A pretty good movie has led me to an even better book. Finally–a fantasy novel that tells a good story, doesn’t insult my intelligence, and both entertains me and gives me food for thought. That’s Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (a real person, after all), first published in 2003 (in German). There’s a sequel available and I’ll read that, too.
The screenplay follows the plot of the novel only in a very general way, but that’s not a problem. My problem is to tell you about the book without spoiling it for you. I’ll try.
Funke’s hero, Mortimer, has a un1que talent. When he reads aloud, he sometimes can summon objects and living things out of the book and into our world. But there’s a catch: whenever that happens, someone or something from our world gets whisked into the world of the story. This makes life for Mortimer and his 12-year-old daughter, Meggie, rather complicated–and also dangerous. The complications are as bad as the dangers.
This gift of Mortimer’s is not witchcraft. It’s something that just happens, beyond his control. In fact, he can’t control it at all, and his life would be a lot easier without it. So don’t look at Inkheart as some kind of Harry Potter knock-off.
I don’t want to tell you any more about the plot, lest I ruin some of the surprises. Read it for yourself. Instead, I’d like to move on to something higher–or deeper, depending on how you look at it.
What is Inkheart about? That I can tell you.
It’s about love–among family members, friends, love for things imagined, love for things real. It’s especially about love for stories and storytelling, love of books, love of what books can do for those who love them. Each chapter is introduced with a quote from some classic of young readers’ literature (including many of my favorites)–Funke’s way of paying tribute to books and stories she has loved. As a writer, and a reader, I find this a very humble and touching gesture.
Like 99% of all published literature of all kinds, Inkheart contains no overtly Christian references or allusions. I found nothing in it to suggest to me that Ms. Funke is a pagan or an unbeliever. But I would say that, at the adult level, Inkheart ought to be read as an extended metaphor crafted to get us thinking about what storytelling is, what it can do, its effects on the hearer and its effects on the writer.
Let’s face it–there is very little fiction intentionally written to give glory to God. I have tried to do so. After I’ve read more of Ms. Funke’s work, I may be able to say something about the religious sense of it.
Sometimes a story serves God whether the author has intended to or not. Personally, I would be astonished to learn that the Lord did not enjoy The Wind in the Willows. And for all I know, He liked Inkheart, too.