It’s interesting that some of the scifi and fantasy-fiction that used to be marginalized, is now completely mainstream. I mean, 15 years ago, you would not have imagined a book series about a wizard-boy would be a completely mainstream cash cow. But some of us have been burying our noses in fantastical wizard worlds for a while now. Yet it’s the gentle allegorical wisdom in the pages of these young adult novels that has undoubtedly shaped us as the grown-ups we have become. Take a look at these titles and quotes and allow them to take you back to that impressionable place…
George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie
George MacDonald is a terribly underrated author. He was a passionate Scottish minister and writer who was a great influence on Tolkien, Lewis, and L’Engle. The Princess and the Goblin and its sequel are gorgeous stories about a very young princess in very serious danger. Here are some quotes of his many valuable lessons:
“There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection.” – George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie
“We are all very anxious to be understood, and it is very hard not to be. But there is one thing much more necessary.’
What is that, grandmother?’
To understand other people.’
Yes, grandmother. I must be fair – for if I’m not fair to other people, I’m not worth being understood myself. I see.” – George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin
C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia & Out of a Silent Planet Trilogy
It’s hard to overemphasize the talent of C.S. Lewis. He dazzles you with the mastery he has over words, and never in a wasteful way. The words and phrases he spills out are never wasted on a frivolous thought, but always something beautiful that ought to be considered.
I wanted to mention his underrated and little-known scifi trilogy here, even though I only ever got around to the first of the three–Out of a Silent Planet–but I must have read The Chronicles of Narnia a dozen times during my teen and pre-teen years. The seven books that were written over 5 years of Lewis’ life have sold over 100 million copies worldwide, in 47 different languages in the last 60 years.
“You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve”, said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; Be content.” – C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” – C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different….” – C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time Series
A Wrinkle in Time and the sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time were life-changing for me. The fantasy elements sat on top of pseudo-scientific explanation in a way that was new to me (I guess you call that science fiction). L’Engle was a fascinating women who lived through most of the 20th century. She loved the Bible, and she loved modern science; she saw no dichotomy between the two.
“But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist.” -A Wrinkle In Time
“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” – Mrs. Whatsit, A Wrinkle in Time
The Neverending Story
Some people don’t know that this classic 80s film was first a novel written by the ironically named author, Michael Ende. If you think the movie is crazy, the novel will blow your mind. The film barely covers the first half of the novel. It is a brilliant homage to the limitlessness of the imagination of every human.
“The Nothing is spreading,” groaned the first. “It’s growing and growing, there’s more of it every day, if it’s possible to speak of more nothing. All the others fled from Howling Forest in time, but we didn’t want to leave our home. The Nothing caught us in our sleep and this is what it did to us.”
“Is it very painful?” Atreyu asked.
“No,” said the second bark troll, the one with the hole in his chest. “You don’t feel a thing. There’s just something missing. And once it gets hold of you, something more is missing every day. Soon there won’t be anything left of us.” – Michael Ende
Is it just me, or does everyone go through a phase where you are super into Greek mythology? It’s odd when you think that this cannon of fantastical stories was the religious foundation for a real ancient culture. But from a literary standpoint, the pantheon of gods and goddesses are fascinating archetypes for human character. These “gods” were exaggeratedly human in their passions, desires, and flaws, which makes them a great mirror for our oft-childish hearts. Recommended reading: Homer’s The Iliad and The Odessey, of course, and D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths.
Also suggested, C.S. Lewis’ novel based on the mythical romance of Cupid and Psyche, Till We Have Faces, where the author writes, “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
So maybe you’ve been day-dreaming about magical worlds since you learned the alphabet, or maybe fantasy literature has never been your thing… Either way, take a second to think back on stories that stimulated your imagination as a child. We all remember strange things that make a deep impression on us as children, and it’s so often the adventures we’re told about that make the clearest mark, and inspire us in one direction or another. What fantasy world inspired you?
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