Why Do Some Not Like Fantasy?
Also, An Excerpt from The Oerken TreeThomas Clayton Booher
If you ask the question “Do you like fantasy novels?” you’re going to get a variety of answers. Those who don’t like to read may ask, what is a fantasy novel? They are to be pitied. But for the rest of us who do like to read, there is a wide response. At one end of the spectrum, there are some who can’t get enough of fantasy. But at the other end, there are those who absolutely loathe fantasy.
The fantasy-loathers may not be able to say precisely why, but it probably comes down to viewing fantasy as merely make-believe, and the protestor prefers a story whose setting is in this world. The story doesn’t have to be true, just realistic and believable. Fantasy is neither, he says. I wonder if the same person ever liked the story of The Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood as a child, and if so, what happened to him? When or why did he fall away from this youthful pleasure? True, as one gets older (I’ve had over sixty years experience in that area), one’s taste changes, and literary preferences are no exception. But usually a change in taste does not mean an abandonment but rather a refinement.
I don’t get excited over The Three Little Pigs much anymore (except when reading the story to a little one, which is an interesting phenomenon itself), but I still like fantasy. J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was my first introduction (as it should be) to the realm of Middle Earth, and I was absolutely delighted. I was such a fan of Bilbo that when he took a rather insignificant role in The Lord of the Rings, I was very disappointed, if not a bit miffed with Tolkien. It took about the whole first book of The Fellowship of the Ring before I began to warm up to Frodo.
So why does the world of Bilbo and Frodo have such an appeal to me? Is it not just make-believe, after all? Except for allowing one to ‘escape’ and let his imagination go (which perhaps makes the fantasy-loather a little suspect in the imagination department), what use is it? I have to admit that the imagination factor is a big plus for me, but there is still something else that charms me.
I like fantasy because it ingeniously portrays reality.
“Uhmmm,” the fantasy-loather murmurs, “isn’t that contradictory; fantasy portrays reality?”
“Yes,” I say, “fantasy portrays reality. Look at the greedy, schizophrenic Gollum.”
Turns out that in Gollum’s case, the greed and schizophrenia go hand in hand, and though I’m not a psychologist, I’ll bet there is a basis for that in this world. Gollum’s mental, psychological, emotional, and physical decline are blended so well together, that the whole picture tells us something about where such greed leads us. It is a dehumanizing process that blurs and contorts the image of God. Even if Tolkien didn’t have that in mind, the fantasy world itself had an intrinsic force (not to mention Tolkien’s genius) that allowed the truth about greed to strike us powerfully. I really, really get that when I see Gollum.
It is suggestive of what Paul writes: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10, NKJV).
And of Solomon: “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners” (Proverbs 1:19, NKJV).
I hope to talk about this as it relates to The Oerken Tree. In anticipation of that, here is an excerpt:
Note: Brutus, the bad guy, arrived in a new world a few days previously and was held at Yellow House, the governor’s mansion. He escaped and is on the run, trying to get to a place called Ferguson Farm. After a little visit in a nearby town, he is now walking on a trail that will take him to a neighboring town, Puddle Bottom West, where he can catch the ‘magnerail’ all the way to Kittanning and the farm.