Tolkien believed the fairy story provided the reader with the gift of recovery. Recovery is about renewed, transformed vision – “regaining a clear view,” in Tolkien’s words.
How does this happen? By traveling to a new world, one which is different from our own, we are able to encounter many of the “permanent things” of our own world in a completely different context. Seemingly trapped in the daily, mundane existence of our own worlds, it’s often hard to see the magic of life. The fairy story allows the reader to travel in the land of Faerie, to go on adventures through the Perilous Realm, and to remember that our world is just as perilous and just as full of magic.
It also allows us to see issues in our own world more clearly. When the Pevensies escape to Narnia, they do not escape war. They escape a war with guns and bombs to fight a war with swords and magic. But in the magical setting, they are able to deal with the terror they were sent away from in the first place back in the primary world. So, too, the reader faces, in the pages of fantasy, issues that are often too frightening to face head-on in our own worlds.
Why do we need to regain a clear view? Because it’s all about vision. Randall’s recent post reminded me of a quote by C.S. Lewis about “the seeing eye.”
“To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere. Those who do not find him on earth are unlikely to find him in space. (Hang it all, we’re in space already; every year we go a huge circular tour in space.) But send up a saint in a spaceship and he’ll find God in space as he found God on earth. Much depends on the seeing eye.”
It’s easy to lose vision of God in our day to day experiences. The true fairy story will shake us back awake and remind us what we’re supposed to be looking for.