Flights of fancy


I am in the middle of writing a paper on Christianity’s relationship with and proximity to fantasy narratives, particularly myth, fairy tales and sci-fi. Invariably, this means a long soak in all things Inkling.

Here are a few drops.

From Tolkien’s essay, “On Fairy Stories”:

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the ‘turn’ comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears…

The Christian joy, the Gloria…is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.

All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.

From Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticized elfland, but elfland that criticized the earth.

Grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening ‘Do it again’ to the moon. […] It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

…and his Everlasting Man:

In a word, mythology is a search; it is something that combines a recurrent desire with a recurrent doubt, missing a most hungry sincerity in the idea of seeking for a place with a most dark and deep and mysterious levity about all the places found.

And, of course, a word from Lewis taken from one of his letters to Tolkien:

Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened

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2 Responses to Flights of fancy

  1. caritabk says:

    This is great! Tonight I’m leading a discussion on the chapter in “An Experiment in Criticism” entitled “The Meanings of Fantasy.” I think I’ll use some of your quotes to help round out the discussion. If you want, I also wouldn’t mind reading your paper.

    I’m having a bit of trouble with understanding how Chesterton’s Orthodoxy quote fits into the whole mix.

    • joshnisley says:

      I guess Chesterton doesn’t technically count as an Inkling, but mentally I sort of throw him in the same category. I’m pulling in Orthodoxy because of the way Chesterton eviscerates monotonous naturalism (and I would argue, Christian naturalism) in favor of a “fairyland” view of reality. (I’m writing the paper for a worldview-ish type class).

      I would take your offer to read as an offer to proofread, but considering the paper is due by Friday midnight, and I finished the introduction just last evening…

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