Category Archives: Harry Potter

Obliviate: Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Fan’s Selective Memory

harry_potter_and_fantastic_beasts_4dx_textless_by_mintmovi3-dajxg1p copyJ.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was released in the UK in 1997 and created a phenomenon that has lead to the sale of over 500 million books, in the 7 book series. Going back to the beginning, Rowling sells the rights to the series in 1999 for a mere £1 million. By the time that the first movie is released in 2001, there are 4 of the books in the series have already been released and in fact, every movie released will have the next book in the series already out. This means, for every Harry Potter film, there is never a time when people watching them, either don’t already know what happened, because they’d read the books or they could easily go and read online what they missed.

This gives the Harry Potter filmmakers a lot of freedom. If you’ve read the books and seen the movies,  you know how much of the story is left out. Especially as you get to  Prisoner of Azkaban and beyond, whole storylines are absent from the films and even what’s there is rushed for time since they didn’t seem to want  every movie be 3 hours long. Quick example, the end of Order of the Phoenix, and one of the most important chapters in the book is The Lost Prophecy. It’s arguably the most important chapter in the series as it’s finally the place where Harry truly understands his connection with Voldemort and what is to come, “…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…“. Yet the movie only gives about a minute to a minute and a half to this pivotal moment. The filmmakers rely heavily on the audience to fill in the gaps with their preexisting knowledge from the books or leave it open for them to look online for answers. The movies, for all their visual wonder are truncated versions of Rowling’s epic.

Why do I bring all of this up?

When the first Fantastic Beasts movie came out, I began to hear rumblings in the fandom that Rowling had lost her touch. It’s a criticism that has only gotten louder in some corners of the fandom with the release of Crimes Of Grindelwald. And one of the reasons why I think this is happening is because we’ve forgotten what it was like to be in Rowling’s world and not already have all the answers.

I started reading the books just as the fourth one was released, so I was part of that long wait for the fifth, sixth and seventh books. Like most fans, I was part of the midnight parties, waiting in line for the book, taking it home and devouring it as quickly as possible so I could then talk to my friends and those online about what I thought it all meant and speculate where it would all go next. It was half the fun of the series.

I can distinctly remember waiting for what would be called, Half-Blood Prince, talking with fans who were just sure it would be call, The Pillars of Storgé. Of course they were wrong, but the conversations had between fans then, was all about their favorite series and the speculation happened because we couldn’t wait to find out what Rowling had in store for Harry and his friends. Most importantly, we trusted Rowling as a writer. She’d already shown us her ability to weave a narrative, as well as truly surprise us.

13669129_10157190743835075_291675916011469870_nSo, what’s changed? Why are people so angry at Rowling and what she’s doing with Fantastic Beasts? Why have we forgotten the fun of eagerly waiting for the next installment of her work, all while having the time of our lives trying to figure out, from the breadcrumbs she’s laid, where the story goes next? We know she is a master at using the tiniest detail to create something completely unexpected and wonderful. I mean,  Deathly Hallows the is the proof. If you look at the structure of her screenplays, it’s very similar to how she wrote her books. You can feel the structure with the way she creates mystery, places people and things in the movies that might not be as important yet, but will play a larger role later. Then, she throws you for a loop by upending the mystery, explaining how what you thought was happening wasn’t quite right.

So what’s changed? I think the answer is that we’re spoiled. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to wait for things. We live in a binge culture. In fact, many people actually wait for a series to be over so they can start them and not have to wait. But this has hurt our ability to just enjoy what’s been given to us and wait for what comes next.

Secondly, the binge culture has also lead to the rise of militant fandoms who obsess about everything and begin to place themselves as gatekeepers over franchises and gods of the created universes they didn’t create. In fact it’s become common place to see people demean someone like Rowling or Lucas for “messing something up” in THEIR universes. Can you imagine Tolkien in the age of social media? He’d be crucified for retconning The Hobbit so that it fit better with Lord of the Rings. I mean the guy literally rewrote parts of his previous book to work with his larger mythology.

tumblr_nhm36njqle1rc13aso1_1280This sense of entitlement and peevishness is destroying our ability to enjoy things. As creators continue on in their creations, there may be things that change over time, but shouldn’t they be given the freedom to do that? It is their work after all. So what if Rowling has decided that McGonagall is older than we thought, does that really hurt anything? If she expands on what we know of boggarts, the Mirror of Erised or anything else, what’s wrong with that? Why do we think that just because we know something about a part of Rowling’s universe that we know everything? She’s continued to reveal things she knows about her creation that we do not and telling the creator they are wrong or have messed something up is the height of arrogance. In many ways, we’ve forgotten how to be okay with not knowing everything and having someone, other than ourselves be the arbiter of what’s “canon”.

The act of creating mythology, universes and stories is one that’s always evolving. As much as Rowling knows about her universe, and from all reports, in every interview with the other people involved in both film series I’ve seen or read, she knows almost everything, down to the smallest detail but she’s also still human. Like every author and creator, there will be things she’ll discover about her world as she expands it and she should be given the freedom to do so. Creation is a shear act of will, it’s been said, but it’s never been said to be perfect (unless you’re God), so maybe we can remember that as we wait for the next film in the Fantastic Beasts series. She has 3 more movies to answer our questions, therefore we cannot expect to have all the answers now, especially when we don’t have books to pull off our shelves to “spoil” the end.

Look for reviews of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald on The 602 Club and Cinema Stories podcasts.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Review

cn6q7eqvyaadlr7-jpg-origGet The 602 Club review is here.

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In 1926 a former Hogwarts student, Newt Scamander travels to New York with a case full of magical creatures only to find himself pulled into the strange world of magic in the United States, which is very different than Britain. The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) is embroiled in a situation that threatens the safety of the wizarding community as well as the No-Majs (Muggles). It also jeopardizes the International Statute of Secrecy, risking the exposure of the wizarding world in America. Newt and his beasts may be just the thing needed to help bring to light the true forces at work.

Us vs Them

The Magical community has been hidden from the rest of the world since 1692 when the  International Confederation of Wizards enacted the International Statute of Secrecy to protect itself from Muggles or No-Majs. In America it has created an even stricter divide between the two worlds as witches and wizards are forbidden to marry non-magic folk. It’s created a sense of superiority in the magical community which Tina clearly show when she says to Newt, “Why would I want to marry him?”, pointing at Jacob, a No-Maj that has unwittingly become entangled in the wizarding world. The No-Maj world is no better. Mary Lou Barebone who runs an orphanage and the New Salem Philanthropic Society, works to indoctrinate the children she “cares” for and the people of New York of the dangers go witches and wizards in their midst. There is a real sense of tension that is palpable as each side cloisters in it’s group, spreading fear of the other.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-dan-fogler-alison-sudol-600x400The movie, in subtle ways, slowly undermines this idea of Us vs Them through the character of Jacob. In America, a No-Maj is immediately obliviated (a memory charm) so that they do not remember what they have seen of the wizarding community, yet circumstances in the film make that impossible. Jacob and Newt form a friendship, learn from one another as they share their worlds. Jacob also has a major impact on Tina and Queenie Goldstein who, for the first time in their lives, get to spend significant time with someone from the “other side”. It’s beautiful to see the fear of the unknown vanish as communication leads to the awareness that they’re not that different. In the real world where this happens every day, the message is clear, true knowledge of the “other” side only comes though interaction, communication and an open mind.

Stewardship

Newt loves the magical creatures of the world, the ones that people have discounted or worse, hunted down because of fear and misunderstanding. His main goal in studying, recording and publishing his book is to educate the magical community about the importance of these creatures, their benefits and to encourage their safeguarding. It’s interesting to see how the themes from the magical vs non-magical communities parallel with the magical community’s interaction with magical beasts. When fear, misinformation and lack of education drive people, the consequences to ourselves and the world around us can be devastating. The film, in both places, drives home the importance of cultivating a climate of learning, education and stewardship.

The Movie

This is the first of five movies in the Fantastic Beasts series, written specifically for the screen by J.K. Rowling. There is a really strength to this since there are no books to compare it to leaving the audience free to enjoy the film for it’s own sake. The movie does a good job of laying the foundations for the world of wizardry in this time period as well as what’s to come in the series. The cast is outstanding, with the relationship between Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski being a true highlight. James Newton Howard’s score is good, even if it never reached the heights of Williams and the production value, character design and world building is, well, magical. The film nicely begins it’s journey to telling the history of the Harry Potter universe that we got hints of in the previous series, making it a wonderful addition and expansion to the world, yet, at the same time, it stands on it’s own. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated 4 out of five Bowtruckles.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Review

911Xmhn9+rLWhen J.K. Rowling entered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, one of the most contested parts was the ending that took place nineteen years later with the gang and their families at platform 9 3/4. Interestingly enough, this is exactly where the new book, the script of the play just released in London’s West End, begins. The story introduces us fully to Albus, Harry’s middle son and his struggle growing up in the shadow of the world’s savior. The story is poignant and had me choking back tears as I found myself in love with the world of Harry Potter all over again.

Past Suffering

Rowling has never downplayed the struggle of life or it’s unfairness. In direct opposition to so much of popular entertainment, the Harry Potter books have always embraced the ideas of suffer and death as natural. It’s echoed beautifully in the script when Dumbledore’s portrait tells Harry,

“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

It’s a powerful reminder to us all that life is not fair and that suffering is part of all our experiences. Suffering cannot be avoided, therefore you can only control how you let it affect you, mold you and teach you.

Suffering can often lead to the desire to change the past or into destructively obsessing over it, leaving us stuck. The Cursed Child‘s plot is a clear picture of what happens when we mess with time in such ways. Our past, our suffering, our experience make us who we are and the only thing that can change is the future. Harry points this out to Draco in the latter half of part two,

“Love blinds. We have both tried to give our sons, not what they needed, what what we needed. We’ve been so busy trying to rewrite our own pasts, we’ve blighted their present.”

Albus is struggling with all of these things plus the thought that he should have done better. This feeling drives him to do something that puts the entire world in extreme peril. So often we as humans are so hard on ourselves, willing to give grace to everyone else but us. Harry lovingly reminds Albus that both of the men that he’s named after were great, but also deeply flawed, we all are. We can do better and the future is wide open for us to, not though self flagellation but though using the lessons of the past change our future.

Conclusion

There are so many continuing Rowling themes in The Cursed Child, family, friendship, the power of love and the nature of life itself; I am honestly still mulling them over. What I can say for certain, this is a worthy addition to the Harry Potter story. Rowling has said that this will be the final story for Harry and if so it’s wonderful to know, all is well. The Cursed Child is rated 4.5 out of 5 wands.

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Exclusive: Read J.K. Rowling’s new post for the latest Harry Potter ‘gossip’

550w_movies_harry_potter_epilogue_4Can’t get enough of Harry Potter? Then this is for you. Since March, best-selling author J. K. Rowling has been writing original stories about the imaginary 2014 Quidditch World Cup Finals for Pottermore, the online home for the world of Harry Potter. 

Rowling shared her latest Pottermore.com story exclusively with TODAY.com. Written in the voice of the fictional Daily Prophet’s gossip correspondent Rita Skeeter, this post centers around the reunion of Harry Potter and his friends at the Quidditch World Cup Finals. Click here for the new Harry Potter Story 

For Taylor Swift, the Future of Music Is a Love Story

taylor-swift-red-largeWhere will the music industry be in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years?

Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you’re reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it’s just coming alive

Gbj6CRxJustice’ is served with another helping of Superman

Who’s better, Superman or Batman? Zack Snyder doesn’t have to choose a favorite since he’s getting to put both on the big screen at the same time.

The director of last year’s Man of Steel doubles down on A-list superheroes in his follow-up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (in theaters May 6, 2016), teaming a returning Henry Cavill as the big guy in the cape and “S” on his chest with Ben Affleck as the latest cinematic incarnation of the Dark Knight.

Europe Is Starting to Take American Soccer Seriously (Seriously!)

article-2594795-1CC15A9B00000578-590_634x457Did American soccer just win the football world’s respect?

The World Cup is over for the U.S.A. after a heartbreaking loss to Belgium. But that defeat made for what some regard as perhaps the best match of a tournament that has thrilled from the start. More importantly, the U.S. has been called a “world-class team” by the likes of Barry Glendenning, the ever-critical football writer from The Guardian. Glendenning is perhaps not the Supreme Leader of Football (that title belongs to Sepp Blatter), but he is near the epicenter of international football, and he does not compliment teams lightly.

The real story behind the war over YA novels

91o13sPo7VLFew categories of literature right now seem to receive the level of hatred reserved for young adult fiction, which is the subject of nearly endless editorials on its supposed inanity, excessive sexuality, darkness, and girlyness. It doesn’t escape notice that there’s a strong whiff of sexism underlying the wave of YA hate—the genre is heavily dominated by women, and female authors can recount their experiences with sexism first hand.

Coming Out as a Christian

social-mediaI’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live transparently—especially when it comes to my digital life. For as long as I’ve been on social media (I first joined Facebook in 2005), I’ve oscillated between expressing myself honestly and expressing contrived personas that I broadcast on Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere else.

Take, for instance, my well-documented love of Rolling Rock. Anyone who follows me on any website knows I’ve posted endlessly about the famously watery beer for the past three years. My Instagram feed was once a veritable shrine to Rolling Rock. My friends gave me four cases of it for my birthday last year. Heck, my Twitter fan club (yes, it’s still weird to me, too) uses a picture of Rolling Rock as its header image! I know how to advertise my love for a product.

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Owl Post: 2-3-2012

In Defense of Katniss Everdeen:

risa-rodils-catching-fireCatching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, has set theater records, and like its predecessor, it’s an impressive, gritty film. Suzanne Collins wrote a gripping series of young-adult novels, and the film adaptations have been well cast and well directed, especially the choice of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the film’s star and protagonist. Lawrence manages to easily embody both Katniss’s tenacity and also her youthful ignorance at the high-stakes politics of her situation.

Why Harry Potter is Great Literature:

harry-potter-series-books-7I enjoy spending time with people who appreciate great literature. The number of my friends who are intimate with Dante or Tolkien or Austen is, as Oscar Wilde would say with a wink, “considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.” My book-loving church regularly ships in world-class English professors to give lectures and field the usual round of questions about Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Aragorn and Faramir.

And I’ve noticed that in these circles, it’s often a faux pas to admit that I, like nearly every other Millennial in America, own extremely well-loved copies of all seven Harry Potter books. And I would lose all credibility with many of these people if I suggested offhand that I think the Potter books are in the tradition of the great English novels, deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence, and are easily the most morally and socially insightful works of fantasy published in this generation.

The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men:

10298738-silhouette-of-a-man-on-a-mountainSo not every guy proposes with lip syncingrolling cameras, and a choreographed entourage.

Yeah —  so what if  your Dad didn’t?

He just pulled that beat-up Volkswagon Rabbit of his over in front of Murray Reesor’s hundred acre farm right there where Grey Township meets Elma Township, pulled out a little red velvet box, and whispered it in the snowy dark: “Marry me?”

How Doctor Who Survived 50 Years:

Untitled-1When it started in 1963, Doctor Who should not have succeeded. A committee created it, to fill a time slot. It had a small budget. The BBC intended for it to be a children’s educational show focusing on science and history. Oh, and it debuted the night after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

And yet it worked, as seen in the incredible hype preceding Saturday’s 50th anniversary special—an extra-long, star-filled special called “The Day of the Doctor.”

Gospel-Centered Sex?

I recently read an article from a prominent blogger on the subject of the new “gospel-centered” emphasis in books. He commented on various books that applied the gospel to every area of life from the ivory towers of theology, to the mom caught up in the chaos of home and family. One quote at the end of his blog got me thinking: There is not yet a “Gospel-Centered Sex” book; however, it is probably on the way and may well be very helpful! If a couple consistently applies the implications of the gospel to the marriage bed, they will inevitably have a healthier marriage.”

How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home:

Every Imperfect and Normal Family wants their kids to turn out right. So, we establish goals for character development and try to create an environment where our kids can mature. Church, school, sports teams, family relationships… each of these provides a context where our kids can learn to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Too many times, (Christian) parents have it as their goal to make their kids good and moral. It is as if the entire purpose of their family’s spiritual life is to shape their children into law-abiding citizens who stay out of trouble. The only problem with this goal is that it runs in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches. The gospel is not about making bad people moral, but about making dead people alive. If we teach morality without the transforming power of the gospel and the necessity of a life fully surrendered to God’s will, then we are raising moral pagans.

Stopping An Affair Before It Begins:

At one time or another, most of us witnessed the devastation that comes through infidelity in marriage. We have seen marriages stretched almost to the breaking point and we have seen marriages destroyed by an unfaithful husband or unfaithful wife.

Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is simply one step in a long chain of events, one decision in a long series of poor decisions.

J.J. Abrams at TED in 2007: The Mystery Box

Best Books I Read in 2012

The other day I gave my top ten films of 2012 and so I decided that I should do much the same for books. I love to read and this year read over 70 books. This list will not just be new books even though there are quite a few, some of them are also books that I have just finally gotten around to reading. I am going to rank them, but they should not be considered less if they are lower on the list. Each of these books is the top 9 out of over 70, not bad.

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars9. The Fault in Our Starts

John Green knows how to write. This book is not just for teens, it is for anyone that likes a good story that is not afraid to ask big questions. Hazel and Augustus struggles with mortality and the ultimate questions will leave you teary all while pondering the final questions yourself. Good books should always leave you thinking about something important and Green is not afraid to have his readers do just that.

 

0615_superman-book8. Superman: The High-Flying History of the Man of Steel

Ever since I was a child, Superman has captured my attention in a way no other superhero has. A man that is all powerful and yet, in the end, is forced to hide himself, his true self from everyone was actually very relatable to me (not the all-powerful part). Larry Tye has written the best book on the history of Superman, from conception of an idea to the new 52. Tye delves into the background of his creators as well as the ways in which Superman has reflected the generations to which he has been written; each generation getting the Superman that they need. For all those who have never liked Superman or if you have always been a fan, this is the book for you. Everyone who reads this will walk away with a deeper appreciation for the Man of Steel and all that he has stood for. Tye sums up the longevity of Superman well when he writes, “Our longest-lasting hero will endure as long as we need a champion, which should be until the end of time.”  My full review is here.

20110511_Jacobspleasurescover7. The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction

This is the first book that I have read about reading and it was well worth it. In a short 162 pages, Jacobs helps us understand the plight of reading in the 21st century. With the proliferation of technology in our lives and the distractions that it brings, reading is something that has fallen by the wayside. Instead of telling readers what they should be reading, Jacobs says read for whimsy. Read what you like. This is a long quote from an interview that Jacobs did, but is helps explain what he means,

Where this really got started was with the many, many students who have come to me over the years after graduating from Wheaton. And they think, Oh, there are so many important books I haven’t read. They come to many teachers, but I get my fair share of them. They come to me and say, “Give me 10 books that I should read over the next year.” Or: “Give me 10 books that you think everyone should read.” I always find myself thinking, Read what you want to read. Since you were 6 years old you’ve been reading things that people told you to read. Now you don’t have to do that anymore, unless you’re going to graduate school. Go out and read what strikes you as being fun.

I don’t think these students trust themselves to be readers on their own. They want to continue the sort of reading under direction that they have experienced ever since they started school. Over the years I’ve gotten absolutely stiff-necked about it. I refuse to give any recommendations. I say, “Go and read for fun,” because that sense of reading as a duty is not going to carry you through. It’s not going to sustain you as a vibrant reader, as you will be if you read what gives you delight. You may have actually lost some of that sense of delight over the years reading primarily for school. So go out there and have fun with it.

What will happen when people do that? Will they read frivolous things? Yes—at least I certainly hope so. I quote W. H. Auden, who says that the great masterpieces should be reserved for the “high holidays of the spirit.” You’re not designed for a steady diet of literary masterpieces any more than you would eat a seven-course French meal every day. At one point, Auden says it’s not only permissible but admirable not always to be in the mood for Dante. And I think that’s right. Sometimes you just want a lighter fare.

Auden himself liked detective stories and doggerel poetry and other things that many of his peers would have looked down their noses at. I want people to recover that sense of pleasure. Of course you’re going to want the heavier stuff. You’re going to want the stuff that’s possibly life-changing. But for heaven’s sake, don’t turn reading into a matter of eating your literary vegetables. I don’t think that’s healthy in the long run.

What I also really appreciated about his book is that he praises what Kindles, Nooks and iPads are doing for reading. Each of these devices are making it easier for people to read more often and for longer periods of time. Instead of carrying around bulky copies Anna Karenina or The Iliad, now they are stored in light-weight devices that also have built in dictionaries, enabling longer reading sessions in more places.

So pick up this short little book and be inspired to read all the more in 2013!

the-great-divorce6. The Great Divorce

Every year I try to read at least one C.S. Lewis book that I have not read before. The Great Divorce is a short book about people from hell visiting the outer regions of heaven. Each person that visits has a different reaction to this new place. Lewis’ keen insight into the human condition is on full display here. This is a challenge to read, there are many points you may find yourself in one or more of the characters and their excuses, but this makes it an important read. Start the new year off right and see what path you are on. For more on The Great Divorce go here.

when-i-was-a-child-i-read-books5. When I Was a Child I Read Books

Marilynne Robinson is one of my best-loved authors, her books Gilead and Home are on the top of my list of all-time favorites. Her newest collection of essays is well worth the read. She talks about America, religion, science, literature and more, weaving together a diverse set of thinkers and philosophers with ease. This is a short book and yet dense enough that it needs to be digested slowly and with a pen for notes and underlines. Accept this challenge in 2013, it is worth the effort. For good taste of her writing go here.

the narnian4. The Narnian

I own my voracious reading appetite to C.S. Lewis and his Narnia books. As a young boy I really did not enjoy reading and when I did I read non-fiction. After reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that all changed. Alan Jacobs has written a masterful book on the life of Lewis. This is not an exhaustive biography but a focused look at his life and how he came to write the beloved children’s series. Jacobs shows how Lewis’ experiences as a boy telling stories with his brother to his deep, life-changing friendship with Tolkien, each gave him a pieces to the puzzle that would become Narnia. This needs to be on your reading list fo 2013! My full review is here.

134978183. The Casual Vacancy

No writer has had more to live up to than J.K. Rowling with the release of her first novel post Harry Potter and no book could have been more different. Rowling weaves a tale of a small British town with the intricacy of Austen and the modern sensibility of McEwan all while challenging our notions of social justice. This is an important book on the level of novels like To Kill a Mockingbird; so if you missed it last year, read it in 2013. My full review is here.

12ExplicitGospel_L_8590274382. The Explicit Gospel   

2012 has seen a flood of gospel oriented books and I read quite a few of them, but Chandler’s book was at the top of the list. God has used the preaching of Matt Chandler and now his book to open up the truth of the gospel in new and life-changing ways for me. Understanding and thinking about the ultimate questions of the universe is the most important thing a person can do, so spend some time on that this year. I cannot recommend a book more to you for 2013! My full review is here.

riseofteddyroosevelt21. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

This is the first book in Edmund Morris’ trilogy on Teddy Roosevelt and it is fantastic. There is never a dull moment in this book so do not let the length dishearten you. Spending time getting to know one of the most interesting and influential men in American history was one of the highlights of my year. Roosevelt was forged in the fire of suffering and the American ideal. He will leave you captivated and inspired even when you might not always agree with his sensibilities. I am looking forward to reading the next two books in 2013.

What did you enjoy reading in 2012? Let me know, leave me a comment so I can add it to my list!

Fairies, Tolkien and Eucatastrophe

J.R. Vassar, a pastor in New York City, was talking about the resurrection of Christ last Sunday.He brought up this idea from Tolkien of eucatastrophe (if you are not sure what this means, Tolkien will explain it in the quote below). The happy turn in the story recorded in the Gospels is the rise of Christ from the dead and the defeat of death and sin. This is not just some story though; it is the pinnacle of all history, the turning point of the entire universe. This is what changes everything.

This quote from Tolkien’s essay titled, “On Fairy Stories” has taught me a lot. It really resonates with me on why so many people around the world are drawn to books or movies like Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Braveheart and so many others. There is a reason we all like a good story; good vs. evil, where the heroes win and the bad guy gets their due. G.K. Chesterton said, “The life of man is a story; an adventure story; and in our vision the same is true even of the story of God.” There are still more stories to tell and the best ones are those that point to the most mythic and truest of them all.

And lastly there is the oldest and deepest desire, the Great Escape: the Escape from Death. Fairy-stories provide many examples and modes of this—which might be called the genuine escapist, or (I would say) fugitive spirit. But so do other stories (notably those of scientific inspiration), and so do other studies. Fairy-stories are made by men not by fairies. The Human-stories of the elves are doubtless full of the Escape from Deathlessness. But our stories cannot be expected always to rise above our common level. They often do. Few lessons are taught more clearly in them than the burden of that kind of immortality, or rather endless serial living, to which the “fugitive” would fly. For the fairy-story is specially apt to teach such things, of old and still today. Death is the theme that most inspired George MacDonald.

But the “consolation” of fairy-tales has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy- story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite—I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

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, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality.

Even modern fairy-stories can produce this effect sometimes. It is not an easy thing to do; it depends on the whole story which is the setting of the turn, and yet it reflects a glory backwards. A tale that in any measure succeeds in this point has not wholly failed, whatever flaws it may possess, and whatever mixture or confusion of purpose. It happens even in Andrew Lang’s own fairy-story, Prince Prigio, unsatisfactory in many ways as that is. When “each knight came alive and lifted his sword and shouted ‘long live Prince Prigio,’ ” the joy has a little of that strange mythical fairy-story quality, greater than the event described. It would have none in Lang’s tale, if the event described were not a piece of more serious fairy- story “fantasy” than the main bulk of the story, which is in general more frivolous, having the half-mocking smile of the courtly, sophisticated Conte. Far more powerful and poignant is the effect in a serious tale of Faërie. In such stories when the sudden “turn” comes we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.

“Seven long years I served for thee,
The glassy hill I clamb for thee,
The bluidy shirt I wrang for thee,
And wilt thou not wauken and turn to me?”

He heard and turned to her.

Epilogue

This ”joy” which I have selected as the mark of the true fairy-story (or romance), or as the seal upon it, merits more consideration.

Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it. If he indeed achieves a quality that can fairly be described by the dictionary definition: “inner consistency of reality,” it is difficult to conceive how this can be, if the work does not in some way partake of reality. The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a “consolation” for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, “Is it true?” The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): “If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world.” That is enough for the artist (or the artist part of the artist). But in the “eucatastrophe” we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater—it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. The use of this word gives a hint of my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter. It is presumptuous of me to touch upon such a theme; but if by grace what I say has in any respect any validity, it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich: finite only because the capacity of Man for whom this was done is finite.

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy- story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self- contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it 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.

But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. 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.

There are so many places that this is seen in the books we read and the movies we watch; what are your favorites?

Pastor JR Vassar’s sermon