Is it okay for there to be magic in Christian fantasy? This was a question that never really crossed my mind until I began writing my first fantasy, Time Captives.
I grew up on Disney’s Cinderella and Snow White. I am quite possibly the biggest Narnia fan I know…and my friends would agree. I am a big fan of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, and Frozen. I have greatly enjoyed the works of E. Nesbit and George MacDonald. I have watched ABC’s Once Upon a Time since it premiered, and have recently begun watching the BBC’s Merlin on Netflix. Donita K. Paul’s DragonKeeper Chronicles contain magic, as do Kendra E. Ardnek’s Bookania Quests. My love of these stories, though there have been several instances where the OUAT magic has made me uncomfortable, caused me to wonder why I was uncomfortable with writing magic. I have no problem with Narnian magic. Cinderella’s fairy godmother doesn’t make me uncomfortable. The “no right, no wrong, no rules for me” line in “Let It Go” bothers me more than Elsa’s ice powers or the creation of Olaf. But yet there is magic that makes me uncomfortable. The seer who told Rumple about his future in OUAT creeped me out (yes, the eyes in her hands was a factor, but it wasn’t the only one) and I don’t much like it when Emma uses magic, particularly under Regina’s tutelage. The question is: Why?
When I first started Time Captives, I was absolutely convinced it had to have magic. It was fantasy, after all. Doesn’t all fantasy have magic? My earliest ideas painted Toarna as a witch, though she had no name and I can’t remember what she used her powers for. But as I wrote it, and forced in the magic because I felt like it was necessary, I realized more and more that I didn’t like writing it. Something just didn’t feel right. But I had a question.
Does fantasy have to have magic? I have discovered the answer is no. Yes, mainstream fantasy seems to require it. However, there seems to be a growing number of non-magical fantasy books, particularly within the Christian homeschool author community. Jaye L. Knight, previously published as Molly Evangeline (my favorite author) has chosen to omit magic in her fantasies. She is not against all magic in stories, as a big fan of Tangled and Wayne Thomas Batson, but she personally chose not to write magic in the traditional sense. Miraculous happenings still occur and creatures such as dragons exist, but they are not termed magic. Nicole Sager also writes non-magical fantasy, and I have yet to encounter any magic in Claire M. Banschbach’s books. Non-magical fantasy exists, it is just not mainstream.
That begs the question: What qualifies a story as fantasy? Magic is certainly a qualification. I would say magic and the existence of the psammead are what qualify Five Children and It as fantasy. I don’t think you can really have our world fantasy without magic. If you don’t, it would be simply historical or contemporary fiction, or possibly science fiction, dystopian, or something of that sort. I believe that what qualifies non-magical fantasy as fantasy is that it is set in another world. It is entirely possible to create a fantasy world of which magic in the traditional sense is not a part. Dolennar and Ilyon are my particular favorites, though I’m sure my sister could add a few more. Even a non-magical fantasy world gives the author the freedom to use fantasy creatures. Dragons and sea serpents and centaurs and gryphons don’t have to be magical. They can perfectly well simply be natural ordinary creatures. Honestly, the physics of a fantasy world don’t even have to be the same. The sun could rise in the north and set in the south if you wanted (though that would most likely require a flat world). The world could be flat. Gravity could be skewed so that people live upside down. You could put a tropical island in the middle of the arctic. It’s still non-magical. Leaving out magic doesn’t take the creativity out of worldbuilding in the slightest degree. I personally adore mashing time periods together. Where else but a fantasy world could you have a culture that’s a mix of ancient Rome, stereotypical ante-Bellum South, and the medieval era? (One could argue that it could happen in “The Wedding of River Song” when all of history was happening at once, but that is a bit irrelevant.)
However, my story is portal fantasy. And, frankly, I don’t particularly want to give up my Narnia or Disney princess movies. So is it ever okay for there to be magic in fantasy? That was when I came across articles discussing the difference between magic in Narnia and Lord of the Rings and magic in Harry Potter.
I have never read Harry Potter, nor do I ever desire to (personal preference, it just doesn’t appeal to me). But I am unashamedly a big fan of both Narnia and LOTR. All of those stories contain magic. And the Bible clearly condemns witchcraft. I read several articles that clearly distinguished between different types of magic in stories. There are differences. What is it that makes some stories acceptable and some not acceptable? And how does it apply to my own writing? These are the things I’ve learned from those articles.
I believe the source of the magic is the most important thing to consider in writing fantasy magic. Where does this power come from? Supernatural power exists. Without a doubt. There are spiritual forces at work. And there are spiritual forces of both good and evil. Remember in Exodus 7:10-13 where Moses turned his rod into a serpent and then Pharaoh’s sorcerers did the same? It was right and good for Moses to perform this, while it was wrong for Pharaoh’s sorcerers. Why? The source. Moses did it by the power and commandment of God. The only power by which the sorcerers could have done the same was that of the devil. It’s kind of scary to think about, actually. Satan imitated the plagues God sent on Egypt. He can do that to an extent. Writing this, it really does scare me. But my point is this: Both acts would, had they happened in a fantasy story, been considered magic.
Turning a rod into a serpent. Changing water to blood. Covering a land in frogs. All magical acts if you consider them from a fantasy story standpoint. Yet Moses was allowed and even supposed to do this, while it was a terrible sin for the sorcerers. All because of the source of the power. Similarly, prophecy and healing by the power of God are right and good, while imitations of such power by the devil are pure evil. That distinguishes “good magic” from “bad magic.”
Personally, while I do not see a problem with calling this “good magic” by that name, I do not think it is necessary. You may call it what it is: a miracle. By doing so, you avoid alienating those who do not read stories with magic. But should you use the word magic, I believe it is incredibly important to define the source. Now, your bad guys will not be using God’s power for their magic. They had better not, or else you will be turning right and wrong on its head. I did choose to remove magic from Toarna’s possession, but that was because I found evil magic, even used in its proper place by the bad guys, too creepy for me to want to work with.
Who uses the magic and how it is used are also important considerations. Using magic for selfish reasons or doing evil that good may come are clearly wrong. Using any power or ability in a wrong way that good may come is wrong. And who uses it. One welcomes pitfalls for readers when a protagonist uses magic, particularly if said protagonist is learning to use magic in the text of the story. Having a mentor character like Gandalf be the one using the magic is a much better route to go. I would probably say that characters like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother fall into this category. One might want to have a fairy godmother, but one is unlikely to try to be a fairy godmother.
Elsa’s powers are a bit tricky, but I would probably consider hers to be a natural talent, albeit an ability she cannot control. She was born with the ability to create ice, just as Mozart was born with the ability to create music. ABC’s Once Upon a Time does present some problems, and I wouldn’t say it should be watched without discernment. There are some instances in which the magic does bother me. But in general, the magic is something that is normal and accepted in the Enchanted Forest brought to our world like all the fairytale characters, and is out of place here and does not belong, though it does belong back home. Also, “all magic comes with a price.” Using magic is not without consequences. It’s definitely a tricky one, as is BBC’s Merlin. Merlin was born with the ability to use magic, and must keep it hidden only because Uther hates magic because he asked Nimueh to use magic so that Ygraine would bear a son (Arthur) not realizing this would cost Ygraine’s death. The source of the magic is not identified, but it is treated as a natural talent that can be used either for good or ill. I still watch both shows, but I can’t fully get behind them the way I do Narnia.
It’s difficult to create magical beings or characters that use magic in a way that is compatible with Christianity. However, that doesn’t mean characters in other world fantasy have to have the exact same natural abilities as people in our world. Tolkien’s elves have amazing healing abilities. “He needs elvish medicine” can be heard in the LOTR movies. But while some other races look on the elves’ abilities as magic, it’s just a natural ability for them. Similarly, my merfolk can exchange their tails for legs and vice versa at will, but it is just a natural God-given ability for them. Magic-free fantasy doesn’t have to be devoid of interesting abilities like this.
As Time Captives is portal fantasy, and as my characters are stuck in time Tuck Everlasting style, it doesn’t feel like non-magical fantasy. However, there is no magic in the mainstream fantasy magic sense, and not even any fairy godmother magic. The portal is much the same as the Ship of Divine Purpose in Across the Stars, only instead of being a spaceship sent to those who are meant to help in other parts of the universe, it is an attic portal the clues and instructions to which only appear to those who are meant to go through it. They are stuck in time because, as Camthalion says, “God has a reason. He has a purpose for you, and He has ways of accomplishing it, even if they seem strange to us….There is no other option.”
This leads into an important point: Strict non-magical fantasy should not be devoid of the supernatural. God does miracles. He is always working, always orchestrating things in amazing ways according to His will. Non-magical fantasy writers should not go out of their way to omit anything supernatural because it might to some have the appearance of magic. To do so, leaving out miraculous working, is, I think, to deny the nature of God. Do not avoid miracles because someone might think it is magic.
Now, it has to be well done. Do not insert a miracle just to insert a miracle. I can’t give any hard and fast rules for this, but if you write prayerfully and naturally, it will happen in the right place and in the right way. A miracle happened in Across the Stars. I had written a character into a rather fatal condition, and was stuck until, after praying and thinking about it for several days, I realized it had to be a miracle. The ending of The Experiment was criticized as “deus ex machina” by my cousin, but I have had more people say the ending was perfect and it couldn’t have ended any other way. Time Captives is less about big miracles and more about God working everything together perfectly, though the theme and message are different and something that happened naturally without my realizing it. I’m not giving it away, it would be less powerful that way.
Magic in Christian fantasy is an incredibly tricky subject, and I am still learning. It doesn’t have a single answer. There are many perspectives, and many extremes. I struggled greatly with the topic in my writing, and then about my reading and TV watching. I feel like my conclusion is sort of middle ground. I encourage you to research it yourself and come to your own conclusion.
I found many articles and discussion threads (strangely without Googling) in my search for answers. Here are the ones I can remember and still find.
Magic: Harry Potter Vs. LOTR & Narnia... And What God Says About It
Harry Potter vs. Gandalf
FRODO BAGGINS VS. HARRY POTTER: A Christian perspective on fantasy literature
Holy Worlds Fantasy Forum Topic: Magic
 I personally believe that dragons were truly dinosaurs, and that it is quite possible some could have breathed fire, though legends are likely much exaggerated, but that is a different topic of discussion.
 I do not condemn anyone who chooses to stay away from Narnia and/or LOTR, nor do I condemn people simply for reading Harry Potter. Each person has to decide for him or herself what is acceptable.
I know, crazy statement, right? I graduated from high school a month ago next week, after having been homeschooled K-12, and so of course the question is "What next?" Actually, I've been getting that for years, mostly in the form of "Where are you going to college?" My answer has long been "I'm not." It's not because I just want to sit around and do nothing that I'm not going to college. In fact, the reason I didn't post anything last week was because I had a job at a Parent Practicum for Classical Conversations looking after the 3-5 year olds in the play camp while their parents attended the Practicum. I'm not going to college because for me personally it would be a colossal waste of time and money.
I'm not saying college is bad for everyone. If you want to be a doctor, by all means, go to college, medical school, and whatever else is required to practice medicine. I certainly don't want someone operating on me who can't tell the liver from the gall bladder. But what I do say is to know what you are going to do and then get the training you need for it. Don't go out and get a college degree in education and then decide you want to repair air condition units. Neither profession is bad (my dad is in education and my uncle repairs air condition units and has been able to tell us what is wrong with ours before we even have someone out to look at it), but there's no sense in training for one and doing the other.
What am I going to do? Nothing that requires a college degree. Seriously. All I'd be gaining from college would be a useless slip of paper and the opportunity to argue with a bunch of liberal professors while wasting years of my life and creating a student loan debt to drag around the rest of my life. "What about the college experience?" I've definitely heard that one. And I can truly say, "No thanks, I'll do without and gladly." If I felt the need for a college degree, I would go the College Plus route and CLEP out of as many classes as possible and finish online. It saves both time and money. I know people who have successfully earned a degree that way, and it worked for them.
How am I planning to occupy my time? Of course, I'll still be helping around the house with the chores, learning to do important things like grocery shop well, and cook with more variety (congressional campaigns don't leave much time for that, especially when you don't like to cook in the first place).
Naturally, I'll continue to write and publish books. Seeing how I started that even before my last year of high school, I don't really think a college degree is necessary. I haven't learned everything there is to know about writing and publishing and marketing and everything else that goes along with it, but I don't need a college professor to teach me that. To be honest, I've learned more about writing this past year from following K. M. Weiland's blog Helping Writers Become Authors than I did in the rhetoric course I took for school. Any research I need to do, I can do on my own. I have a library card, a driver's license and access to my family's old minivan, and also a computer with internet access. What more do you need? I always remember things I want to learn better than things I have to anyway.
I'll be continuing to babysit. I really love taking care of kids. Call me crazy, but I loved playing with a roomful of 3-5 year olds at the Practicum all day, three days in a row. Sure there were challenges, I was dealing with kids after all, but my thought afterwards was, "I wonder if I can do this again next year?" I've been babysitting since my early teens, so nothing has changed there, except that I have more experience and don't freak out when kids misbehave anymore.
I am also a self-taught seamstress. With a little direction from my mom, a lot of trial and error, a few desperate internet searches, and a talk with the seamstress at Colonial Williamsburg, I have learned how to make well-constructed, professional-looking garments. The majority of my clothes are ones I've made myself. I don't have big plans for this skill, seeing how it is very easy for me to get sick of it, but I have in the past sewn many things for pay and taught a girl private sewing lessons . . . all without a college degree.
Then there's music. Yes, for this I've had more actual instruction than figuring it out on my own, but I did learn some piano on my own and I wouldn't have learned violin as quickly as I did if I hadn't been disciplined about practicing. (Not that I'm really all that self disciplined, I just was about violin.) I learned those instruments through private lessons and practice at home. I currently have one violin student and want to take on more, in both violin and piano. All I need to be able to teach is to know the instrument and be able to pass on what I know to others. Our piano teacher doesn't have a degree in music. What happened was that when she was a teenager we said something like, "Hey, Christiana, you've taken piano for a long time. How would you feel about teaching Addy?"
Finally, when God shows me the right man, I would like to get married and have my own kids. I look forward to raising children of my own, and to homeschooling them. "But wait," you might say. "How can you teach your children school without a college degree in education? Teachers have to have a degree." Well, it's true that public school teachers have to have a degree and a teaching license, but there are no such requirements for homeschoolers. And, frankly, I think it quite ridiculous that someone has to go to college to teach K-12. If you graduated from high school, doesn't that mean you learned everything you needed to in your prior years of schooling? Why would someone need a college education to teach five-year-olds their ABCs and 1-2-3s? Or even to teach the Algebra and Physics you learned in school? You got a high school diploma that said you passed those subjects. Why wouldn't you be able to pass it on to the next generation? My point here isn't that if you want to teach public school you shouldn't jump through those hoops, but merely that it is ridiculous to say someone can't teach their own children when they passed high school themselves.
In conclusion, I'm still firm in my decision to save time, money, and headaches by not going to college. I don't need it. I evaluated what I want to do with my adult life and came to a decision based on that, that I personally do not require a college degree. I encourage you to do the same and evaluate whether or not college is necessary to your life, and act on that decision.
A lot of Christians prefer to stay out of politics. Some people say politics is dirty and so don't want to have anything to do with it. Many people don't realize how big an effect politics has on their everyday lives.
I make it no secret that I am a Christian who is involved in politics. My books even reflect that. So obviously I believe Christians should be involved in politics. The question is: Why?
Politics is what gets elected officials in office. It is how people become presidents and congressmen and governors and state senators and county commissioners and school board members. It is also how bills get passed into law. It is because of politics we got Obamacare, Common Core, income tax, and even why America didn't outlaw slavery from the start. It is due to politics that America has had religious freedom, and also why that religious freedom is being taken away.
America began because people in Europe were not allowed to worship God the way they felt the Bible directed. The colonies were planted and eventually started a new nation which had a government of the people, by the people, and for the people; a government of which the protection of religious freedom was an important part.
Looking around America today, it is painfully obvious that that is no longer the case. Prayer has been banned in public schools. Recently, a child was forbidden to read the Bible during free reading in which the school children are allowed to read a book of their choice. Abortion is commonly accepted. Store owners are required to serve things for gay weddings, though their religious convictions forbid it. How did this happen? How did a Christian nation become so terribly anti-Christian?
Thomas Jefferson said that the most dangerous thing facing this nation is a lethargic people. Christians have been lethargic about politics. They have sat back and stayed out of politics and government. Unfortunately, the Enemy has not. Satan has been very active in destroying the Christianity of America. The state of this nation makes this very plain. We are currently able to gather in churches and worship God, but if America continues down the path it is now on, it will not always be so. We, like countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, will face the possibility of being killed for evangelism. We can avoid this frightening possibility . . . through politics.
America's government is unique. We, as ordinary people, have the ability to change it every two, four, and six years at the ballot box. The people we elect represent us and answer to us. We are their constituents and have the right and duty to contact them and tell them how we want them to vote. We can even influence our government at the roots. We can help good candidates to get elected, or even run for office ourselves. We can get our religious freedom back. We can avoid the possibility of being killed for our faith. We can have freedom to spread the Gospel.
We can't take freedom for granted. If we as Christians are a lethargic people, the enemy will destroy the freedoms we have left. We have to fight. I can't stress how important it is.
I have been involved in politics since I was eight years old when a family friend, Barry Loudermilk, first ran for State House. I have since been involved in every one of his campaigns, as well as the campaigns of several other candidates. I want to keep my religious freedom. I want to fight for it. I want to elect good Christian men who understand the Bible and the Constitution and will fight to protect both.
There are now eight days until Georgia's primary. Finally, I am old enough to vote. Barry Loudermilk is now running for Congress. He is a Christian man and a constitutional conservative. I have known him since I was five, and I truly believe we need him and men like him in Congress. Yes, I'm campaigning. If you live in Georgia's eleventh congressional district, I strongly urge you to go out and vote for Barry Loudermilk. This is the last week of early voting, and election day is May 20, the Tuesday of next week. This election is critical. America is in danger. We must get Christian conservatives into office if we are to retain the freedoms we have and take back the ones we have lost.
No matter where you live, I hope that you will take this to heart and understand that Christians should be involved in politics. We cannot just sit on the sidelines and watch as we lose our religious freedom. There are things you can do, the things I mentioned earlier. But the most important thing to do is pray. Pray for the elected officials. Pray for good candidates to rise up. Pray for the right people to be elected. And pray about getting involved in politics. It certainly isn't always easy, and it can be tiring and frustrating, but it is too important to neglect.
I love a good sequel. I always hate saying goodbye to characters I've come to know and love, and I always want to know what happens next. For that reason, a good sequel is perfect for me. Unfortunately, lots of sequels do not quite qualify as "good."
It is commonly known that sequels are rarely as good as the original story. I have certainly found this to be true. For instance, I love Disney's Mulan. As for Mulan 2, it's not worth the time it takes to watch it. It was completely cliché and predictable, and extremely disappointing after how much I enjoyed the first movie. I also enjoyed Summer of My German Soldier, but I didn't even get halfway through the sequel.
Some sequels are just as good as the first. I have read Return to Gone-away as many times as I have read Gone-away Lake. The Lord of the Rings is a continuation of the story begun in The Hobbit, and it far exceeds the previous tale. (Series are a different matter, and are of no concern to this topic.)
What makes the difference? I believe it is whether or not the sequel is a story worth telling or if it is merely a story written because the first one was successful and beloved. So often sequels are written simply because fans are clamoring for more, not because there is more story to tell. The result is a flat, cliché story that is nowhere as good as the first one. I know that I am more disappointed with the existence of a poor sequel than the absence of any sequel at all.
I have yet to write a sequel to any of my chapter books. I have had family and friends, and even a young reviewer, beg for a sequel to The Experiment. Even so, I don't see one being written. I ended the story where I did because I didn't have any more story to tell. What is in the book is it. Though my sister constantly asks if Audrey marries Adam when they grow up, I have no desire even to decide that. It is possible I may change my mind about writing a sequel someday, but you can be sure it won't be until I have a story worth telling.
Across the Stars is another matter. I have some ideas for a sequel about Hanna and Sam that I am considering writing as a first NaNoWriMo project this November if I ever plan it. Yet, though I have always foreseen the possibility of writing a sequel about Felix and Sara, it is on hold indefinitely for lack of a plot. I could get an idea for it within the next year, in fifty years, or never, but until I do get a good idea, I won't write it.
I am not against sequels. I rather like them. But my advice is not to write a sequel unless the continuation of the characters' story is just as worth telling as the beginning of it. If you have a good sequel idea, then go ahead and write it. Your fans will be happy.
Snow White, awakened from an enchanted sleep by true love's kiss, goes off to marry Prince Charming and lives happily ever after.
Cinderella goes to the ball and meets the prince, who she falls in love with and marries after he finds her by use of the glass slipper.
Ariel rescued Eric from drowning, and gave up her life under the sea to marry him for her happily ever after.
Anna bumps into Hans when she runs through Arendale, and it's love at first sight, happily ever after . . . or not.
I like Disney princess movies, a lot. My favorites are Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, and Frozen. For some reason, though I grew up on Snow White and Cinderella, I didn't really care very much for princess movies until I saw Beauty and the Beast. After seeing Frozen, I realized that my favorite Disney Princess movies are the ones where the girl doesn't fall in love with the prince until she gets to know him. I also articulated a thought I had, and had heard some of.
When Snow White first meets Prince Charming, he has climbed over the wall of her house and scared her half to death by being a stalker. Then later, still not having ever spoken to him, she is perfectly willing to go off and marry him.
Cinderella doesn't know her prince. They met at the ball, and, after spending a few hours together, he will do all he can to find the girl who the glass slipper fits, so he can marry her. And she's going around the castle in a trance singing "So This Is Love."
Ariel is the worst. She wasn't even supposed to be at the surface, but after seeing Eric, she will trade her soul to be with him. And after defeating Ursula, her father even gives her a happily ever after for her disobedience.
None of them really knew their prince. This is where I have to quote Elsa, "You can't marry a man you just met."
Belle doesn't. She doesn't like the Beast until he stops being a beast and starts being a hero. She was only in his castle because she sacrificed herself so her father could go free. Rapunzel doesn't fall in love with Flynn until he realizes thievery isn't worth it and decides to be a hero instead. She even says she likes Eugene Fitzherbert better than Flynn Ryder.
And then we come to Anna and Hans. "Love is an open door." "You and I were just meant to be." And within a day of knowing each other, they are engaged. Only Anna's sister Elsa won't bless the marriage.
FROZEN SPOILER You'd think in the Disney tradition true love would pull through and Anna and Hans would be happily ever after, but they're not. Hans turns out to be the bad guy, after his own kingdom, and he's willing to kill both Anna and Elsa to get it. Kristoff, who is against marrying someone you just met and someone Anna actually gets to know, is her real happily ever after. END FROZEN SPOILER
Frozen turns the stereotype on its head and I like that.
So, while I like Snow White, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid, I prefer Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, and Frozen. They're funnier anyway, and the songs are more fun to sing.
Posted in: Observations
I've moved my blog over to Blogger. You can find all the same content you can here plus much more at www.morganhuneke.blogspot.com
I am a 19 year old home-school graduate and a Christian children's book author. I'm involved in politics, and I play the violin. I make a lot of my own clothes and I love taking care of children. I generally blog about my books, but I also have an indefinitely running series on my favorite fictional characters. My friends' very awesome books seem to pop up around here quite often. I rarely post reviews here anymore, but my sisters and I regularly review books and movies at ShireReviews.blogspot.com I hope you enjoy your time here on my blog!