Sunday, June 14, 2009


My friend Randy brought an article to my attention:
Why Fantasy and Why Now by R. Scott Bakker

We commented back and forth a bit on my last post, but I had a lot to say on the subject (surprise surprise) so I thought I'd take it to a new post.

Mr. Bakker seems to be mainly talking about fantasy written since the Enlightenment period, but there's been fantasy prior to that. But I do agree with his comment about wish fulfillment in a modern scientific society and defining good and evil. Science can't do that.
While science can tell us the "what" about nature (meaning life, the universe, and everything), it doesn't tell us the "why."

I don't agree that fantasy is a rival or even a companion of religion, at least not in the sense he means. Fantasy, I think, comments about human nature, human culture, and how to rise above those things. It allows us to stand apart from our real world (by substituting a fantasy world) so that we can see and evaluate as an outsider. The struggles depicted in fantasy stories are basically the same struggles in real life, but they are filled with symbols or archetypes that stand for real things.

You can view a fantasy novel as a model for a real struggle. You can study it, learn from it, be inspired by it and take that experience into your real life. And because it's all symbolic, it's a model that can work for many people who lead vastly different lives. This is the reason myths and legends are so readily passed down through time and from place to place.

For more on this topic, I recommend Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories" and Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With A Thousand Faces."


randy said...

Your "fantasy novel" description does sound an awful lot like the Bible. We've beaten that one to death so I'll leave it at that :-)

It would be interesting to hear how fantasy has played a role in your life. If it'll make it any easier I've spilled the beans on myself. I'll understand if you don't want to go there though.

A Fortnight of Mustard said...

Well, since reading The Hobbit, I've given up wearing shoes, moved to a hole in a hill, and started eating ten meals a day. LOL

Seriously, I never thought of fantasy playing a role in my life at all. I guess it depends on what you mean. I've always enjoyed fantasy stories and movies, but I generally regarded them as entertainment.

Now I'm writing one, so that's a little more commitment to fantasy. I hope it'll not merely entertain, but teach and comfort.

G.K. Chesterton wrote:
“I think the poets have made a mistake: because the world of the fairy-tales is a brighter and more varied world than ours, they have fancied it less moral; really it is brighter and more varied because it is more moral.”

So, in a way, most fantasy is a lesson in ethics, but instead of giving a rational argument or religious argument, it gives a magical argument. You know, like that song- Be good, Bunny Foo Foo, or the fairy will turn you into a goon.

I realize I haven't answered your question. Maybe fantasy is so interwoven in my life and my psyche that I'm not even aware of the role fantasy plays in my life.

The Bible is largely a history. But there are prayers (the Psalms come to mind), and moral teachings (like Jesus's parables). Most of it contains the history of the jews (the Old Testament), the history of Jesus (the Gospels), and the history of the first Christians (Acts and the letters). All of those are laced with teachings, to be sure, but not in the way The Lord of the Rings is, or even the Narnia Chronicles.

randy said...

Speaking of Hobbits, check out this house. I love it.

A Fortnight of Mustard said...

O.M.G.! I want to live there!!!!

randy said...

If Peter ever changes his citified ways my offer still stands. Plenty of free space to build a Hobbit village for your clan.

How has Peter been, btw? I'd ask him myself but I don't like to initiate email exchanges since he is at work.

A Fortnight of Mustard said...

Totally cool. Thanks for the offer. :)

Peter's doing well. He did well in the last race he was in. The other day he put the big tri-spoke wheel on the front of the black low racer. I told him he should blog about that stuff. My mind goes numb hearing about it after a while. But don't tell him I said that. LOL

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