FRODO BAGGINS VS. HARRY POTTER:
A Christian perspective on fantasy literature
II. "It's Only a Story"
For many people (both Christians and
non-Christians), the controversy over works like Harry Potter is
only much ado about nothing. After all, they reason, isn't all children's
literature just about the power of the imagination? Aren't we simply
talking about innocent fairy tales? Isn't it all just harmless
entertainment? On often hears the comment, "It's only a story."
There is no such thing as ONLY a story.
Stories about magic and the fantastic have existed in all cultures
throughout the ages. And most cultures have understood the power in these
stories. A few examples:
Clearly the world understands the value and power of storytelling,
but does the church?
- The oldest known fairy tale was found in an Egyptian papyrus dating
1250 B.C. 1
Hindu medicine: "the mentally deranged person is told
a fairy story, contemplation of which will help him overcome his emotional
- Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and
were very concerned about the MORALITY of the stories told in their
- Renaissance poets wanted "to please and instruct."
- Many of our most familiar fairy tales such as Cinderella or Puss in
Boots were first told in the court of Louis the 14th where they were
intended to teach children morality.
- The German poet Friedrich
Schiller (1759-1805) said: "Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told
me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life."
- Psychologist Karl Jung built his entire theory of the unconscious
around the mythological stories passed down from generation to generation
in all cultures.
- Bruno Bettleheim, a Freudian psychologist wrote an
influential book entitled The Uses of Enchantment about the
positive impact fairy tales have on children. Just one quote: "(F)airy
tales depict in imaginary and symbolic form the essential steps in growing
up and achieving an independent existence." 4
- Scholar Joseph Campbell wrote a
book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces and did an famous series
of interviews on Public Television about the power of myth (stories) in
- One of the many artists influenced by Campbell was
George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars movies. In a recent
interview, he said, "Mythology is designed to take the values and
information and knowledge from one generation and move it on to the next
"For the children of this world are
in their generation wiser than the children of light." - Luke 16:9
Copyright © 2002 by Stephen Mark Spence
1Bettelheim, Bruno, (1989) The Uses of
Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Vintage Books, p. 91
2Bettelheim, op. cit., p.
3Bettelheim, op. cit., p. 5
op. cit., p. 73
5"Starry-Eyed" by Toni Ruberto in The
Buffalo News, p. F1,