When I was asked to do a devotional for today’s post, I really didn’t know which direction to turn. For someone who loves fantasy, the works of Lewis are an obvious choice for an intertwining of faith and faerie. But Lewis’s brilliance has its sources, and I thought that perhaps one of Lewis’s favorite writers, George MacDonald, would be of service in this discussion, as well. In Mere Christianity, Lewis says:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
As Christians, we know that “another world” is the heavenly kingdom, but as we are, for now, separated from that future dwelling, we are left with promises and our imagination. For many of us, exploring and creating fantasy worlds can temporarily satiate the driving need to find “another world” to which we truly belong. But Faerie Lands can play the role of more than just escapism; they can both act is a reflection of Reality and become that faintest of connections to “another world” which compels us forward in our walk toward it.
The fantasies and faerie worlds that we construct, no matter how wonderful, are still impermanent. The kind of fantasy that MacDonald, Lewis, and many others strive to write is a kind which attempts to draw us out of our immediate Reality and take us to another world, but only temporarily. Then, like a mirror, these worlds begin to reflect our Reality in a different form, and we can’t help thinking that some of these enchanted landscapes seem very familiar. Inexorably, we are drawn back into our own world, but when we return, we understand something of our world better, while the yearning for another world remains, perhaps stronger than ever.
MacDonald says in Phantastes:
Why are all reflections lovelier than what we call the reality? – not so grand or so strong, it may be, but always lovelier? Fair as is the gliding sloop on the shining sea, the wavering, trembling, unresting sail below is fairer still. Yea, the reflecting ocean itself, reflected in the mirror, has a wondrousness about its waters that somewhat vanishes when I turn towards itself. All mirrors are magic mirrors. The commonest room is a room in a poem when I turn to the glass.
A beautiful reflection is exactly what MacDonald strives for in his depiction of Faerie Land. With lush descriptions, strange and surreal, whimsical and lovely, MacDonald draws his wandering hero into the depths of Faerie and compels us along with him.
But as with all reflections, there is a place where they join with Reality. We can be in one and touch the other. MacDonald’s Faerie Land is not meant to stand entirely apart:
As through the hard rock go the branching silver veins; as into the solid land run the creeks and gulfs from the unresting sea; as the lights and influences of the upper worlds sink silently through the earth’s atmosphere; so doth Faerie invade the world of men, and sometimes startle the common eye with an association as of cause and effect, when between the two no connecting links can be traced.
From the very beginning, Faerie is intertwined with our world. It reflects our own world, but it also connects us to another. It both satisfies and increases our longing for that Other World that we know exists. And so, if this fantasy world as MacDonald portrays it – a reflection of Reality and an echo of something greater beyond it – if this is not only accessible, but ever-present, then we might begin to realize that its higher Form, that Other World that we all long for, is also in our midst. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, tangible, glorious, the source of all deep magic, drawing us further into it.
This is why I find Faerie and fantasy so beautiful and so satisfying: they have the ability to reflect our Reality while simultaneously summoning forth faint, but glorious images of the true Other World. The best Faerie stories form a connection between us and what we were made for.