That's right folks. Part Tres of my I-dunno-how-many part series!
This one will be talking about mystical creatures and characteristics in fantasy novels! Fun, right?
So, we'll start with the most common fantasy creature: the dragon. Some Christians have issues with dragons because the Bible often (seemingly) uses them as metaphors for evil and Satan. (Revelation 12:9) Also, a lot of people don't like the use of dragons because they think that they are mythical and myths aren't of God so that's bad yada yada yada.
Well, hate to burst your bubble (no, actually, I'd love to. I'm proud of my research. XD) but dragons were absolutely, totally, and completely real. For one, the Bible says so. The Hebrew word tannin appears nearly fifteen times in the Old Testament. Tannin is the Hebrew word for sea monsters and dragons! You can read all about it here. Plus,God talks to Job specifically about two dragons, the Behemoth and the Leviathan. In Job 40: 15-24, God is using the Behemoth as an example of his might and power. Why would God be describing something Job would know nothing about?
Why do I refer to these as dragons instead of dinosaurs? Well, the word "dinosaur" wasn't coined until 1841 by Sir Richard Owen. I believe dragon to be more historically accurate than dinosaur. Plus, dragon is just so much cooler. It helps be less pessimistic when comparing the real earth to Middle-Earth. ;)
Plus, God goes on to describe Leviathan, which can actually breathe fire! How epic is that! (Job 41:1-34)
So yeah, I believe in dragons. Just had to get that aside for all the Christians who don't.
But true, dragons probably did not covet and hide treasure. They probably did not raid towns and villages just for the heck of it. And odds are nobody ever rode a pterodactyl or a pteranodon. (But how epic would THAT have been???) So dragons clearly have a lot of "mythical" traits associated with them.
Before I cover that, I'm also going to say I believe in unicorns. However, I don't believe in single-horned horse-like creature. I think the real unicorn was probably an elasmotherium, an extinct type of rhinocerous. The Hebrew word re'em, unicorn, appears several times throughout the Old Testament. Plus, Marco Polo saw one. So yeah, I believe in dragons, unicorns, sea serpents, krackens, and fairies! (That last one was a joke. Everyone knows its spelled faeries. Duh)
Now that we have established all that, its time to talk about the mystical elements attributed to "unreal" animals and "real" animals. Let's start with Chronicles of Narnia. In Narnia, several different types of creatures exist. There are the talking animals, and there are the normal, non-talking animals. The talking animals often acted much like there non-talking counterparts, but in a human like way. For instance, Reepicheep was brave and feisty despite his size, much like normal mice. While Puzzle the Donkey was stupid, easily swayed, though well-meaning.
C.S. Lewis was a profound theologian who deeply loved God. He did not see issues with having his animals talk. Now, of course, I can't point to him absolutely with that. After all, he is only human. He's not the Bible. So, lets take a look at the Bible...
God does not seem to have qualms with making his animals talk. (Numbers 22:21-35) Of course, that passage does say "God opened the donkey's mouth." But let's think about this. I'm assuming everyone reading this is a Christian. If God calls you to write, you will be writing for his Glory. If you are writing for his Glory, then you are going to probably point to God in some way through your novel. If you are pointing to God in some way, then what is so wrong about having your animals speak? Aesop used this technique all the time to portray morals and truths about the world, albeit they weren't always true.
Sorry for going all "give a mouse a cookie" on you, but you see my point? If it is to God's glory, I believe it is perfectly acceptable! God created the animals, and personally, I believe God created them to talk in the first place. I mean seriously, why wasn't Eve freaking out when that serpent started talking to her? And poor Eve, if it had just been her and Adam talking that garden, life would have been pretty quiet.
"So Adam, what did you do today?"
"How did it go?"
"Did you meet any new animals?"
"Nope. Zebra got back from visiting the leopard though."
"Really! Did you talk to him? Was he on his way home, or had he already been there? How is Mrs. Zebra? Were the kids excited to see him? How was his trip?"
Poor Eve. XD God is just and merciful, and they hadn't sinned yet. I think God had the animals talk...just to give Eve someone to talk too.
Once again, fantasy is to bring small details into light. If you can make a point about not judging a book by its cover by having a creepy looking wolf turn out to be a kind and helpful friend, then do it! If you can make a point about Christ's sacrifice by having a brave and perfect lion lay down his life for sinners and betrayers, then do it!
Also, fantasy is to remind us, as Christians, that we don't belong in this world. We belong to Christ's heavenly kingdom. His Kingdom is perfect, filled with His glory, grace, and wonder. Once we get there, we are going to have eternity to go on incredible adventures and bask in God's epic awesomeness. My pastor was talking about serving God and sacrificing what we want for His Glory. He said something along the lines of, "Are you worried you'll never get to take that vacation to the Alps? Well, have you ever stopped to imagine what heaven's Alps are like?"
Heaven is going to be so much better than we could ever dream. And dreaming sure beats this world a lot of the time. If Christian authors can create wonder and awe in a reader, and a yearning to be a part of that fantasy world, then they are pretty good writers. If they can force the reader to see that there truly is a world that is far better than any fantasy, and anyone can join if they will just accept Christ, then they are the best writers. I know y'all are probably tired of me mentioning him, but Tolkien did that for me. I read the books, I watch the films, and I want to be there! But that just reminds me that heaven is going to be so much more beautiful and miraculous than New Zealand and Middle-Earth.
So, back on topic, unicorns, dragons, talking animals, and magical creatures are simply tools to teach the deeper truths of the world. Jesus used parables. The Bible uses metaphors involving creatures. I think it is okay to create our own version of God's creation to glorify him.
Part 4 is going to be about humanoid characters (elves, dwarves, fairies, etc.), it's going to be awesome!