Monday, March 21, 2011

Part 1: On correcting people who think Fantasy is "escapist"

I was recently reading Peter Schakel's "The Way into Narnia" in the holidays (as you do) and I really want to hi light some of the main points I think deserve to be addressed:

*Fantasy & Escapism 

He inserts many quotes by Lewis himself, but surprisingly most of the quotes are from J.R Tolkien! Any true Lewis fan has to eventually submit to the truth that he did in fact get allot of his ideas and thoughts (not to mention his illustrator Pauline Baynes) from his 'mentor' Tolkien. This does not make Narnia a second rate copy of Middle Earth in any way - it just means that he's human and, like many great minds before him, needed some inspiration (as you can see here). But the main ideas of Narnia and talking animals was an idea he carried with him since his boyhood when he used to draw little characters of animals dressed in armour and ready for battle, with amazing stories to go with them.

Now, I considered paraphrasing some of the thoughts I liked best but every time I tried I could not do it justice. Simply because there is no better way to word it than how it is written already.

A perfect excerpt (p29)
 And another to finalise the point (p33)

Here I should clarify that the use of the words 'Primary' and 'Secondary' worlds are to distinguish between the the reader's world and the fantasy realm created in the story. The reason Lewis and Tolkien (and Schakel) use these words is to avoid using the highly connotative words 'real world' and 'fake world' 

‘There is no market for fantasy.’
                        -- U.S Publisher to an aspiring author in the 1950’s

Utter Bullshit. We need Fantasy. 

Escape into a fantasy world is not the cowardly action of a person unable to cope with their own lives. Fantasy enables us to recuperate and regain a new outlook on life. But it is not just the act of escape alone that does the trick - it's when we return that does it. When we return from the Secondary world it helps us see things in the Primary world that we may have previously taken for granted. It gets us out of our limited perspective and frees us from  "the drab blur of triteness or familiarity" (Tolkien: 'On Fairy Stories). 

How many times have you ever stopped to think about the point of life? The reason for our existence? If you are anything like me, and have no stable world view to dictate it for you, the answer is EVERY freaking day. So, reading fantasy stories, and being attune to 'other-world' literary devices is something that keeps us going. This is not to distract or make up for our actual lives, but to give us hope. This goes hand in hand with what Lewis said about art (or in this case, fantasy as a work of art)  acting as a window into worlds unseen. As humans we  “seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself. … We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. … We demand windows.” (Lewis: 'An Experiment in Criticism')

That phrase about humanity, that we "seek an enlargement of our being" may be one of the most true statements I've ever heard. It explains the search for God, religion, purpose, an afterlife...this is not necessarily profound, but true. It's easy to pick out fallacies and lies in someone's work - but we often forget to commend the delicate art of stating the obvious in a beautiful, refeshing way.


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