Monday, March 28, 2022

Speculative Fiction: The Matter of Mythology

Confession: I have never been a big fan of mythology. I've just always thought it was kind of dumb. People really believed in those stories? How is that possible?

But I still read Greek myths, and I never batted an eye at the mythological creatures that inhabit Narnia. Furthermore, I very much enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, and was super excited when the official greenlight on the Disney+ adaptation was announced.

I do see why someone would be concerned about the inclusion of elements of mythology: mythology is inherently anti-biblical, presenting a view of the world that is based upon false gods and imaginary spirituality. Some have asserted that such use of mythology—particularly in Christian stories such as The Chronicles of Narnia—distorts the truth and causes readers to become dangerously comfortable with alternate worldviews and religions, that even Christ-figures such as Aslan are problematic and draw readers away from the truth (Kjos). 

Certainly stories that assert as their premise that mythology and false gods are real—the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, for example—could be challenging for young readers and readers with little discernment, though I would suggest that mature, discerning readers can enjoy these tales simply as entertaining fiction. Yet it is possible to include mythological creatures and even gods in a way that is not inconsistent with Christianity. 

In Narnia, for instance, fauns, centaurs, dryads, and even Bacchus and Silenus are created beings subject to Aslan just as much as the Talking Beasts are—simply a part of the worldbuilding. Indeed, leading children astray by familiarizing them with myths and setting up false pictures of Christ was not Lewis’s intention, nor is it the intention of any writers of Christian fantasy I have encountered. Rather, Lewis’s intention was to enhance rather than destroy children’s faith as is evident from the letter he wrote to the mother of Lawrence Krieg. 

Lawrence was concerned that he was “loving Aslan more than Jesus” but Lewis asserted that “the things he loves Aslan for doing and saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Lawrence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before” and then suggested a prayer for Lawrence to pray that further exemplifies this intention (C. S. Lewis Letters to Children, 52-53). Like magic, mythology and symbolism must be used wisely and with caveats, not elevating these mythological figures to a status that replaces God, but within a proper framework, it too can be a powerful storytelling and worldbuilding tool even in Christian speculative fiction.

Besides, even though mythology was created as an alternative explanation for the universe, the stories and creatures are often highly creative and perfectly useful to fantasy writers. Certainly, deep worldbuilders may look down on you for not inventing something entirely new, but there is nothing new under the sun and I see no less reason to incorporate fauns and centaurs into your worldbuilding than elves. Though one must naturally take care to put one's own twist on things. While straight-up copying out of copyright things may not technically be illegal, it's still lazy. And there's so much that can be done with mythological creatures and tales.

Speculative Fiction: Real or Not Real?


Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 1: Blending Truth and Myth.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 2: A Four-legged Creator of Many Worlds.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 3: Christian allegory + Mythical gods = Deception.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 4: Awakening Narnia with Bacchanalian Feasts.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Lewis, C. S. C.S. Lewis Letters to Children. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, Macmillan, 1985.

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