King Arthur, Anyone?

Hello–any King Arthur buffs out there?

Maybe I shouldn’t mention Arthur on a page dedicated largely to fantasy literature. He doesn’t have that firm a foothold on “real history,” and I wouldn’t like to push him entirely into the realm of the imaginary, there to take up permanent residence with fairies, satyrs, and man-made Global Warming.

I was very excited, some years ago, when I learned that the Romans had long stationed Sarmatian cavalry in Britain, and that most of those remained behind when the Romans withdrew their legions in the 5th century. Why excited? Because I knew from Herodotus that various “Scythian” peoples (including the Sarmatians, probably) worshipped their war god by raising a heap of stones and thrusting a sword into the top of it. Voila! The ancient tale of Arthur and “the sword in the stone” suddenly takes on cultural and historical context. Alas, others managed to publish that scenario before I got around to it. If you snooze, you lose.

Even if he was a real person, King Arthur looms large in fantasy. It makes tracking down “the real Arthur” well-nigh impossible.

We see a highly unusual attempt to do both–find the historical Arthur, and exploit the fantasy of Arthur–in David Downing’s novel, Looking for the King. I’m writing a full book review for Chalcedon, but in the meantime I’d love to hear what other readers think of it. Did you like it? Do you think Downing succeeded in whatever he was trying to do? And did you enjoy seeing J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams appear as major characters in the story?

Let’s Write a Fantasy Story Together

Just for fun, I invite readers of this blog to collaborate in writing a short fantasy story. To join in, just write the next paragraph of the story as a “comment.” It should, of course, bear some relation to the paragraphs that went before it. I’ll delete anything obscene, any graphic sex or violence or profanity, anything disrespectful to God or Jesus Christ, and anything that’s just incoherent. Otherwise, your paragraph becomes part of the story.

Got it? Good! The game is now open to anyone who wants to play. Let me get the ball rolling with a first paragraph. After this, I’ll clam up and the rest will be entirely the fruits of the readers’ imagination. Here goes…

Jennifer woke on a snowy morning and looked out the window. There was a centaur in her back yard, standing by the bird bath–not at all the kind of thing you expect to see in the suburbs: or anywhere else, for that matter.

The rest is up to you, folks.

More Fantasy Disguised as Science

If you think I’m kidding about scientists doubling as fantasy writers, get a load of this from Wikipedia:

Pan prior is the name suggested by British biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham for the last common ancestor of humans (Homo sapiens ) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) . This species is supposed, on the basis of DNA reconstruction (no fossil remains have been found), to have existed prior to six million years ago, when the human and chimpanzee lines are thought to have diverged. Pan prior lived an arboreal existence in the forests of Africa. It was initially thought that an Ice Age, around seven million years ago, caused forests to shrink thus prompting some members of the species to venture into the savannah, becoming the ancestors of humanity…

And so on: solid humbug, every word of it. I mean, they’ve invented this animal in their own imaginations, there’s no fossil, not a shred of evidence, and on they go to study it and discourse and write about it just as if it were real. But it is not real. It’s a fantasy creation, like an Ent or a Dragon.

What the heck, who needs evidence anymore?

They Never Learn (Scientists, That Is)

I’ve just re-read a book about Piltdown Man, the second-biggest scientific hoax in history (the biggest being Man-made Global Warming, by a long shot).  For those of you too young to have heard of Piltdown Man, it was supposedly a “missing link” ape-man fossil discovered in England in 1912. Scientists were overjoyed–this was just the kind of missing link they were looking for and fully expected to find. Into the textbooks it went; but by the mid-1950s it was conclusively proved to be a hoax. Some mischievous soul took a modern cranium from a medieval graveyard, an orang-utan jaw, filed down the ape teeth to make them look more human, stained the bones, and planted other fossils around the site to make it look convincing.

How can you write a whole book about the Piltdown hoax and conclude with words like this? “…We are in no doubt about the reality of the transformation which has brought Man from a simian status to his sapiens form and capability.” But when one of your prime exhibits is revealed to be a big fat phoney, I’d say that opens up some room for doubt–wouldn’t you?

Creating fantasy is fun, and can be put to constructive uses. It’s when you start believing in your own fantasies, that you created, that you get in trouble. The fact that the Piltdown Hoax (the perpetrator has never been identified) made fools of the whole scientific establishment never shakes the author’s faith in the Darwinist fantasy.

What would we think of some Tolkien enthusiast who said, “We are in no doubt of the existence of Dragons, Hobbits, and Ents”? But Tolkien never tried to pass off his fantasies as reality.

If only they’d tried a little harder with the Cardiff Giant, they probably could’ve gotten him into the science textbooks, too.

My Poor Car! A Casualty of Global Warming

As I lay asleep in bed last night, during a hellacious ice storm, some turkey came whizzing down the street and smashed my car. I am parked on the street because we have no driveway, no parking lot, and I have no choice. So, wham! tore the whole left front panel off and bent the door so it won’t open.

As I write this, the iceballs are still coming down, still coating the enormous piles of snow all over the place. But the first thing I heard on the news this morning was Al Gore saying all this snow and ice is the result of… Global Warming!

As a fantasy writer, I am sensitive to fantasy being used as a basis for public policy. Despite the demonstrated fact that Warmist “scientists” have been repeatedly caught lying, cheating, fudging their figures, destroying evidence, presenting World Wildlife Fund press releases as peer-reviewed scientific papers, and demanding that the government silence or even jail their critics, they just will not let this drop. Confronted by the most severe winter in most people’s memory, they insist the cold weather is caused by warming. One is reminded of Judge Judy snapping at some witness who is BS-ing her, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me that it’s raining!”

Meanwhile, Harry Reid is trying to tell us that NOT spending a couple trillion dollars on Obamacare is somehow going to increase the deficit. My leg is getting wetter and wetter.

Here we see, at last, where fantasy ends and actual delusion begins. When we craft a fantasy, we assume the reader will take it for granted that what he’s reading isn’t real. We appeal to his willing suspension of disbelief, realizing that it’s only a temporary suspension. Our fantasy book or movie is thus a metaphor, and understood as such by all the rational members of our audience.

On second thought, “delusion” may not be the right word for what Gore and Reid are subject to. The term “compulsive lying” is probably more accurate.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I

Movie Review by Lee Duigon

It’s hard to review a piece of a movie-which, for all its nearly three-hour length, is what this is. If you haven’t seen the earlier Harry Potter movies, or read the books, watching this movie will be like entering a roomful of strangers all talking about people and incidents you have never heard of. There’s no flashing back to make things clear, no explanations provided for anything. If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, you can forget about understanding this film.

So why review it, then?

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels have sold millions and millions of copies, and millions of movie tickets, too. This is the most successful series of books ever published, and it has revolutionized young readers’ fiction. It would be irresponsible to ignore it.

Because Harry Potter is such a cultural phenomenon, and this movie is a slice of it, we can look at it to see what it can tell us about our culture. What has Harry Potter taken out of our culture, and what has it put in?

Magic and Science

In the alternative universe of Harry Potter, everything important gets done by magic-or “wizarding,” as they sometimes call it. Witches, wizards, and warlocks are the elite of that world.

As a thought experiment, plug in “science” for “magic”-and you’ll see that the Harry Potter world pretty closely approximates our own. By “science” we mean what Jean-Marc Berthoud calls “the cultural domination of our whole culture by a purely mathematical model of the universe (the so-called scientific worldview, valid in fact only in its strictly limited domain, that of the measurable) as normative of every aspect of reality.”1

Materialistic “science” in our culture has excluded God. In Harry Potter-land, “magic” does the same. Given the awesome power of magic in that world, there would appear to be no place for God.

Despite various efforts to spin the Potter books as some obscure kind of Christian enterprise, we see no evidence at all in Deathly Hallows I that there is any Christianity at work in any of the characters’ lives, or any other recognizable religion, for that matter. Yes, there is one brief scene in which we see a village church with people inside it singing Christmas carols. What of it? Millions of Americans celebrate Christmas as a generic holiday and are dead to its religious significance. And every now and then, a character in the movie says, “my God.” But that doesn’t mean that they believe in God. For millions of Americans, “God” and even “Jesus” are just words to be tossed casually into a sentence, stripped of all meaning.

J. K. Rowling has been accused of promoting witchcraft. But I think it important to note that in Deathly Hallows I, there is no hint of any power higher than that of the magician. Paganism is supposed to feature pagan gods and goddesses, but we see no gods here. The world of Harry Potter much more closely resembles the fantasy world of The Humanist Manifesto II than it does anything in paganism. Take the Humanist Manifesto and substitute “magic” or “wizarding” for words like “science” and “technology,” and you will instantly find yourself in Harry Potter’s universe.2

Thus we discover that Rowling is not promoting paganism. Wittingly or not, she is promoting humanism.

Godless Fiction

This is one of those things which, once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it.

The absence of God, and the non-acknowledgement of any kind of religious concept or practice, sets modern fiction apart from several millenia of story-telling. We visit the fiction shop every day, consuming books and stories, movies, television shows, video games, comics, etc.–and there’s hardly a trace of God in any of it.

Chronicles of Narnia III: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Image result for voyage of the dawn treader

The young king sails into unknown waters seeking seven lords, loyal men driven into perpetual exile by a villainous usurper. To accomplish the mission, the king has to journey to the very edge of the world, surviving deadly perils and witnessing miracles.

That’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as C. S. Lewis wrote it. But that’s not the story you’ll be seeing on the screen.

Maybe, if you’ve never read the book, or seen the BBC-TV rendition of the story, you’ll be perfectly satisfied with this film. It opened strong at the box office, it has a fine cast, all the special effects you could desire-and it’s in 3-D, too.

In spite of all these things going for it, Dawn Treader misses the mark. By how much, the audience will decide.

Old Errors Out, New Errors In

What went wrong?

The second movie in this series, Prince Caspian, was a disappointment. It had some major problems, which have been corrected.

Ben Barnes returns as Caspian, but a very different Caspian. Prince Caspian should have been introduced to us as an idealistic boy in his early teens, but somebody in charge of such things in Movie No. 2 decided to present him to us as some kind of smoldering hunk, a Narnian Fabio. This was so they could hint at a romance between Caspian and Queen Susan. Yick.

In Dawn Treader, even though he now sports a beard, Barnes gives us a younger, fresher, more innocent Caspian, thus proving that the foolishness in Movie No. 2 was not his fault (and also proving he’s a marvelous actor).

Georgie Henley returns as Queen Lucy, the youngest and most faithful of the Pevensie children from our own world, the first of her siblings to discover Narnia. She’s perfect in the part, just perfect. Skander Keynes is back as her brother, King Edmund. He wasn’t given much scope in Movie No. 2, but in this outing he comes into his own.

Will Poulter joins the cast as Lucy and Edmund’s cousin, Eustace. This character is supposed to start out as an obnoxious little prig whose truer, better self is brought out by the grace of God and by his experiences on the voyage. Despite being lumbered with some over-the-top dialogue, young Poulter is terrific. His body language has to be seen to be believed.

Reepicheep, the mouse version of Errol Flynn, is computer-generated. Thankfully, the makers of Movie No. 3 relieved him of the inane dialogue he spouted in No. 2.

The silliness that marred Prince Caspian has been taken out of the sequel. We also get magic swords, a sea-monster, a dragon, sword-fights, a book of magic spells and whatnot, all of it convincingly executed on screen and backed up by excellent performances. So what’s not to like?

Are We in Narnia Yet?

I have been to see “Chronicles of Narnia III: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” and it makes me fear for the future of this series of movies. I’ll be writing a full review for www.chalcedon.edu , so this is just a preview. (Hint: When you go to the movies these days, arrive late enough to miss the commercials and the previews. You’ll be glad you did!)

“Dawn Treader” has received mixed reviews so far (not a good sign). Apparently a lot of the reviewers don’t know the story as C.S. Lewis wrote it, and are blissfully unaware that the story has been radically changed. In fact, they changed so much of it, I wondered why they bothered to make the movie at all.

Why, why, why do they do that when they make a movie? If C.S. Lewis’ story was so inadequate as he wrote it, why would you want to make a movie out of it in the first place?

And then we’ve got Liam Neeson, who provides the voice for Aslan in these films, flapping his jaw in public about how Aslan isn’t just Jesus Christ, he’s also Mohammed and Buddha, blah-blah… How stupid can you get?