Monday, 18 April 2016

Exploring the Tangible Terrible & the Magical, Mystical Mystery

By Charis Joy Jackson  


"If we discover a desire within us that nothing in this world can satisfy, also we should begin to wonder if perhaps we were created for another world."
-C.S. Lewis

The first time I found this quote, by one of my favorite authors, I longed for some portal that would transport me to this other world I knew I was really created for.

Could I be like Lucy Pevensie and step into some magical wardrobe where all the Daughters of Eve were revealed in their true form to be Princesses and Queens? Where could I find the ship that would carry me to the shores of Middle Earth or Faerie?

My desire for this other world was so strong I decided to start breaking it down. What was it about those places that seemed more real than this place called Earth?

Here's some of the things I learned...

The Terrible Tangible

We have so carefully wrapped ourselves up in dreams and bubbles. We've shut the world out and live safely behind hidden screens of computers, TV and video games.

None of these things are wrong in proportion, but when most of our lives consist of us hiding behind these things we forget how to interact with the world outside our door.

We fear like Bilbo or Frodo Baggins that once we step onto the Road there's no knowing where we will be swept away.

Strangely enough, this is exactly what excites us about Narnia, Middle Earth and Faerie.

There's nothing to hide behind in those worlds. In those worlds the protagonist is forced to deal with the terrible tangible they find themselves in. Their fingernails are caked with dirt, the laugh lines on their faces are smudged with grime that won't come away.

To me this sounds beautiful and terrible. Terrible in the "totally awesome" sense. However, stick me in the middle of the forest and I'll start freaking out about all the little bugs that happen to cross my path. This is mostly because I like many others, spend a lot of my time, hiding behind the computer or TV.

I want this to change. I want to embrace life around me.

I want to get dirty.

Cultural Wells

Another vast difference I've seen about these other worlds is their traditions and the deep wells of culture that permeate every part of life.

Living in this modern time things like Common Sense are not common anymore. We live in an age where we can do what we want, when we want and we don't have to worry about how it will affect anyone else.

We get tattoos for the sake of getting a tattoo, we pierce our ears because everyone else is getting their ears pierced. We have trends that last for a moment and then we're forced to keep up with the newest and latest thing.

Unfortunately, these things sometimes mean the depth of our culture is lost. Why else does this current generation go looking for typewriters or old books, or suitcases from the 1920's?

We are searching for the depth of our culture, because what we have today only lasts for a moment. We're the microwave generation and demand everything now.

But, in these other worlds things take time- sometimes years.

People in these worlds still get tattoos, but they're given with a purpose. They're used to identify who they are or the call they have on their lives. People in these worlds still get piercings, but it's done for the sake of the life they lead.

Common Sense not only exists, but there's also the unspoken Rules of Conduct. Like the Welcome Cup, which whether you like the person or not, you will offer to them, because of common courtesy.

Men in these stories care more about honor than their own lives.

Have we fallen short of something key to our society in this?

Journey = Story, not Blip

When I look at people traveling in these other worlds it takes time to get anywhere.

With modern conveniences of cars and planes, our stories have started to lose some of their depth because we count those times in the car or on planes as the blip in the timeline, instead of counting them as big parts of the story.

If we counted the journey of Frodo and Sam as the blip to when they get to Mount Doom so much of their story would be gone and Sam's love and sacrifice would lose almost all of it's poignancy and depth.

So maybe our story is really in the journey and not the destination.

Magical, Mystical Mystery

I think one of the things I love more than anything is the Great Mystery permeating these stories.

Only in fantasy is it possible for many people to experience that magical mystery of a Creator, or Someone higher than them.

It's through these stories that we see more of what Love looks like in the flesh.

Aslan is a perfect example of this. Aslan is full of Majesty. He screams of mystery and magic. With one breath he turns stone into living flesh, with one growl he can scare the most evil witch. Even the massive water god waits for a small nod of approval from him before the god can wreck havoc on the bridge that's stopped its flow.

And the more you get to know him, the bigger he becomes because we can comprehend more about him.

Perhaps there is something about the idea of Magic that helps us come a little closer to the One who created us all. It's almost like magic opens a hidden door for us to experience more of His character.

My words fail me for the perfect description of the awesome, raw, amazingness of His Mystical Mysterious Self.

There's so much I could say about Fantasy awakening in us something unique, but I will leave you with this quote and let you mull if over for yourself. For if I gave you all the answers, then there would be no adventure and thrill of discovery for yourself. Not that I have it all figured out myself...

"...Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it..."
-Jeremiah 6:16 

Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company, an independent film company. Where she gets to make movies for a living.

She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel in her spare time, which she hopes to publish in the next year.

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder.  Welcome to the adventure.



  1. Great blog Charis. Loved the interesting journey you took us on. Also loved the opening and closing quotes - two of my favourites. I have not been a great fan of fantasy but the Narnia chronicles and the Lord of the Rings grabbed my heart in my youth and their magic has never left me. You've brought out many truths about the culture we live in and the bubble wrap we've often covered ourselves in. Thank you for leading us on that interesting journey! :)Looking forward to uncover some treasures through it.

  2. Thanks for that interesting blog, Charis. So much to ponder in your reflection and even though I'm not a fan of fantasy writing, there's so many truths that can be applied to all genres.

  3. Great post, Charis. You've given me a lot to think about. I love reading fantasy but I don't have the patience to write it, I don't think :). I think the points you make can apply to other genres too. We read to vicariously enter adventures that are no longer ours to have. I don't bugs crawling over me in a forest either but I love inflicting challenges on my characters. Your comments about the journey and our need for cultural wells are profound. Fantasy does lend itself to the exploration of those issues but it probably isn't unique in that regard. But the magic, mystical mystery... when we are taken into other worlds, walk through the wardrobe so to speak, we are open to new ideas, including the mystical, in ways 'realism' can't convey. If done well, truth can seep into the back-brain of the reader and change their thinking and their heart. God bless and let us know when your book is published :)

  4. A really thought-provoking post, Charis. I must admit that I haven't read a lot of fantasy stories, but I may be a new convert. I really loved the fantasy stories in the GOL anthology and they all did have that sense of culture and belongingness, while opening us up to other worlds of possibility.

    I think you're right too that we don't always think of the journey as being significant, but Lord of the Rings just wouldn't be the same if Frodo and Sam had been magically transported there in an instant. Great food for thought.

  5. Thanks for a great post Charis - lots to ponder. I love the way fantasy can express the mystery and beauty of both God and His world in surprising ways. And I agree, despite the 'How it should have ended clip' of Lord of the Rings - it is the journey that makes the story.