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From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy

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The allure of fantasy continues to grow with film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But how should Christians approach modern works of fantasy, especially debated points such as magic and witches? From Homer to Harry Potter provides the historical background readers need to understand this timeless genre. It explores the influence The allure of fantasy continues to grow with film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But how should Christians approach modern works of fantasy, especially debated points such as magic and witches? From Homer to Harry Potter provides the historical background readers need to understand this timeless genre. It explores the influence of biblical narrative, Greek mythology, and Arthurian legend on modern fantasy and reveals how the fantastic offers profound insights into truth. The authors draw from a Christian viewpoint informed by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien to assess modern authors such as Philip Pullman, Walter Wangerin, and J. K. Rowling. This accessible book guides undergraduate students, pastors, and lay readers to a more astute and rewarding reading of all fantasy literature.


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The allure of fantasy continues to grow with film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But how should Christians approach modern works of fantasy, especially debated points such as magic and witches? From Homer to Harry Potter provides the historical background readers need to understand this timeless genre. It explores the influence The allure of fantasy continues to grow with film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But how should Christians approach modern works of fantasy, especially debated points such as magic and witches? From Homer to Harry Potter provides the historical background readers need to understand this timeless genre. It explores the influence of biblical narrative, Greek mythology, and Arthurian legend on modern fantasy and reveals how the fantastic offers profound insights into truth. The authors draw from a Christian viewpoint informed by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien to assess modern authors such as Philip Pullman, Walter Wangerin, and J. K. Rowling. This accessible book guides undergraduate students, pastors, and lay readers to a more astute and rewarding reading of all fantasy literature.

30 review for From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    I picked this book from the New Books shelf at one of my libraries because I was intrigued by the title and because they had chapters on Ursula le Guin and Philip Pullman (whose Golden Compass books I had just finished reading). It wasn't until I started reading that I realized the authors were evangelical Christian apologists (not a "bad" thing in and of itself). As Christians, the authors have little use for myth that doesn't conform to their notion of usefulness; and part of that usefulness is I picked this book from the New Books shelf at one of my libraries because I was intrigued by the title and because they had chapters on Ursula le Guin and Philip Pullman (whose Golden Compass books I had just finished reading). It wasn't until I started reading that I realized the authors were evangelical Christian apologists (not a "bad" thing in and of itself). As Christians, the authors have little use for myth that doesn't conform to their notion of usefulness; and part of that usefulness is the struggle between objective, transcendent Good and Evil. Thus, their chief objection to Le Guin is her rejection of that world view in favor of a more East Asian-flavored one of balance and karma. The authors dismiss Le Guin because she doesn't subscribe to a notion of good and evil that transcends a particular context. For Le Guin, a "good" action is one that maintains the "balance"; an "evil" action is one that disrupts it. Now, admittedly, what Le Guin might mean by "balance" can be a bit fuzzy (she's an author telling a story, not a philosopher, after all) but the context is a fantasy, where long, didactic passages are to be avoided. Particularly in her latest work, however, I think Le Guin has shown how her morality works out in practice. As she has written about her Earthsea novels, she would have written parts very differently. The authors don't believe in Le Guin's basis for moral acts, and are in the habit of dismissing her justifications as "unsatisfying" or "evasive" -- which, of course, they would be to someone who believes Good and Evil are defined by a transcendent Superior Being (God, Allah or Iluvatar, as the case may be). The authors are great fans of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis because both base their mythologies on essentially Abrahamic foundations. What really galls me is that Dickerson and O'Hara think it's a failing that Le Guin's morality "places a burden on people without giving them any means to lift that burden." (p. 185) They believe it's better to do something because it is ordained by God, who bears the responsibility for its consequences, than to do something because one has weighed the consequences and has consciously chosen to bear them. It's all well and good to let God "bear the burden" but in the real world it's real men and women who wind up bearing it. Le Guin's notion of a constant struggle between actions that are not wholly right or wrong is far closer to reality than a bold hero, confidentally choosing Good over Evil. A struggle, ironically enough, Tolkien clearly recognized. The example the authors employ to illustrate their point -- Aragorn's decision to follow Merry and Pippin instead of Frodo and Sam or go directly to Gondor -- undermines their argument. Aragorn's dilemma is precisely that he doesn't know what the Good is and must rely on what he believes will result for the best, knowing that the consequences will fall entirely upon him and his fellows. In the context of Earthsea, the authors are upset that Le Guin's resolutions tend to be "ambiguous, and the problem winds up being skirted by unfounded dogmatic assertions." (p. 186) They also complain that in Le Guin's moral universe, the best choice is often to do nothing as the more power one can wield, the wider the consequences. But this is exactly the conundrum that faces the Valar and Gandalf and Aragorn and Frodo, all in their own ways. Gandalf, potentially as powerful as Sauron, his fellow Maia, cannot exert his power without risking his "integrity" (or "soul," if you will) and becoming Sauron (a trap Saruman doesn't escape). Of course, there are times to act -- Radagast is an example of falling into the opposite hole that snared Saruman, doing nothing regardless -- but the choice is fraught with perils and it's not easy to know when it's necessary, i.e., it's AMBIGUOUS! I think the authors are right, however, in their distinction between Tolkienesque worldviews and Le Guin's ("leguinian"?) -- Tolkien sees a permanent, eternal life beyond this one; Le Guin sees a transient flame that burns briefly and then is gone, making it just that more precious. They dismiss Le Guin's views as "unfounded dogmatism" but Tolkien's are just as baseless. It's a matter of how one chooses to understand their place in the world. Despite my "one star" rating, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the issues raised by the authors; I just profoundly disagree with their conclusions.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    I'm only on page 75 of this 260 page book, but I'm finding it just fascinating and compelling. There have been several 'ah-ha' moments, but it will take much more time to digest them, connect them in my mind, and be able to put them into coherent words. This is one book I wish I were reading with someone - even out loud. It would spark much conversation. So far, I've appreciated the authors' spectrum of myth, fantasy, and fairy tale and their description of the border between our world and I'm only on page 75 of this 260 page book, but I'm finding it just fascinating and compelling. There have been several 'ah-ha' moments, but it will take much more time to digest them, connect them in my mind, and be able to put them into coherent words. This is one book I wish I were reading with someone - even out loud. It would spark much conversation. So far, I've appreciated the authors' spectrum of myth, fantasy, and fairy tale and their description of the border between our world and Faërie. I just realized I've got one bookshelf/tag labeled 'fantasy/sci-fi'. I'll have to split them, now that I'm beginning to understand the lay of the land and the differences between these two genres. This isn't much of a review, but I'm not finished with it yet. SDG!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen

    From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy by Matthew Dickerson and David O'Hara gives a comprehensive overview of myth and fantasy: its origins as well as how it has affected some modern works of literature. They frequently reference C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and analyze how every bit of myth and fantasy has been changed or interpreted throughout the years. Dickerson and O'Hara really do go from Homer to Harry Potter. Part one of the book, entitled "The Literature of Faerie From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy by Matthew Dickerson and David O'Hara gives a comprehensive overview of myth and fantasy: its origins as well as how it has affected some modern works of literature. They frequently reference C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and analyze how every bit of myth and fantasy has been changed or interpreted throughout the years. Dickerson and O'Hara really do go from Homer to Harry Potter. Part one of the book, entitled "The Literature of Faerie and the Roots of Modern Fantasy," begins with the authors defining myth and fantasy, though even they say that there is no clear definition, and to try to give a reader one would restrict him/her. They then discuss the Bible, Homer, Beowulf and Arthurian Legend, and 19th century fairy tale and fantasy. These chapters are very interesting, because Dickerson and O'Hara talk about how each work functions as myth/fantasy, as well as how it has influenced other writings or been influenced. Their section on 19th century fairy tale and fantasy taught me a lot about the origins of the genre. I didn't know anything about how fairy tales came to be, except for knowing that the Grimm brothers existed, and they provide a really good overview, referencing influential authors I'd never even heard of, like George MacDonald and Andrew Lang. Dickerson and O'Hara often reference an idea that Tolkien discussed in one of his essays: The cauldron of Story. This is the concept that everything that has been told is in a cauldron, and authors are reaching in and pulling out the bits that they want. This allegory summarizes nicely what myth really does: adds to the cauldron. Authors are constantly references something that has already been done. The trick is to make it your own. In part two of the book, Dickerson and O'Hara analyze more contemporary works to see how they function as myth or fantasy. They look at Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, Walter Wangerin Jr.'s The Book of the Dun Cow, and of course J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The authors take a pretty positive stance on Le Guin's and Wangerin's books, explaining the mythic elements and why they think they worked. Then, Dickerson and O'Hara start bashing Pullman's series. I'll admit, I've never read the books, mostly because they're long and I heard they're about killing God (which Dickerson and O'Hara confirmed for me). That doesn't interest me. But the authors of this book didn't even pretend they liked the series, and their analysis felt somewhat biased and accusatory. I did end up agreeing with them, based on the evidence they provided, but the entire chapter had a very different tone from the rest of the book, and I didn't like seeing the authors' opinions. I also didn't really enjoy their chapter on Harry Potter, which is kind of a bummer because it's the reason why I bought the book (though part one was well worth the money). At the time of this book's writing, only books 1 through 5 of the series had been published. This feels strange in this book, because every other series they had analyzed has been completed for years (in Le Guin's case, over 30 years). Dickerson and O'Hara are forced to speculate about the series' ending, and judge the characters based only on what's already been written. This leads to a very incomplete analysis of Dumbledore, considering that his entire past isn't revealed until the last book. Dickerson and O'Hara spend most of the chapter analyzing how magic functions in fantasy, and what makes magic good/evil. I really enjoyed that section. However, the bit actually about Harry Potter ended up being only a few pages (compared to the 30 pages analyzing Le Guin's series), and they spend the majority of it discussing how lies are apparently acceptable to Rowling's characters. I don't know why the author's of this book didn't just wait a few more years for the other books to come out, especially when they put the name Harry Potter right in the title. Overall, I really did love the book. It gave me a great understanding of myth and fantasy and how authors have discussed and written about it. I would recommend this book if you have any interest at all in myth and fantasy. It will help you understand it more, as well as give you lots of recommended reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Bertram

    The premise of From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy is a basic yet intriguing one, to trace the lineage of common mythic influences from our earliest stories to our most current and endearing. And when the book sticks to that premise, it mostly works. The authors are two Christians, which is fine. However it becomes increasingly apparent that the book is also a "Christian book." Again, this is fine, but when the authors focus less on exploring the roots and common threads The premise of From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy is a basic yet intriguing one, to trace the lineage of common mythic influences from our earliest stories to our most current and endearing. And when the book sticks to that premise, it mostly works. The authors are two Christians, which is fine. However it becomes increasingly apparent that the book is also a "Christian book." Again, this is fine, but when the authors focus less on exploring the roots and common threads between various myths and more on determining which myths are "good" (in the sense of which myths share a Christian worldview) while dismissing (Ursula LeGuin) or outright rejecting (Philip Pullman) others, it becomes essentially useless as a work of literary criticism. Ironically, the authors repeatedly state their dissatisfaction with any mythic work that seems to be didactic or "preachy" yet their own narrow and absurdly specific definition of myth means that they frequently come across as didactic themselves. Don't get me wrong. I love Tolkein and CS Lewis. They are among my favourite fantasy writers, and the definitive godfathers of the modern genre. But the co-authors of this book, Dickerson and O'Hara, have such a boner for them that they don't appreciate any work that is premised on a different worldview. The title of this book is misleading, to say the least. Very little is actually a handbook on myth and fantasy. Much is an attempt to convince Christians that it's okay to read books with magic in them...as long as it's the "right" kind of magic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah Choat

    Synopsis: Opening with a quotation of Tom Shippey's assertion, "The dominant literary mode of the twentieth century has been the fantastic," Dickerson and O'Hara set out to answer the questions, "How should one read and understand a modern work of fantasy?" and "Can works of fantasy really have anything important to say to us?" They begin by exploring definitions of "myth" and "fairy story" and explaining how the understanding of these terms has changed drastically over the centuries of written Synopsis: Opening with a quotation of Tom Shippey's assertion, "The dominant literary mode of the twentieth century has been the fantastic," Dickerson and O'Hara set out to answer the questions, "How should one read and understand a modern work of fantasy?" and "Can works of fantasy really have anything important to say to us?" They begin by exploring definitions of "myth" and "fairy story" and explaining how the understanding of these terms has changed drastically over the centuries of written literature. Distinctions of myth, faerie, science fiction, beast fables, folk tales, and fantasy are clarified, with some history of each genre and its applications, past and present. The ongoing cultural impact of a number of well-known stories is traced and examined, and finally several modern fantasy works and their attendant worldviews are analyzed. Comments: Early on, the authors articulate their belief that the Bible is the Grand Myth, in the sense of J.R.R. Tolkien's statement (in On Fairy Stories) that "The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories...But this story has entered History and the primary world...this story is supreme; and it is true; Art has been verified...Legend and History have met and fused." This understanding runs throughout the book as the foundation of a compelling argument that myth is indeed a vehicle for truth.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    The authors trace the rise and evolution of fantasy and epic literature. My favorite part was the section on Beowulf to Aurthur. The authors note, as do others, that given Tolkien's love of Beowulf, Beowulf must necessarily figure into LotR. But if it does, how come no one can point to a Beowulf analogue? The authors draw from a key image by Tolkien: writing legend is like cooking soup in a pot. You throw a lot of bones in there (e.g., old stories) and mix them together (weave a world). The authors trace the rise and evolution of fantasy and epic literature. My favorite part was the section on Beowulf to Aurthur. The authors note, as do others, that given Tolkien's love of Beowulf, Beowulf must necessarily figure into LotR. But if it does, how come no one can point to a Beowulf analogue? The authors draw from a key image by Tolkien: writing legend is like cooking soup in a pot. You throw a lot of bones in there (e.g., old stories) and mix them together (weave a world). Therefore, there doesn't have to be a Beowulf character. The Beowulfian world is already there. One should not force a Beowulfian interpretation onto the LotR, but allow it to surface at key moments. The authors also rightly point how one cannot consistently oppose Harry Potter but okay the LotR. True, there are dark elements in Harry Potter, but how is this different from the rest of fantasy literature? How is this worse than Boccaccio?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Travis

    Excellent. My favorite nonfiction book thus far. Dickerson and O'Hara capture elegantly the essence of what it means to read and write fantasy. Exploring the significance of the genre in all its forms, the authors show the importance and unparalleled power that fantasy has over those who engage in it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was such a good read, and did really well as a read-aloud. The authors draw heavily upon J.R.R. Tolkien's view of Faerie, as well as C.S. Lewis, and mention this at the beginning, so it was not surprising when they continually quote from these authors. Beginning with such stories as Beowulf in the first part of the book, the authors take us on a historical journey through some of the most loved fairy tales and myths, as well as some lesser known. In the second part they walk through some This was such a good read, and did really well as a read-aloud. The authors draw heavily upon J.R.R. Tolkien's view of Faerie, as well as C.S. Lewis, and mention this at the beginning, so it was not surprising when they continually quote from these authors. Beginning with such stories as Beowulf in the first part of the book, the authors take us on a historical journey through some of the most loved fairy tales and myths, as well as some lesser known. In the second part they walk through some current writers of fantasy literature including Ursula Le Guin and J.K. Rowling. This book is a good one to reignite passion for fairy tales and myth and has many resources littered throughout in order to inspire further exploration.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie Ridgway

    This book had some really excellent and interesting things to say about the myth making process and is definitely steeped in the mythic worldviews of Tolkien and Lewis. Unfortunately, it rather lost me when it started in on some more modern works of fantasy. The authors are clear that they are viewing fantasy through the lens of Tolkien and Lewis, but they become dismissive and even flippant when it comes to works that attempt to do something a little different. I love Tolkien's work This book had some really excellent and interesting things to say about the myth making process and is definitely steeped in the mythic worldviews of Tolkien and Lewis. Unfortunately, it rather lost me when it started in on some more modern works of fantasy. The authors are clear that they are viewing fantasy through the lens of Tolkien and Lewis, but they become dismissive and even flippant when it comes to works that attempt to do something a little different. I love Tolkien's work passionately, but even I can recognize that something can be good fantasy without adhering to the same rules and moral perspectives as "The Lord of Rings." Ultimately, it becomes clear that the authors of this book are really interested in defining fantasy in relation to Christian theology; any work that suggests ideas that don't quite fit the Christian mold is brought under intense scrutiny and found to be inherently flawed, perhaps not even true fantasy. This is especially apparent in the section on the Harry Potter books, in which the authors' entire argument comes to center around if the books are essentially Christian and if they ought to be read by good Christians. All of this is entirely fine and certainly appeals to readers looking for a Christian literary analysis of these works. Unfortunately, the book is not advertised in this way, which left me disappointed with the lack of variety in the book's arguments. If you are looking for a book that scrutinizes fantasy through a religious lens, this is the one for you! If you are looking for a more secular literary analysis, you may want to skip this one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This was a very engaging and insightful book, about the nature of myth and story, and their relationship to truth. Drawing on ancient philosophy and literature, the authors showed how mythic concepts (myth, imagination, and fantasy) were originally all tools and methods basically rational in nature, or rather super-rational (by which I mean not "extremely rational", but "above and beyond rational"). The history of myth and fantasy (what the authors called "The Literature of Faërie", referring to This was a very engaging and insightful book, about the nature of myth and story, and their relationship to truth. Drawing on ancient philosophy and literature, the authors showed how mythic concepts (myth, imagination, and fantasy) were originally all tools and methods basically rational in nature, or rather super-rational (by which I mean not "extremely rational", but "above and beyond rational"). The history of myth and fantasy (what the authors called "The Literature of Faërie", referring to a concept of Tolkien's from his famous essay "On Fairy-stories") is traced herein, from Homer to modern day works, and is used as a tool to explore the themes and meanings of modern fantasy. Perhaps one of the most interesting chapters is that dealing with mythic elements in the Bible, which the authors' understanding of myth actually adds credibility, truth and meaning to it rather than detracting from it (again referring to Tolkien's essay, in which he discussed how a story can be both primarily true, meaning historically factual, and secondarily true, meaning having transcendent and mythical meaning). The criticism is solid, I believe, and thought-provoking. The book gives new vitality, resonance, and importance to the "literature of Faërie" (which includes myths, fairy tales, heroic romance, and modern fantasy), and gave me a new respect -- which is not to say that I didn't respect it quite deeply already -- for the genre.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    This is the only attempt at a systematic analysis of fantasy literature that I've seen. [If you, reader, have seen others, please contact me.] This is something I really appreciate, as "fantasy" is a bit of a fuzzy genre. (But then, what genre isn't?) Initially, the book seems to be intended for a general audience. It defines fantasy. Then it covers those major works of western literature which can be described as fantasy. As it proceeds towards the present day, christian doctrine plays an This is the only attempt at a systematic analysis of fantasy literature that I've seen. [If you, reader, have seen others, please contact me.] This is something I really appreciate, as "fantasy" is a bit of a fuzzy genre. (But then, what genre isn't?) Initially, the book seems to be intended for a general audience. It defines fantasy. Then it covers those major works of western literature which can be described as fantasy. As it proceeds towards the present day, christian doctrine plays an increasing role in the evaluation of the fantasy novels. Much of the effort seems intended to reassure christians that reading fantasy is not automatically satan worship. The book concludes with a stinging denunciation of The Golden Compass. As an atheist, I didn't find a system of literary analysis which judges books by their conformance to biblical text to be very useful. Further, the system in practice is not the same as that laid out in the first section of the book. Nevertheless, this book is well written and intriguing. I recommend it to anyone with a scholarly interest in the genre.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    This book is for definitely for lovers of C.S Lewis and Tolkien. This book sets out to do two things: Define Fantasy in a way that excludes science-fiction yet encompassed everything else, and to view famous bodies of myth from the point of view of the values of fantasy put forward by Lewis and Tolkien. The sections on Beowolf and Homer wrre easily the strongest section of the book. There was plenty of material, and the pace didn't get bogged down. The sections on Arthurian Legend was on the This book is for definitely for lovers of C.S Lewis and Tolkien. This book sets out to do two things: Define Fantasy in a way that excludes science-fiction yet encompassed everything else, and to view famous bodies of myth from the point of view of the values of fantasy put forward by Lewis and Tolkien. The sections on Beowolf and Homer wrre easily the strongest section of the book. There was plenty of material, and the pace didn't get bogged down. The sections on Arthurian Legend was on the weaker side, but still informative. In terms of modern books, a few specific sections were set aside for Le Guin, Pullman, and Rowling. It was here where the book didn't have direct quotes from Lewis or Tolkien to pull from (Pretty obvious why) so the book shifted from analyzing and summarizing *their* opinions to trying to view those works through their lense. I thought they did I nice job showing a variety of opinions on the three pieces as they picked a work they clearly did like (Potter), and work they were mostly neutral on (Earthsea) and a work they did not approve of (Dark Materials)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josiah

    Fascinating book that looks at different fantasy works from a Lewis/Tolkien view of fantasy & myth. They did a pretty good job citing all the major influences in fantasy up until Tolkien and Lewis and had some good breadth. After Lewis & Tolkien, they just pick three representative series (Earthsea, Dark Materials, Harry Potter) to analyze from a Christian point-of-view. Given this, the book is a bit divided with the first half being mostly history and the latter half mostly analysis. Fascinating book that looks at different fantasy works from a Lewis/Tolkien view of fantasy & myth. They did a pretty good job citing all the major influences in fantasy up until Tolkien and Lewis and had some good breadth. After Lewis & Tolkien, they just pick three representative series (Earthsea, Dark Materials, Harry Potter) to analyze from a Christian point-of-view. Given this, the book is a bit divided with the first half being mostly history and the latter half mostly analysis. But they did a decent job in both sections of covering their goals and providing some decent analysis, although I thought they were a bit too harsh on LeGuin. They did have a good section defending a healthy Christian view of magic in the Harry Potter chapter. I was reading this for a college essay I'm writing on how Tolkien defined the genre of fantasy, so I more skimmed through it than anything else. But what I read was good and I want to pick this up again later for a more detailed read. Rating: 3.5-4 Stars (Good).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Devon

    Obviously I'm biased toward the authors, but this was definitely a good read. Dickerson and O'Hara were really cohesive, too, and you couldn't tell (or I couldn't) who was writing which parts. I'd have to say my favorite chapters were the ones on modern fantasy - Philip Pullman, Ursula LeGuin, and J.K. Rowling. This is where the author's worldviews, somewhat more subtle up to this point, came out full force and either praised or dug holes in the underlying moral lessons of these books. I Obviously I'm biased toward the authors, but this was definitely a good read. Dickerson and O'Hara were really cohesive, too, and you couldn't tell (or I couldn't) who was writing which parts. I'd have to say my favorite chapters were the ones on modern fantasy - Philip Pullman, Ursula LeGuin, and J.K. Rowling. This is where the author's worldviews, somewhat more subtle up to this point, came out full force and either praised or dug holes in the underlying moral lessons of these books. I definitely do the same thing as I read fantasy, and it was nice to see someone take written stock of the reasons I find myself liking some things more than others. Basically I like a story that reflects - but isn't an allegory of - THE story. There was also some good background, mostly from Tolkien and Lewis' non-fiction writing, that defined myth, fantasy, and fairy tale and discussed why they are so important.

  15. 4 out of 5

    CB

    Disclaimer: If you don't possess a powerful love of literature and a tendency to geek out over words, turn back now, for here there be dragons. Okay, so maybe that's a touch melodramatic, but I do think this book will challenge anyone without those two particular predilections. It is a well written, philosophical look at classical literature and its influence on a selection of modern fantasy authors. That said, I do think the title is a trifle misleading, as the author's focus large sections of Disclaimer: If you don't possess a powerful love of literature and a tendency to geek out over words, turn back now, for here there be dragons. Okay, so maybe that's a touch melodramatic, but I do think this book will challenge anyone without those two particular predilections.  It is a well written, philosophical look at classical literature and its influence on a selection of modern fantasy authors.  That said, I do think the title is a trifle misleading, as the author's focus large sections of the text to neither Homer nor Harry Potter.  All the same, I found a great many parts enlightening, and it opened me  up to new literature as well as new ways of thinking about literature I already know well... Read more: http://wp.me/p2hlau-3A

  16. 5 out of 5

    Glory

    More like "From Homer to Tolkien to Tolkien again and (Harry Potter too)." I skimmed/read through this book and there's still a few chapters I need to read, but I had a great time finding out more about Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories" and applying it to the fascinating continuum of Faerie. Sometimes the morality judgement calls warped some interpretations of other stories that weren't Christian-based, but overall the book was very informative and just general mind food for stories. The whole thing More like "From Homer to Tolkien to Tolkien again and (Harry Potter too)." I skimmed/read through this book and there's still a few chapters I need to read, but I had a great time finding out more about Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories" and applying it to the fascinating continuum of Faerie. Sometimes the morality judgement calls warped some interpretations of other stories that weren't Christian-based, but overall the book was very informative and just general mind food for stories. The whole thing was like a comfort blanket of worldview nostalgia, fandom, philosophy, and literary analysis. Everything I ever want in life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Meiser

    I really enjoyed reading this book. Essentially, they take up the ideas about story and myth of Tolkien and Lewis and examine several myths in light of them. I think that if this book were written from a less explicitly Christian perspective, it could have been more effective in what they were trying to do. Although, as a Christian, I appreciated this, it seems that they could have explained their points just as effectively without excessive references to biblical narrative. Great book and good I really enjoyed reading this book. Essentially, they take up the ideas about story and myth of Tolkien and Lewis and examine several myths in light of them. I think that if this book were written from a less explicitly Christian perspective, it could have been more effective in what they were trying to do. Although, as a Christian, I appreciated this, it seems that they could have explained their points just as effectively without excessive references to biblical narrative. Great book and good starting point on understanding myth and story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I would read this just to access Tolkien's thoughts on the Faery Tale, because he is the one who redefined and shaped fantasy for the 20th Century ... His ideas are really, really interesting. The other parts I've read (about Harry Potter and His Dark Materials) are also thoroughly enjoyable, too, though. I see the Christian story interacting with at least 99% of what I encounter anyway, but it's interesting to see the connections that others may draw.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    If nothing else this books provides a fitting analysis of the power of mythical literature, and fantasy. On page 259 I read, "Myth, fantasy, and fairy...challenge us to live lives governed by the transcendent, eternal, moral, and unseen realities, not by the mundane, temporal things that seem so real and physical and commonplace." The good ones raise us up and inspire us, as they should.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    I enjoyed reading this book. It showed me that all authors have a well to dip into to find ideas. It make me realize that you need to be well read in you favorite topic to bring together excellent plots.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Dude, seriously. Less time needed to be spent on the Bible, Tolkien and Lewis. If I wanted a study of the Bible, or the Inklings, that's what I would've gotten.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eleni

    Interesting sections were on magic in Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hh

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amy Christensen

    Some of the insights suggested in this book were particularly brilliant. The idea that the hero of a myth or heroic romance must believe that evil can be vanquished and the villain redeemed is central to hope was quite a way to look at some of my favorite fantastical stories. However, the authors our evangelicalism got is the way of their own words. They purport themselves to be defenders of myth, but it seems to me the whole of the book was a defense from their own religion.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    the chapter on philip pullman is particularly pathetic, especially when contrasted with the following chapter, where the authors can't stop blabbing on about how good some random novel is because of its christian morality. insufferable. can't wait to be done with this shit.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elena

    I was not expecting this book to be as Christian as it was, and that perspective certainly influenced their interpretation of many texts. Philip Pullman's work was unfairly characterized I think; the authors found it incoherent and lacking a point. Pullman's MO for writing the His Dark Materials trilogy is very explicit however, and I think the problem was that the authors disagreed rather than that they were unable to detect one. They evaluated his work against their own values and morals, a I was not expecting this book to be as Christian as it was, and that perspective certainly influenced their interpretation of many texts. Philip Pullman's work was unfairly characterized I think; the authors found it incoherent and lacking a point. Pullman's MO for writing the His Dark Materials trilogy is very explicit however, and I think the problem was that the authors disagreed rather than that they were unable to detect one. They evaluated his work against their own values and morals, a reading that is unabashedly biased, though entirely valid. I was looking for a more, for lack of a better word, objective approach to fantasy, and this didn't deliver. And the first couple chapters are an overview of the role of myth and the Literature of Faerie as it refers to it, but it did not say anything entirely novel, nor was it terribly well written or easy to follow. It is a book about the values of fantasy literature, both in the social worth and personal principles sense, and less an analysis than an attempt to situate it in the Christian worldview, though I don't think it really succeeds.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This book is a guide through Faerie (fantasy, myth, and fairy tale) for Christians. The authors are unapologetic about their Christian beliefs and their love of fantasy, myth, and fairy tale. I enjoyed part one of the book, with its discussion of inheritance in fantasy works. The authors present a kind of visual for how every new work is influenced by the works that came before. They compare the many sources to a boiling pot of soup that authors dip into to create new stories. Everything new is This book is a guide through Faerie (fantasy, myth, and fairy tale) for Christians. The authors are unapologetic about their Christian beliefs and their love of fantasy, myth, and fairy tale. I enjoyed part one of the book, with its discussion of inheritance in fantasy works. The authors present a kind of visual for how every new work is influenced by the works that came before. They compare the many sources to a boiling pot of soup that authors dip into to create new stories. Everything new is influenced by what came before, but nothing stays wholly intact once it's in the pot either... It all stews together. I did find much of part two difficult to get through and I was confused by their arguments. I found that I wanted the chapters to be more concise. The chapter about Harry Potter was really informative, and I appreciated their questions and perspective. Anyone who condemns the Harry Potter books should either read them or this chapter... Or both! It's always best to be informed before making any kind of judgment.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    Picked this up from my university library thinking it was a work of literary criticism. It's actually a didactic Christian text offering a religious appraisal of various works of myth, legend, and fantasy. Realised something was off when I got to the part where the authors create a definition of mythology wherein "some" myths can be true - that is, just the Bible, really. I read further anyway. It's pretty superficial stuff and the chapters on major contemporary fantasy authors, like JK Rowling Picked this up from my university library thinking it was a work of literary criticism. It's actually a didactic Christian text offering a religious appraisal of various works of myth, legend, and fantasy. Realised something was off when I got to the part where the authors create a definition of mythology wherein "some" myths can be true - that is, just the Bible, really. I read further anyway. It's pretty superficial stuff and the chapters on major contemporary fantasy authors, like JK Rowling and Ursula K Le Guin, do not engage with the scholarship on these authors. There's also a bizarre passage where the authors claim that sci-fi, unlike fantasy, is inherently optimistic and fundamentally uninterested in philosophical questions. If you're a Christian who enjoys fantasy and you just want some scholarly reassurance that it's OK to be a Christian and read fantasy, you might want to pick this up.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mac

    The analysis of modern fantasy was generally informative and well-informed. The same cannot be said about the author's treatment of the Bible. Misunderstandings abound in that chapter and then serve as the foundation for later arguments. The book also seemed to lack a sense of cohesion and felt more like an extended monologue by a Tolkien/Lewis fan-boy. It was difficult to really get a feel for exactly why Dickerson felt compelled to write this book. What was he hoping that the reader would The analysis of modern fantasy was generally informative and well-informed. The same cannot be said about the author's treatment of the Bible. Misunderstandings abound in that chapter and then serve as the foundation for later arguments. The book also seemed to lack a sense of cohesion and felt more like an extended monologue by a Tolkien/Lewis fan-boy. It was difficult to really get a feel for exactly why Dickerson felt compelled to write this book. What was he hoping that the reader would think, feel, or do after finishing the book? If you love fantasy, fairy-tales, etc. then you'll probably enjoy the book on some level, but it's not the treatment you've been looking for.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    I liked the entire first half - it got into what makes a fantasy, how to distinguish fantasy from myth, why that matters, what fantasy and myths do for culture, etc. The analysis of Greek literature all the way through nineteenth century fantasy lit was great. When it got to modern fantasy, though, the book became too wrapped up in talking about the literature within the frame of Christianity and the Christian views of morality, and that's where it lost my attention. It's definitely worth I liked the entire first half - it got into what makes a fantasy, how to distinguish fantasy from myth, why that matters, what fantasy and myths do for culture, etc. The analysis of Greek literature all the way through nineteenth century fantasy lit was great. When it got to modern fantasy, though, the book became too wrapped up in talking about the literature within the frame of Christianity and the Christian views of morality, and that's where it lost my attention. It's definitely worth picking up if fantasy interests you, but in my opinion, the last 30% of the book was shit.

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