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Catrin Lewis

C. S. Lewis Quotation On The Fantasy Genre

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Someplace in one of his books, in the preface, I believe, C. S. Lewis defends the writing of Fantasy against those who charged it with being juvenile, unsuitable of time and effort, a corrupter of youth, etc.  He argues that it's actually a higher form of literary art than realism, because the author must come up with whole new worlds and everything in them.  Whereas, writers of realistic fiction can simply refashion the material around them in everyday life.  Lewis especially urges that fantasy novels are better for young people than the run-of-the-mill boarding school stories the kids of his day were being fed, because they encourage them to dream and to expand their imaginations, instead of leaving them enmired in the petty affairs of their ordinary, limited lives.


In connection with all this, he discusses the imaginary world of Boxen that he and his brother Warnie made up when they were boys.  Though I won't swear to that.  I may have linked the two myself.

But now I can't remember what book I read this in!  I thought it might be Surprised by Joy, but I checked and couldn't find it there.  Can't find it in The Pilgrim's Regress, either.  


Does anyone here know where this comes from?  I want (correctly) to cite this quotation in the Author's Note in the front matter of my novel, but "C. S. Lewis says somewhere that Fantasy is . . . " would be really lame.


Any help appreciated.  Thanks.

Edited by Catrin Lewis
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Hi, Catrin.  I would suggest googling as much of the quote as you can remember and seeing what you come up with.  It sounds like really good stuff.  Best wishes on your research and writing!

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I'm thinking you may be thinking of his essay on stealing past watchful dragons.



In his essay “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said” (from On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature), C.S. Lewis spoke about how he came to write The Chronicles of Narnia and what that means for those of us looking to communicate the faith today.



Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child-psychology and decided what age-group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out “allegories” to embody them. This is pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way at all. Everything began with images: a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord. It was part of the bubbling.


Then came the Form. As these images sorted themselves into events (i.e., became a story) they seemed to demand no love interest and no close psychology. But the Form which excludes these things is the fairy tale. And the moment I thought of that I fell in love with the Form itself: its brevity, its severe restraints on description, its flexible traditionalism, its inflexible hostility to all analysis, digression, reflections and “gas.” I was no enamoured of it. Its very limitations of vocabulary became an attraction; as the hardness of the stone pleases the sculptor or the difficulty of the sonnet delights the sonneteer.


On that side (as Author) I wrote fairy tales because Fairy Tale seemed the ideal Form for the stuff I had to say.

Then of course the Man in me began to have his turn. I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which paralysed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical. But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.




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7 minutes ago, carolinamtne said:

Is that what we're trying to do in this forum?


It's what I'm trying to do - love and obey God so much that His love and precepts bubbles up through me in my fiction which I write for the outside world (first) and fellow Christians (as occasions warrant).

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