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Monday, March 22, 2010

Not All Who Wander are Lost

 Re-posting this favorite  for the blog carnival.


While I hold some literary pretensions and love Austen, Twain, Bunyan and Dumas, I have long been a fan of science fiction and fantasy.  It is years ago now that I first went through the Wardrobe.  A small part of me still holds my breath in anticipation every time I open a closet door.

 
  The first book club that I signed up and paid for myself was the Science Fiction Book Club.  I was 13 and earned money washing dishes by hand at a little 6 table Finnish restaurant. My first paycheck banked, I filled out the form and eagerly awaited my first volumes.  The box finally came and as I read, I fell in love with the wildness of Pern, the Free Amazons of  Darkover, and the machinations in Amber.  I giggled my way through The Spellsinger series and outright howled with laughter reading the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  These and their sequels have been a staple on my shelves for years.  Old friends I still own and return to again and again. 

Then, along came Harry Potter. I resisted reading them for a long time due to all the hype.  Never one to follow the crowd, I snubbed them.  By the time I decided to delve in, there were three books already and I got them from the library.  And fell in love.  While not the unrivaled prose of Tolkien, Harry and his friends grabbed my heart.  These are the kind of books I adore.  I was swept away into a new world with new friends that I came to deeply care about and I couldn't wait to go there and back again.

It was about that time when I became aware of an "issue".   I suddenly found myself in the unique position of being called a bad Christian for reading them.  The home school message boards I frequent became a house divided.  Those that read Harry Potter and those who believe that Christians should not read them.  Friends in my church disapproved as well and I found myself warning the children to just not mention Harry Potter.  As if it were a secret.  And I mulled it over.  Were my reading habits unpleasing to my Lord?  And if it was, why? 

It must be stated that I am highly selective about the books allowed in our home. It is one of the privileges of homeschooling.  Twaddle is rarely allowed.  As defined by CS Lewis, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty.”  I concur.  Some of the books I love best I read first as a child and delight in still.

There is a season for everything, however, and I did not allow my children, when they were younger, to read Harry.  There is much dark in his life and I felt a certain maturity was in order.  For this same reason we read children's versions of Egyptian,Greek, Roman,Celtic and Norse mythology during our history studies.  Clearly there are themes in the original versions inappropriate to younger children.  By the same reasoning, we first read children's versions of Shakespeare and do not jump into "Titus Andronicus".  But we do read them.  Not only because they are part of the Western Canon, but because to not know them is to have a life less enriched and to be culturally more poor. And to have such familiarity with them when they are young will enable them to enjoy the original versions more thoroughly when they are older.   Not unlike finding out new things about old friends.

My children are a bit older now.  And they have read and seen the Tolkien Trilogy and the Harry Potter series.  Their current favorites are the Sister's Grimm series and the Lightning Thief series.  And none of their reading has caused my children to be shaken in their Christian faith.  They understand what is real and true and are not confused by reading fantasy.  They love everything about fairies and the idea of fairies as I did and my mother before me. Are not children supposed to play games using their imagination?  What harm in books and stories with classical themes of good and evil, danger, hate, love, perseverance, and self sacrifice?  What harm in fairy folk, trolls, orcs, giants, wizards, hobbits and house elves? What harm in pretending to be Hermione, Eowyn, or Annabeth?  I see none. 

I do not believe these books or the reading of them to be wrong.  And I can't give you chapter and verse on why I believe what I hold to be true.  For me it is a heart issue.  On examination of what I know to be true,  I have come to the conclusion that my life would be somewhat poorer had I not grown up with these books; had these friends not lived in my heart alongside the Bible verses I have memorized.  I do not find that they conflict.  The struggles that they have and the lessons that they learn are all part of the human condition.  
They hold a commonality to our own lives and our own struggles and if they did not, they would not speak to me the way they do. And if that is naive, then I determinedly remain so.

10 comments:

beautifullybroken0974 March 22, 2010 at 1:55 PM  

So...I have to say that I absolutly LOVE this blog of yours. This is something I have struggled with as well...especially recently with the whole twilight saga. Many Christians apparently believe that reading about vampires is horrendous but apparently if c.s. lewis wrote it then it would be ok. Anyways...its fiction and as you mentioned fiction can be a wonderful thing, where else can you be taken to a world so unlike your own. Full of magic and true love. I will defend these books and inside and outside the church with you my friend. I hope that one day my children are as well read as yours :)

Love you Lizzie!

This is Aimee by the way...I used my old wordpress account to post the comment. I think you have inspired me though to continue my blogging journey, I have never been too good with keeping up with it.

Lori March 22, 2010 at 2:21 PM  

We just began the Harry Potter series. Late bloomers, we. I enjoyed the first one and hear it really picks up by the third. Looking forward to catching up with this bit of our culture.

rgstjohn March 22, 2010 at 2:30 PM  

and "All thst gilleters is not gold...".

Well said, my friend. Our eerily similar reading lists make me smile. Being on a netbook with sausage fingers, typing is awful, but let me just say that faith can be defined in many ways and that the journey should be filled with adventures of the body and mind. How great is it that we are of a generation that actually read these books on our journey?

TerriG March 22, 2010 at 4:21 PM  

Hey Lizzie: Great post. I loved C.S. Lewis(had no clue of the symbolism)as a sinner now as a saint. In his time, he was the radical. Now HP has never held any interest for me. I won't worry about you unless you show up with white face powder, a black miniskirt and black lipstick o.k.? But just don't chastise me for the 5 Garfield books I just picked up at the library. ~Terri

beachrose March 22, 2010 at 5:16 PM  

I've read some of them and let my older children read them if they choose to. Ike our oldest lived and breathed J.R.R. Tolkien's books. I know a lot of Christians are split on that series as well. I don't find books to be a huge influence rather people seem to be the biggest plus and minus in the influence arena.

Crimson Wife March 23, 2010 at 12:39 PM  

Wonderful post! I think if someone is strong in his/her faith there is nothing to fear from fantasy novels. Even Phillip Pullman's. But I do think that we as parents need to use our judgment in knowing when our kids are mature enough for certain books (for example, I wouldn't want my kids to read Pullman until they are late teens or even adults).

Daisy March 23, 2010 at 9:31 PM  

Hooray!!! Excellent post.

April March 25, 2010 at 10:32 PM  

I couldn't agree more! And I LOVE that quote by C.S. Lewis. I think there are many biblical and rich redemptive themes found in Harry Potter. Again, I highly recommend ND Wilson-I think you will enjoy his books!

Hen Jen March 26, 2010 at 7:36 PM  

agreeing with you here, what a lovely/well written post. I fell for the Potter series, but kept them away from my kids-because of all they hype in church circles, but finally as I was sitting in the theater watching one, Dumbledore said something so profound about choosing right that I wondered why I was keeping this from my kids. I do find myself tho, asking my kids to not talk about Harry around certain family and homeschool circles.

HomeSpun Threads March 29, 2010 at 12:40 PM  

I loved the Harry Potter books too! I haven't read them all...I'm so BAD! :) I am kinda hesitant about the Twilight series because of vampires but I don't here as much of an uproar as I did about Harry Potter, even though I think vampires have to be worse than magicians. :) Who knows, I might like them but my obsession now is reading to my babies. Thanks for stopping by from SITS, visit me again!

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