An Ape and a Pig

After reading this article over the weekend and watching the buffoonery of Monday night’s debate, I noticed that our current presidential candidates are strikingly similar to some characters I’ve encountered in fiction- and not characters that we would (or at least should) want as president. Namely,  Shift the Ape and Napoleon the Pig.

Shift is one of those especially delightful characters in fiction whose name perfectly summarizes his whole being. He is shifty. He constantly shifts and bends truth in order to take over Narnia.

Sound familiar? Continue reading “An Ape and a Pig”

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The Ancestry of Lancelot

I haven’t been able to help but notice that in many of the traditional Arthurian tales, Sir Lancelot can trace his family line all the way back to King David. I figured that surely this stray detail has meaning. But what exactly is the significance of this Biblical connection? When looking at these two men together, I found that Lancelot’s life in many ways mirrors that of his ancestor.

Perhaps the most obvious similarity between the two is their greatness. Continue reading “The Ancestry of Lancelot”

The Force

During my Holiday Blog Hiatus, I, like every other good American, saw the new Star Wars movie (Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers). I come from a family of avid Star Wars fans, who could not stand the thought of only watching the seventh movie of their favorite series. We had to watch the first six Star Wars movies- over 13 hours of space ships and lightsaber battles- before seeing The Force Awakens.

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After having seen and, shockingly, enjoyed 15+ hours of Star Wars, I heard that some Christians are hesitant to watch this new movie because it is about “false gods.” This is an issue that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about as I’ve developed my love for fantasy and science fiction stories. Continue reading “The Force”

Why You Should All Go Read Harry Potter Right Now

A classmate of mine recently asked one of my favorite questions: “Should I read Harry Potter? Why?”

hp2In case you don’t already know: I love Harry potter. I love reading Harry Potter, I love watching the Harry Potter movies, I love wearing my Harry Potter scarf, I love discussing Harry Potter. Clearly, I jumped on this question. He probably got a much longer and in depth answer than he bargained for.

Now, in the end, if Harry Potter isn’t your thing, it isn’t your thing and no amount of convincing will persuade you. That being said, I’m still going to try, so bear with me.

First of all, Harry Potter is a good series to read because so many people have read it. Now, this sounds like a weak argument at first (immediately the famous parent comeback “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” comes to mind). But, I think it is important for us both as Christians and as members of society to be aware of what is influencing those around us.

Harry Potter has been a world-wide influence for the past fifteen years, and vast numbers of people have read it. People my age, people my parent’s age, and even people younger than me. (That’s why I wouldn’t say that this argument also applies to something like Twilight, for example. Twilight might be very popular, but its fan base is almost entirely romantic, teen-age girls, rather than a wide range of personalities and ages).

The messages from Harry Potter have stuck with all these millions of people and shaped their worldviews, and I think it’s important for you to know what those messages are, even if you don’t agree with all of them.

Secondly, it is truly enjoyable. Now, like I said at first: if fantasy isn’t your favorite, then maybe this argument doesn’t apply. But here are some reasons that I think make it a very enjoyable series:

  1. It’s easy to read. I know for me, it’s nice to have some easy-reads after all the heavy school reading that I have (Herodotus? Don Quixote? Plato’s Republic? Not exactly light). Harry Potter provides a beautiful balance of mystery, action, description, character development, etc.
  2. The characters are amazing. I don’t mean they’re just nice, funny people like in lots of books. Some do add comic relief, but even the funny characters have depth, they are flawed, they have struggles, and you can truly relate to them. The villains are especially great. You get to uncover some of their backstories and understand how they became what they are, but it doesn’t turn into an agonizing soap opera that blurs the lines between good and evilsnapehp
  3. There is not a single plot hole. J. K. Rowling spent so much time and energy planning every detail. There are no loose ends in the story line or even any gaps regarding the secret Wizarding World as a whole. Usually I love finding plot errors, or thinking of questions that would stump the author, but in this series I’ve never been able to think of one.

Lastly, Harry Potter is not a Christian book, and J K Rowling is not a Christian, but still so many of the messages point directly to the Bible. I won’t spoil anything here, but there are some places in the end of the series that almost seem to be quoting Scripture. Powerful messages of love, sacrifice, trust, and hope are woven throughout these books.

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead of us, Harry, and there will come a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

-Albus Dumbledore

I’m sure you’ve heard before that all man-made stories are merely reflections of the Great Story that God gave to us. Harry Potter is a perfect example of this: the author is not Christian, and yet her messages are.

They have to be.

No other messages would be worth writing about, and no other messages could have such an impact on readers.

The Real Loki

For the past week or so, I’ve been reading (…devouring) Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green. Because I’m a complete sucker for mythology, my mind has been constantly consumed with thoughts of Odin the Wanderer, Baldur the Beautiful, the Giants of Jotunheim, and Loki the troublemaker.

Loki with his super cool helmet, portrayed by Tom Hiddleston

That’s right- Loki.

Not Marvel’s Loki, brother of the Avenger Thor and played by Tom Hiddleston, but there are certainly similarities between him and the Viking’s god.

Loki and Thor
Marvel’s Loki and Thor

In the Norse tales, Loki is described as “a young man… fair to look upon, with twinkling, mischievous eyes. His cleverness and cunning [are] very great.” He has evil Giant blood in his veins but is a cousin of the Aesir, the gods of Asgard. Although he is admittedly a trouble-maker, he is young and innocent and soon proves a worthy ally of the Aesir.

This is going to be a happy story. Loki will show us that people aren’t necessarily bad just because they have bad ancestry, right?

Wrong.

This is a story of how greed can completely corrupt and twist you into something less than a god. Less than a human.

We are all given skills, powers, and privileges on this Earth. For example, we humans are more cunning than any other living creature- we build, we create, we think. You are reading this post right now, which means you are privileged with electricity and internet access.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

You have powers and privileges, and because of that, you have options. You can be grateful for what you have, then put what you have to good use. Choose to create beautiful things, help those in need, bring glory to God. Or, like Loki, you can decide that you don’t have enough.

Odin the Wanderer
Odin the One-Eyed Wanderer

Odin the Great welcomes Loki to join the ranks of the Aesir as a brother. The gods trust him. He rises from a wanderer and stranger in Midgard, realm of mortal Men, to a powerful god of Asgard.

Yet he is unsatisfied.

Instead of using his privileges for creating good, he disrupts the other gods and causes trouble. He starts out with good-natured pranks, but “a change seemed to come over Loki. His cunning grew unkinder; his gay impudence seemed often to be slyness; and he spent more and more of his time away from Asgard.” As his greed for attention and power grows, so does the malice of his tricks.

Greed is a vicious, never-ending cycle that seamlessly morphs into jealousy.

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

-Socrates

The more you want, the more you notice what others have. You ignore the powers and privileges you already have, telling yourself that you are poor. Just get that one thing, and you will be rich enough. A little more respect, a little more money, a little more power. Loki notices Thor, his power, his strength, and his magical weapon, the mighty hammer Mjӧlnir (myol-near).

When Loki finds himself in a scrape with the Giants, he readily resorts to using his gift of cunning to escape. He offers to betray Thor and the other Aesir by handing them over to the evil ones. We do exactly the same thing. We mess up. We sin. And instead of repenting and apologizing, we betray our friends or our God in an attempt to cover up our mistakes. We forget that God is our father, and his other children are our brothers and sisters. God adopted us and continues to love us, but we forsake him. Loki too looses all respect for his position. He does not love those who accepted him as family. Instead he crawls to the feet of their enemies. He lusts for gold and power like the mortal men do. He uses his gifts for evil.

“His smile was wicked where it had been only cunning before.”

Loki’s tragic spiral downward shows that greed can easily reduce an innocent troublemaker to a disgusting, self-loving backstabber.

“The world says: “You have needs — satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don’t hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.” This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.”

-Dostoyevsky

A Gift from Death

My younger brother is finally reading the last Harry Potter book. As he’s been going through them, I’m reminded at how dearly I love this series. I ask which part he’s at about twenty times a day, and the second he’s finished a book, I run to start the movie. Last night we watched the Deathly Hallows, part 1.

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As I rewatched this movie for the eight thousandth time, one scene stuck out to me in particular. It’s the animated scene when Hermione reads “The Tale of the Three Brothers.”

Continue reading “A Gift from Death”

That Hideous Ring

I just recently finished reading the last book in C. S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, That Hideous Strength. One of his central themes is community, and he sets two opposing types against one another – the “Inner Ring” and real Christian fellowship.

The Inner Ring is that select group of people that everyone yearns to be part of. “There are no formal admissions or expulsions. People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great amusement for those who are really inside.”1 All of us, at least to a certain extent, strive to be accepted; we strive to belong. For some of us, this desire is no more than a quiet, nagging, slightly spiteful voice in the back of our heads. But for others, like Mark Studdock (That Hideous Strength), this desire to belong consumes. Continue reading “That Hideous Ring”