Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why I will always encourage my children to read fantasy

I just received an e-mail today from a woman in my critique group. She was submitting her chapters for the month and decided to add a little diatribe about how the children's book market is glutted with fantasy. And do we really want to be filling our children's minds with satanism and life-after-death in the here and now, and other garbage? Of course, in the same breath she went on to say that she wanted more books about children in the real world and their wonderful imaginations.

Excuse me while I bang my forehead against my keyboard.

What more is fantasy, especially fantasy for children, but the ultimate representation of that boundless and wonderful imagination so peculiar to humans, especially children? The ability to create entire new worlds is the birthright of writers and a testament to the capacity of the human mind. The ability to create, whether it is another human being or an entire world complete with magical creatures, made up languages, etc. is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It is one of the few ways that we truly become like Him. Creators.

Beyond that, I've never understood the idea that fantasy is satanism or that magic is some sort of conterfeit perversion for the power of God. The idea holds some sway with a few members of my church (I've heard them speak in Relief Society before), but not most. I will always remember and love Elder Uchtdorf for speaking of his love for Harry Potter and referencing it in an address he gave at a Stake Conference when I was in college.

Does fantasy contain magic? Yes. Is it sorcery and some manifestion of the devil? Heavens no! Fantasy is nothing more than the eternal struggle between good and evil set in another place. It teaches the power of love, friendship, kindness and sacrifice in the face of love of power, greed, cruelty, and selfishness.

These struggles in a child's everyday life or in the world around us are not only complicated, but oftentimes, gruesome and harsh. And too often, the wrong side wins. What better way to help a child make sense of the different forces and motivations of the characters in their world, than through a book set in another land. Sometimes taking a step into the unknown helps us come to understand human nature and ourselves like nothing else.

I am deeply religious, and a lover of fantasy. Many of the greatest fantasy writers of our time have been devout Christians who saw their characters as archetypes of Christ, and their stories as religious allegories.

Please don't deprive your children of the rich learning experience that is fantasy. I wish this world was more like Hogwarts, or Middle Earth, or Narnia. A place where there is magic and good always wins.