Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Wrong Books

"Something was crawling.  Worse still, something was coming out.  Edmund or Lucy or you would have recognized it at once, but Eustace had read none of the right books.  The thing that came out of the cave was something he had never even imagined - a long lead-colored snout, dull red eyes,  no feathers or fur, a long lithe body that trailed on the ground, legs whose elbows went up higher than its back like a spider's, cruel claws, bat's wings that made a rasping noise on the stones, yards of tail.  And the lines of smoke were coming from its two nostrils.  He never said the word Dragon to himself.  Nor would it have made things better if he had. 

Most of us us know what we should expect to find in a dragon's lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books.  They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons."

The Voyge of the Dawn Treader
C.S. Lewis
Books serve many purposes.  I read to learn a new skill, learn a new fact, uplift me, challenge me.  I travel to distant lands, make new friends.  What, then, would be the wrong books?  The books I choose to read to my children should prepare them for life.  The way they cope depends largely on the books they've read.  Often we look to realistic stories--non-fiction, biographies, historical fiction, etc., to give them the tools necessary to find their way in the real world, and while these are wonderful, one type of book we tend to neglect and even shy away from is fairy tales.  How can we possibly learn to deal with what life challenges us with through fairy tales and fables? 
Quoting C.S. Lewis again, "Perhaps I had better say a few words in its defense, as reading for children.  It is accused of giving a false impression of the world they live in.  But I think no literature that children could read gives them less of a false impression.  I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them.  I never expected the real world to be like fairy tales.  I think that i did expect school to be like the school stories.  The fantasies did not deceive me:  the school stories did.  All stories in which children have adventures and successes which are possible, in the sense that they do not break the laws of nature, but almost infintely improbable, are in more danger than the fairy tales of raising false expectations."   (From an essay entitled "On Three Ways of Writing for Children")

 This past summer I was blessed to hear Nancy Kelly on the topic of imagination. The importance of cultivating an imaginative nature in our children cannot be underestimated. In fact, I will be so bold as to say that, without imagination, it is impossible to have faith. "For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) Many of the things we ask children to believe from Scripture are pretty fantastic-- parting of a sea in which millions of people walked across on dry ground, a talking donkey, a Man rising from the dead. Could it be that the rise of athiestic belief might be linked to the wrong books? When we only give our children books such as those Eustace had...exports, imports, governments and drains...but not books on dragons and their ilk, we end up with materialistic pragmatists who cannot recognize the miraculous. They will never understand that there is a difference between real and true. The best stories may not be real...but may reveal truth.

Give your children the gift of imagination through books. As C.S. Lewis said, "Although fantasy might not help a boy to build a boat, it would help him immensely if he should ever find himself on a sinking ship." (The Taste for the Other)

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this. You always write with such wisdom and insight. Very encouraging!