The essential message of this book is that minds are at war for the redefinition of the way you and your children will think, and by implication, children of generations to come. 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. Lewis's 'Narnia' series will remember the Marsh Wiggle who burned his own foot in the fire in order to break the witch's hypnotic power over them. This book will help you burn your own foot in the fire so you can wake up. Our culture is in motion, changing form, calling evil good and good evil, and many who are committed to 'good' are embracing the new forms as acceptable. When our culture has finally changed completely, will there be anyone there who will even know what happened? This is a vitally important book. It is sound, sane, insightful, spiritual, discerning, and will enable readers to establish and maintain oases of light in the new dark ages that are already upon us. Don't miss it.Read more ›
. . .and other concerned parents who want their children to read good literature. 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.
In this volume, Michael O'Brien has provided both and invaluable service to parents (like myself) who want their children to read, but who are also concerned about much of the reading material currently available. He has analyzed children's literature, concentrating especially in the genre of fantasy and fairy story. He has clearly and cogently demonstrated how neo-paganism has become the dominant worldview of many authors in this genre. 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.) 4) O'Brien's analysis of Anne McCaffrey's "Pern" stories needed either to be fully developed, or eliminated entirely. O'Brien is using the image of the dragon as a neo-pagan symbol as one of the cornerstones of his book, and tries to place McCaffrey's "good dragons" within this context. To me, it was unconvincing. Overall, an excellent book. As a final note to parents, O'Brien has helpfully added a lengthy appendix listing good (and usually available) books for children of all ages, arranged by level of difficulty and author. An extremely helpful resource for homeschooling parents.Read more ›
Michael O'Brien, author of "Father Elijah," now turns his hand to the theoretical side of literature - of Fantastic Fiction, in particular, in his worthy book, "A Landscape with Dragons." 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. He makes no allowances, nor does he touch on "magic" which is inherent ("indifferent magic" as it were), such as the "magical" element of fairies, or singing swords, or eternal trees. His argumentation, too, was too widely dispersed. He did not limit himself to solely tracing the use of the dragon image through literature, but looked at several different images through at least two mediums, with several tangental lines into child-rearing, the state of society, and discernment of spirits. While all of these are good topics to speak of, and are handled fairly competently in the book, they have little to do with his thesis and weaken the argument. Because of the broader nature of his argument, several important works are not mentioned at all. The most notible gap lies in his critique of Disney films, wherein he completely ignores Disney's most blatantly "new age" film, "The Lion King." His critique of "Hunchback of Notre Dame" also left much to be desired, since from his comments it appeared that he had not read the original work. This is not to say that "A Landscape with Dragons" is a failure - quite the contrary. Merely, I should have liked to have seen it a bit more thought out, a bit more tightened up, a bit more focused. As an means of encouragement and support to parents who rightly mistrust the "Harry Potter" books, this is an excellent primer. But for those who have been reading in the genre and fighting for God's place back into this realm, his conclusions are often too hasty. Be that as it may, it is my ardent wish that "A Landscape with Dragons" may bring people to the Lord and spare a generation of children from the wrath of the dragon.Read more ›