When I was a little girl, my mother indulged my love of fantasy fiction. She knew that it provided a necessary escape from the daily inner city drama for her only child. By the age of nine, I had devoured The Chronicles of Narnia, losing myself in the beautifully constructed fantasy. The Lord of the Rings was next, admittedly taking more time and numerous reads before fully comprehending it.
When my son turned nine, I dutifully purchased the first novel in the Harry Potter series. To my disappointment, he was completely uninterested, having never developed the patience for believing in a different reality. But I was sucked in. It was as though I had entered a time warp, and was once again a nine-year-old reading under the covers with a night light.
When my aunt came to visit, she found a copy of The Goblet of Fire lying on my bed. Horrified, she confronted me with this "witchcraft" I had allowed in my home, devastated that her accomplished niece would expose her household to demonic elements. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what she was talking about. I did not know that a Christian backlash to the popular series had developed, that the fantasy world Rowlings created of witches and warlocks was troubling.
What is difference between the magical elements of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings? Isn't Tolkien's Gandalf the equivalent of Rowling's Dumbledore? (The storylines are even similar with Dumbledore "dying" in the latest novel.) For that matter, isn't Harry's similarity to the halfling Frodo uncanny? The Chronicles of Narnia, recently widely accepted as Christian fiction (at least for marketing purposes), also invokes magic and witches throughout the series.
How do we write fantasy fiction without reliance, on some level, on a "magical realm"? In my opinion, Harry Potter relies on basic principles of truth and justice, right and wrong, good and evil, friendship and loyalty and the need for love. That it is set in a subworld of witch and warlocks serves to enliven the setting, add spark to the story. But the principles remain the same and function as the undercurrent to all classic fantasy fiction.
Wouldn't it be hypocritical to pen fantasy fiction and avoid inexplicable occurrences and supernatural happenings for the sake of appropriate Christianity? If the underlying basis for Christianity is unquestioning belief and faith in the supernatural, then don't we have a duty to express that in fantasy fiction?
In my attempts to pen a decent Christian fantasy fiction novel, I have often encountered this dilemma. My main character, Ella, receives her supernatural powers and gifts from the Holy Spirit. But she encounters the enemy, demonic forces, that oppose her. Is this any less magical than any other series? In fact, couldn't it be more troubling for a child to read about demons and fallen angels, rather than the timehonored good versus bad wizard?
One fairly new series that I enjoy is Donita K. Paul's DragonQuest. With vague similarites to The Lord of the Rings, the characters have magical gifts and supernatural talents and embark on a quest to save the land. Ms. Paul attempts to explain wizardry (magic) as a heightened understanding of the basic elements of the world and how Wulder (God) intends for them to intertwine. In other words, a wizard is more like an advanced chemist. I thought it clever.
As I navigate the murky waters of Christian fantasy fiction, I have found no answers and very few logical explanations. At the end of the day, I know that my heart is focused and centered on God, who channels my gift. While he allows the gift to flow, it will bear positive, enlightened fruit in line with His principles and purposes, therein creating the ever illusive Christian fantasy fiction.