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Posts Tagged ‘dragons’

I read a story last week: Return of the Guardian King.  Fourth and final of a vividly epic fantasy series written by a woman who knows my world, my type, and my God.  Her name is Karen Hancock, and her stories have invaded my imagination permanently.

It is a book about temptation, I told a friend.  Resisting in the slow way, wearied by the persistence, common days, small things.  And massive temptations: to betray all you have believed in, to denounce the promises of God for the power of ruling kingdoms, to trade love in the good God and His simple gifts to the extravagant suit of the alluring devil.  But the large and the small are the same. 

The characters are strong against deception and temptation when they have been faithful in the daily denying of self.  To live for others, in kindness and patience, prepares each person against bitterness and despair.  Immersion in the truth and promises of God is comfort and hope.  Even if their prayer is a single cry for help from God, bad things trun to good when people talk to their God. 

The story isn’t about what is happening on the outside as much as it is about whether the characters are trusting God, whether they know with all their might that He loves them and that His plans for them are good.  When they are rebelling against him, they are miserable.  So are those around them.  So am I. 

Kiriath is in the hands of the jealous and vengeful brother Gillard, possessed by a demon rhu’ema.  Already they treat and ally with the archenemy, Belthe’adi, Abramm had warned them of.  Abramm is known to be dead.  But Abramm is also walking the mountains, chafing under the waiting in a snowed-in monastery.  Maddie is back at her childhood home, a palatial life she never embraced, and her newest royal duty is to marry some rich aristocrat who can offer troops to defend the last stand of her homeland.  But her dreams linked with her beloved’s are back, and something tugs hope alive in her that maybe Abramm survived after all. 

Shapeshifters, dragons, and the critical people who are supposed to be his friends plague Abramm on his Odyssey-like journey back to his wife and sons.  Trap and Carissa mirror Abramm’s struggle with pride and longing but in a quiet domestic setting.  Detours take the exiled king and longed-for husband to places of faith and doubt he never would have imagined – and sometimes wishes he had never asked for. 

Every character learns the power of friends: locking them against temptation, praying for their dearest concerns, teaching and challenging with the truth, dividing the attacks of dragons, delivering messages, watching with unbiased eyes, guarding against betrayal.  Again Abramm learns that it is not his strength that conquers, and that God has not gifted him with leadership and military prowess to fight God’s battles for Him.  He is but a vessel. 

Maddie meets a charming man who is attractive in all the ways Abramm never was.  Tirus wants her, wants to help her.  He understands her and shows her off, showers her with gifts and protects her from scorn.  How long can she wait for her husband whom even her dearest friends still believe is dead?  Will she believe the light-born visions and promises from God, or the technological, repeatable sight from the stone sent to her by her suitor?  Will she change her mind about regal living and the purpose of marriage?  The things that stood in Maddie’s way when she wanted to marry Abramm, and the undeniable need they had for each other – will she forget those? 

When things go from bad to worse, whose job is it to protect the ones they love?  At what cost will they buy safety and love?  Will the armies of the Moon, and the powers of the air – dragons winging terror across the skies – will they succeed in doing their worst, in taking everything from those faithful to God?  Or will they be utterly defeated?  If they cannot be defeated, what is the point in fighting and sacrificing? 

And when God’s people fail, bitterly weak, The Return of the Guardian King resounds with display of God’s mercy.  God knew we were weak when He chose us.  He knew we would fail when He sent His Son to suffer for those sins.  And a single prayer, sometimes the end of God’s longsuffering chase, brings grace empowering His servants to do the right thing.  He cannot deny Himself.  His promises will be true, however faithless we are. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The Hobbit is being made into a major motion picture.  I’m sad.  There is a terrible fear in me that this will be like those daily cartoon spin-offs from excellent Disney movies.  All my friends tell me how necessary the story of The Hobbit is to the plot of The Lord of the Rings.  I am glad of its existence, and even glad I read The Hobbit.  There are some enchanting passages about moons and maps and elves and mountains.  Of course Tolkien’s fame and further publications were built on the success of The Hobbit, too. 

 

One part that excites me in seeing Peter Jackson’s skill at fantasy movies is to see Smaug, the dragon.  I love seeing dragons in action.  Not the silly Chinese paper ones that have hundreds of little human feet sticking out the bottom as they run in the parade.  But the dragon in Sleeping Beauty, or those in Reign of Fire, in the old Chronicles of Narnia movies…  and now The Hobbit.  What’s more, this dragon must talk.  That will be interesting. 

 

As I first pondered this one positive point of the upcoming Hobbit movie, I found myself being reproached.  “How could you be a fan of dragons?  You’re a fantasy lover, aren’t you?  Don’t you know that there is a group of Christians who reject fantasy literature because of things like dragons?”  The criticizer was also myself, so I suppose I could be as hard as I wished, in defense or offense. 

 

I think the defense began with a afore-unthought fell blow.  God used dragons in His stories.  Revelation is the most prominent example.  Though my interpretation is generally literal, I believe the dragon in Revelation is an image for a being invisible on the earth, but powerful.  But isn’t the imagery powerful?  Our imaginations are excited.  We shudder.  In most myths, the dragon is a feared and loathsome beast. 

 

God used dragons and other fantastic imagery to connect to our imaginations, which He also created.  Have you ever wondered why God gave us imagination?  Michael Card calls it “the bridge between my heart and mind.” 

 

Respecting Dr. Paleo’s reasoned position on fantasy literature, which he was so good as to share with me, the offense half of myself recovered from this powerful strike to offer further evidence (borrowed from my fellow blogger).  Why would you want to read a story in which the laws God created don’t exist? 

 

Testimonial rebuttal was provided by the defense.  When I read fiction – and fantasy especially, it is like a lens by which I can focus in on one issue.  CS Lewis wrote his Space Trilogy addressing hypothetical questions.  What if God hadn’t given Adam and Eve the choice in the garden?  Through his fantasy world in which there was no choice, I came to better understand my world where there is one.  Lord of the Rings is excellent at showing a strong line between good and evil.  There were falls, temptations, and betrayals.  But the moral right and the moral wrong were always clear.  Good guys could fight bad guys without doubting who was bad. 

 

Tolkien was Catholic, and his worldview is pervasive in his work.  Harry Potter is, I understand, also a series of fantasy books reflecting the author’s worldview.  The reason I am opposed to Harry Potter is that the book directs children to real Satanism, and employs real language from the occult.  There are other more minor issues, like the portrayal of parents and authority, that would make these books unsuitable for children. 

 

My objecting side refused to surrender the point that the two forms of fantasy are substantially different, and made another attempt at dissuading my Lord of the Rings loving side from its stand.  Don’t you have anything better to do or read? 

 

One of my best friends was aghast when I informed her that I am willing to give up my Lord of the Rings collection if the man I marry disapproves of them.  They helped form my philosophy and interests.  At this moment I do not believe God wanted me not to read them.  But it seems remotely possible that with the other characteristics and values I’m praying my husband will have, he might also disapprove of fantasy literature and even of dragons.  In which case there are a lot of things more valuable to me than my stack of Lord of the Rings books, movies, memorabilia, and games. 

 

For a black and white person like me, strong-willed and defensive, a resolution to change my mind if warranted in the future is an interesting position.  I am in a similar place regarding skirts.  I love skirts, and feel I can do almost anything in them.  But I enjoy wearing a good warm pair of jeans some days, too.  It’s always better to err on the side of excellence, isn’t it? 

 

At the end of the debate, the defensive me was winning.  That point about the Bible using a dragon to represent the manifestation of evil encouraged me.  Tolkien, at least, classifies dragons in the same way: representing embodied evil: greed and destruction and deceit.  Without familiarity with these or other mythological dragons, how could one even come close to comprehending the abhorrence intended by John in describing the devil on earth that way? 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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