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.