’s return so that we can start living happily ever after!
God uses words and pictures in such beautiful ways to reveal Himself, through His Word and Creation; it is our privilege to use them with our children to point out these shadows of His reality. The sun, for instance, reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the world (as my [Megan] sons and I recently learned through My Father’s World Kindergarten curriculum). Any book that refers to the sun in story or in pictures is indebted to God for creating the sun and whispers a reminder that “Jesus is the Light of the world.”
Like every part of creation, literature belongs to God and we can enjoy it and use it for His glory. Make reading with your children an act of worship, whether in the Bible or simply in the captivating words of a good story well told!
Further Thoughts (in which we wax eloquent and get a bit long-winded on this subject):
Some of the best and most beautiful pictures of spiritual truths have come to us from the pages of a fantasy. Why is this so? Perhaps because when people write about deeply spiritual truths, it often comes across as cheesy or trite–even in the hands of a gifted writer. Extrapolate out the essence, place it in another world, and suddenly it sounds more majestic and captivates our imaginations better.
Aslan’s country might not be the Celestial City, but it surely helps us imagine the awe, the freedom, the eagerness, the glory that awaits us. We can’t see demons and angels with our earthly eyes, but reading about a fight between Henry’s relatives and the evil forces in the 100 Cupboards books helps us get a feel for what an awesome and terrifying spectacle it would be if our eyes were opened as Elijah’s and his servant’s. Or, what about the awe at hearing–really hearing–the voice of God and then obeying? Gen certainly feels this on the rooftop in The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia.
Is it okay to read Harry Potter? We have no problems with it. There is ultimate good in those books, and the good soundly trounces the evil. The final book is one of the most redemptive books we’ve read as characters are revealed for who they truly are, unknown sacrifices come to light, and heroes step forward to lay their lives on the line. Are we going to let our young children read it? No. Not yet–but someday, they will. In contrast to the clear sense of good and evil in Harry Potter, the postmodern ambiguity in the Lemony Snicket series started out humorous and collapsed into an empty fading away, denying the reader any satisfaction of their hopes and speculations. The humor became shallow mockery, and our enthusiastic recommendations for the series sadly lessened.
We use the same standards for fantasy that we use for other works of literature: is sin revealed to be sin/evil? Are the right qualities shown to be right/honorable? Is it redemptive? Are there consequences for disobedience? Are humans shown to be something set apart, a special creation? etc.
There are a host of well written essays (and whole books) written on this subject of the fantastic in the arts as compatible with a Christian world view. Check out Leland Ryken’s books (such as The Christian Imagination–a collection of essays edited by Ryken), On Fairy Stories by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis’s collected critical essays, Gene Veith’s Reading Between the Lines, and Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water for a start….