A Book Review ~ From Homer to Harry Potter


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I just finished reading From Homer to Harry Potter, and loved it. These authors had several points I want to keep at the forefront, to use when we're reading stories. It made me think about stories and Truth in a more defined way. I've never had problems with stories like Harry Potter (loved it, in fact), being a Christian, but this little book helped me define why I love those stories and why I've always seen Jesus in those stories.
From Homer to Harry Potter was written by Matthew Dickerson and David O'Hara, and was published in 2006. It is a "Handbook on Myth and Fantasy." It is also a Christian perspective on myth and fantasy. They wrote this book because of Christians' negativity toward Harry Potter. (So, the chapter on Harry is mostly a defense of Rowling and her books.) These guys are Christians, and write from a very Biblical worldview. I would have really loved to read their reaction to the last book of Harry Potter, because, well, it's the best book of the series.

I love story. I love fantasy. I've said for a long time, fantasy lets us know there is something better. That the bad things that happen here shouldn't, and even better won't be the last word. We do Santa, because the fantasy of believing that someone loves us enough, even when we aren't right, to bring us gifts speaks Truth to our souls. Story is important. Story keeps us from despair. Because the Story isn't finished yet. The End hasn't happened. Yet. And even better, stories, good ones, always have a happy ending.

Dickerson and O'Hara wrote of Homer, Tolkien, Lewis, Beowulf, Arthur, Grimm Brothers, George MacDonald, and a few modern works, besides Harry Potter. They wrote about the mythic elements of the Bible, prefacing with an explanation of how Myth can be true. Today, people assume myth means a false story that "ancient man might fall for" but we know can't be true scientifically or historically. These authors point out that myth comes from the Greek muthos which meant "word" or "speech." And it "came to mean [to relate] an account through story" (pg. 32). The story was used to convey a Truth, somewhat like the parables of Jesus. The Bible Story, or Myth, is to tell the Truth of God. (It sounds much more beautiful in the book.) But isn't that awesome? The Story that makes up the Bible is a myth because it's used to convey the Truth. It is not a myth that we can discard as if it's an un-evolved peoples' false beliefs about the world.

*(Just a side note, but there will probably be many irritated remarks about evolution here. Not to the science part of it, but to the arrogance of it. The belief in evolution has permeated so deeply, even among Christians who don't believe in evolution, that we are arrogant towards those who were before us. As if they weren't fully formed, or fully evolved like us. Like we are better (smarter, prettier, more logical) people than all the people before us. This irritates me. Side note over.)
Besides using the descriptions and in-depth comparisons of the works covered, I want to use the questions Dickerson and O'Hara asked and answered for the kids' studies. I hope I'm better equipped to find the truth in story and myth, and to ask questions that make the kids see the truth as well.

These questions make me consider the work, rather than just enjoy the work. For the kids' simple stories now, we'll just discuss the consequences of actions or inaction, or what could have possibly happened if so-and-so had done things differently. This will hopefully train them to think about their own actions.
As they grow, we can start talking about magic in the stories, good and evil, moral virtue, the human condition, cosmogony, life and death. We can find the Truth in these stories. It's like Paul's sermon in Athens about their Unknown God. Finding the Truth reveals God, the one True God. God is not limited to the Bible, we are. He can be anywhere. We just have to use our limitations, meaning the Bible, to give definitions and prevent acceptance of ungodly material.

6 comments

  1. Interesting take. We do enjoy a lot of fantasy and sci-fi in our home, but we are still very picky about it. I totally agree with you that discussion and seeking Truth is the most important thing. We don't want to squelch the inspiration and creativity of our children's delightful imaginations, at the same time we should be very careful to watch for things our children (and ourselves) might be sensitive to or overly tempted by. I was raised in a new age home, so there is much I stear clear of because satan already had a "foot in the door" so to speak. I just don't want to toy with what I know to be dangerous for our family. As we grow closer to the Lord, the more freely we are able to explore. Thanks for linking up to the What to Read Wednesday party!

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    1. I love your sentence "As we grow closer to the Lord, the more freely we are able to explore." That is so true! As new believers, I think it's important to stay close to the Bible, because it is our limitation, our definition of God so that we don't dive into the pretty sounding heresies. But when we know Him, we can start to recognize Him in other places because He is not limited to the Bible. He can reveal Himself, and does reveal Himself, to us in a myriad of ways.

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  2. I read a lot of similar books after all the Harry Potter backlash in the Christian community, but I hadn't heard of this one. I like that it covers so many different titles. I might have to go check it out!

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  3. I love your comments about Story. Stories are so important. They easily teach lessons we would reject or struggle to understand. Fantasy especially delves into concepts of good and evil, right and wrong, and teach Biblical truths.

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    1. I think they are very important, stories teach for a long time. Thanks for reading Sara!

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