Friday, March 28, 2008

boys and their monsters

Douglas Wilson has an interesting take on boys and their guns (well, boys and their giants and monsters, anyway). I love what he says about the importance of stories in a boy's (or girl's) life.

I'm giving you a long section to read, but trust me, you'll enjoy it, especially if you love Narnia as much as I do:

    In C.S.Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we are given a good example of a boy who was brought up poorly. Eustace Scrubb had stumbled into a dragon's lair, but he did not know what kind of place it was. "Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon's lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons."

    It is a standing rebuke for us that there are many Christians who have an open sympathy for the "true" books which Eustace read - full of true facts about governments and drains and exports - and who are suspicious of great works of imagination, like the Narnia stories, or The Lord of the Rings, or Treasure Island, because they are "fictional", and therefore suspected of lying. The Bible requires us to be truthful above all things, they tell us, and so we should not tell our sons about dragon-fighting. Our sons need to be strong on drains and weak on dragons. The irony here is that the Bible, the source of all truth, says a lot about dragons and giants, and very little about drains and exports.

    ... [I]f our sons are to be prepared for the world God made, then their imaginations must be fed and nourished with tales about the Red Cross Knight, Jim in the apple barrel, Sam Gamgee carrying Frodo up the mountain, Beowulf tearing off Grendel's arm, and Trumpkin fighting for Aslan while still not believing in him. This type of story is not allowed by Scripture; this type of story is required by Scripture. The Bible cannot be read rightly without creating a deep impulse to tell stories which carry the scriptural truth about the kind of war we are in down through the ages. ... [T]he gospel is the story of a dragon-fight. ... [D]ragon-lore is truer than therapy-speak. ...

    With this said, let's turn to a few particular suggestions. As we do, we will perhaps be accused of recommending escapist literature. This is quite right: we should want our sons to escape from all arrogant Enlightenment conceits. Left alone, they will grow up in a modernist dungeon, well-lit with pale green flourescent light. If someone comes along and hands them a key that will get them out, someone will warn them, in dire tones. "Careful. Keys are escapist."

    And I do not see how I can finish this chapter without being autobiographical. I grew up in Narnia and Archenland and as a boy, considered myself as much an Archenlander as an American. All my sympathies and sentiments were there, and I still cannot read about Shasta's run toward his unknown home without being affected by it. It does no good to tell me that Narnia does not actually exist, because Puddleglum speaks for me here. He would rather live as a free Narnian, even if there is no Narnia, than to acquiesce in the belief that a dank cave was all there was to the world. This was deep loyalty, loyalty in the bones, not neo-orthodoxy. A boy could do far worse than have an allegiance to a nonexistant king. He might grow up, as kids today do, without any loyalties at all. This was not frivolous daydreaming; it was hardheaded realism, and by leading me into these books my father equipped me for things as they really are in this world.

    I did not get to Middle Earth until high school, but I saw to it that my children were introduced to The Lord of the Rings much earlier than I had been. ...

    Virtues were made lovely to me through these stories. Trumpkin did not believe in Aslan, but volunteered to go on a mission that made sense only if Aslan existed. He went because he knew the difference between giving advice and taking orders. "You've had my advice, and now it's the time for orders." And I have known what true faithfulness and loyalty were since then. Too often Christian parents simply seek to make the rightness of virtue apparent to their sons. But that is the easy part. The difficulty lies in making virtue altogether lovely, which is what happens in the right kind of story. ...

    In this kind of literature, nobility was stirred up in the small things and was exalted in the great things. When the time came for great deeds, whether the enemy was Smaug, or Sauron, or the Witch, or Long John Silver, or the dragon that St. George killed, these stories were ready to do what Scripture commands us to do. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8).

    Christians are a race of dragon-fighters. Our sons are born to this. Someone ought to tell them.

Highlights mine; Douglas Wilson Future Men pp.101-2, 104-7.

5 comments:

John Dekker said...

Taking giants in the bible literally? Outrageous!

Jean said...

Oops, that came out wrong! Ok, that's not quite what I meant. If you want to know what I did mean, read the chapter - it's a little wacky in parts for me. But read it and tell me what you think.

Jean said...

And I'm going to edit my post right now ...

Jean said...

There, done! Tell me what you think ...

FYI a couple of the things he claims are:

-Canaan was a land of giants
-the Bible sees dragons and winged serpents as real - we translate them "jackel" and "crocodile"

This is all a bit beyond me. But you might have some ideas.

Nicole said...

Dave read Jacob this book last year and he loved it - especially all the stuff about the Dragon!