Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Significance of Fantasy - Nathan R. Petrie

As discussed, fantasy is likely the most popular genre in all of history. From Narnia, to Charlotte’s Web, to Lord of the Rings, to The Sword of the Dragon series, fantasy has always been on the hearts of men and women. And it has always captivated the minds of mankind.


Well, Seth discussed this in his last post. Fantasy provides escape, it seems real, it’s exciting, imaginative, etc. But I still wonder…why? And what about it makes it worthy. And how is it used today as a tool?

Welcome, to the most powerful genre ever created.

Here are the reasons I write fantasy, and the reasons I think fantasy is such a powerful and important tool:

  1. People accept truth in fantasy that they wouldn’t accept elsewhere
  2. The symbolic and weird nature of the genre opens reader’s eyes to the unnatural
  3. The story becomes an example
  4. Fantasy stays in your head

First things first: truth. Truth is such a word that has enormous meaning to some and zero to others. Fantasy can both help and hurt the cause of Truth. In most cases it seems fantasy upholds truth and that when it does the readers accept it.

Take for example the Chronicles of Narnia. Viewers/readers of this story have no issue accepting Aslan’s sacrifice for Edmund whereas they have the hardest time in the world accepting any other kind of sacrifice, Biblical or other. In most other genres such a sacrifice would be deemed unrealistic. But not fantasy.

Another example: Lord of the Rings. The relationship between Sam and Frodo is such a loving one. So strong and intimate. In other genres you see relationships like this between girls, but hardly ever between men. In fact, if a relationship like theirs was written into another genre people would call the characters gay. Because to some this is unrealistic.

The thing about both of these examples is that they are real. They can and do exist. And fantasy is, to me, the best way to show these things. That is the power of fantasy. Readers accept truths, and lies, that they would never have accepted otherwise.

Next, fantasy is, as we know, weird and symbolic.

Take Charlotte’s Web for example. What pig can talk? That’s just crazy. Or Where the Wild Things Are, the book. That’s just bizarre. Dragons in Our Midst….borderline insanity.

But what it does is open readers’ eyes. I honestly think that readers are more apt to accept that there is a god if they read fantasy. All media affects our thoughts. The more fantasy someone reads, the more apt they are to accept the things they read as truth. Naturally this isn’t a mind numbing discovery. But it works.

I personally write and read fantasy for the symbolism. It’s very difficult to write allegorically, Christian or otherwise, in realistic fiction etc. And I think symbols make stories more interesting. Don’t you think?

Jesus told parables, often times fantastical ones. Camels going through eyes of needles, and more. Fantasy therefore becomes a teaching tool. Stories become examples, emotional ones. My mom teaches a Bible study for women and she recently used the clip from LOTR when Sam and
Frodo were climbing Mount Doom. The, “I can’t carry it for you,” scene. People become emotionally attached to stories. Especially fantasy stories. And we can use these connections to teach, and win readers to Christ.

Also, fantasy allows for things unacceptable in other writings. Most readers would not accept a perfect hero in a realistic story. But in fantasy they do. And so fantasy becomes an example. Take characters and strive to be like them. We all do it. “I wanna be just like Gandalf!” You’ve all done it.

And, as with any story, the themes and plot stick into your head for all eternity.

That’s power.

Naturally many of these points can happen in other genres. But I think fantasy has the most power of any.

What are your thoughts?

-Nathan R. Petrie


  1. Amazing! I agree with you completely. Fantasy has a lot of power...a power that, as writers, we should be careful with.


  2. Hi again! Okay, I commented on the first article about the purpose of Fantasy, and much of what I mentioned has been added here. I hadn't seen this yet. :-)

    ~Hannah L.

  3. C.S. Lewis referred to a George MacDonald book as "baptisizing his imagination." Fantasy also shows you things from a new way--like Red by Ted Dekker

  4. @Squeaks, writing in general has power. Wonderful and horrible. lol

    @Hannah, I read your comment grinning the whole time. "I said what she just said!" LOL Glad you're enjoying the blog. Keep Seth in line ;) lol

    @Galadriel, Red was amazing. I LOVED the perspective there.

  5. *Laugh* Great minds think alike, you know...

    Hey, have you guys heard about the author N. D. Wilson, of the 100 Cupboards trilogy? Your mentioning that writing has power made me think y'all might really like those books.

    is where you can look him up. I highly recommend his work. He calls his fantasy, "Anti-escapism," and his goal is to show readers the magic of our own world created by God.

    Keep it up, y'all,
    ~Hannah L.

  6. I have heard of those books. I've been meaning to read them in a bad way <_<

    Sounds very cool! Thank you for the suggestion!

    Sorry it took me so long to reply haha.


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