Traditional fairie tales expressed the influence the unseen world has on the world in which we live, but did so within the framework of a clear understanding of good and evil, right and wrong. Today's fairie tale is blurring the defining lines between these elements and creating a powerful, new (yet ancient) understanding that is degrading moral conscience and inviting young people to explore powers traditionally understood to belong to the 'dark side'. They even encourage friendship with any 'good' denizens of that dark side.
The original edition of this book was sub-titled "Christian and pagan imagination in children's literature." The second edition more clearly focuses on the immediate problem with its sub-title, "The battle for your child's mind." I read the original edition and was thrilled with the clear presentation of the dangers. This second edition is even more in-depth in its handling of the concepts and issues.
The reviewers of this book who speak negatively seem the rightful victims of the very forces exposed in the book. They give clear evidence of missing the point.
The point is not, "Are all snakes bad? Aren't any dragons good?" The point is that there is a malevolent mind, unrelenting, intent on destruction, at work at every level in our world, especially operative with tremendous effect in modern literature and visual media. To miss this point is to be a victim of the hypnotic forces of deception.
Those who read C.S.Read more ›
Mr. O'Brien does a great service with this book by demonstrating the secular and pagan influences in much of what passes for children's literature these days. He carefully explains the difference (for Christians) between acceptable and unacceptable fantasy in a clear and cogent manner (and he sets quite a high standard!)
Portions of the book could have stood more detailed analysis. I agree with a previous reviewer who suggested that the "Pern" series was given short shrift. I also disagree with O'Brien's analysis of C.S. Lewis' "That Hideous Strength". But these are minor points.
Of special interest to the homeschooler is the detailed appendix which provides literally hundreds of safe and age appropriate titles for readers of all ages.
All in all, a remarkable and timely book.
Unlike many Christian authors, O'Brien has not made the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water. He does not lump all fantasy literature together in one category and toss it out. He carefully demonstrates the difference between good and bad fantasy literature, or, if you will, authentic and inauthentic fairy stories.
I do have a few points of contention, but they are minor, and detract very little from the overall value of the book.
1) CS Lewis is identified correctly as an Anglican -- a member of the Church of England -- but incorrectly as a member of that church's Evangelical wing. Lewis, in fact, attended a "High Church" parish, and strongly resisted political factions within churches.
2) JRR Tolkien is correctly held up as the model by which modern fantasy and fairy story should be judged. Having said this, very little actual analysis is provided for Tolkien's writings.
3) Similarly, in the book's "blurb", Charles Williams is held up -- but then not analyzed in the text. An analysis of Williams would have made O'Brien's concerns about Lewis' novel "That Hideous Strength" make more sense. (I'd still disagree with O'Brien on this one, but his case would have been stronger and easier to sensibly defend.Read more ›
Focusing on the image of dragon as evil incarnate, and modern society's movement towards "cutesying" of the dragon image, O'Brien touches on a very real and terrifying shift of moral view in our time. From "The Lord of the Rings" to "Dragonheart," O'Brien traces literature (and film) from its excellent Christian viewpoint to the neo-pagan inverse of morality. He also includes words of encouragement and means of discernment for the concerned parent, as well as many pages of recommended reading in the appendices.
However, O'Brien falls short in two major areas. First, he attempts to absolutely equate theology with literature, which is a false and forced conclusion. Secondly, he spreads his argument too far and thus too thin - and leaves several gaps in his rationale, which make his critique a lesser force against the societal dragon.
To begin with the first: O'Brien tends to lean, at least in this book and on this subject, more towards the ultra-conservative point of view, seeing all literature as basically black or white, evil or angelic. If the morals are bad then the literature is as well. However, this does not take into account the hundreds of completely a- and immoral books written supurbly next to the hundreds of excellently moral books written excruciatingly. He makes no allowances for literary merit apart from moral quality.
Likewise, although he is justified in fearing and condeming magic in practice, he makes two distinctions between the use of "magic" in Fantastic Fiction - either miraculous or demonic.Read more ›