I have an awesome friend. Her name is Hayley. Hayley likes, really likes, reading novels and watching movies and hanging quotes of said novels and movies up in her bedroom, and so I asked her to guest blog for me and share why the world of make-believe matters. Hope you enjoy! x
Some people don’t hold much stock in fairy tales. They think that unless a story is real it has no value – that if it is make-believe, it cannot be true. But I think they’re missing something important. Stories have power. Real or imagined, a story has the power to communicate truth, and to change us. Make-believe stories are unique because the truths they communicate are not objective, hard facts. Make-believe stories don’t tell us what happened or who did what or why the sky is blue. And I think the very fact that the objective is taken away gives them a unique platform to speak into matters of the heart. The things that make-believe stories teach us about are love and loyalty and friendship and betrayal and loss. Loneliness and despair, hope and freedom. So often in these types of stories all the familiar things are taken away and what we’re left with are the bigger questions of life: What does love look like? What does it mean to be human? What really matters, in the end? And it is the unique ability of fantasy to ask and answer these questions that gives make-believe stories their real power.
I think it is actually this power that makes people wary of fantasy, rather than the usual excuse of “it’s not real, it’s all about escaping and avoiding our problems.” You see, if a make-believe story has such power to reach into our hearts, then we’d better be careful that what we’re putting in there is actually true – not in the sense of “did it actually happen that way?” – that’s how you judge non-fiction. Instead, we need to look at make believe stories and ask, “Does this story provide true answers to the deep questions of the heart?” And you will find that some stories do, and some stories don’t, in just the same way as you will find non-fiction books that tell the truth and those that spin it a little too much in favour of one side of the story, or ‘accidentally’ leave out some of the facts. Of course, the best stories (real or make-believe) will always tell the truth.
One final thought: the creating of fantasy – of make-believe worlds and people – is actually a thing that is given to us by God. It’s part of the reason He made us. When God created the world, He didn’t make it with everything invented and discovered. He didn’t give us an encyclopaedia and tell us how many stars there were, or how to paint a beautiful picture. He gave us all the pieces to do these things and then said to us, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.…” (Gen 1:28) Elsewhere in Genesis 1, it says how God made us in His image. God, the Creator, made us in His image. One of the things that God made us to do was create. And not just farms and skyscrapers and scientific theories and other “real” or “practical” things, but also beauty and music and relationships and stories: intangible things, but no less important for all that. In fact, one might say that the intangible things are more important, because they touch the heart.
In closing, let me leave you with a poem – my favourite – written by JRR Tolkien. I don’t know the title, but the words beautifully explain what I am trying to say:
Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons – ’twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we’re made.