Some people object to fantasy and fairy tales because they contain magic or are simply not "true." While these forms of literature require discernment like any other, we'd like to point out that the Bible is the greatest model of such imaginative stories.
Creation, Fall, Redemption.
A princess captured by the enemy
and rescued by a prince at great sacrifice to himself; he marries her
and they live happily ever after. Isn't this the theme of the book of
Revelation, and, indeed, of all of Scripture? This wonderful story is
God's idea, and we, His people--His bride, are still hanging out the
dragon cave awaiting our great Hero's return so that we can start living
happily ever after!
God uses words and pictures in such
beautiful ways to reveal Himself, through His Word and Creation; it is
our privilege to use them with our children to point out these shadows
of His reality. The sun, for instance, reminds us that Jesus is the
Light of the world (as my [Megan] sons and I recently learned through My
Father's World Kindergarten curriculum). Any book that refers to the sun
in story or in pictures is indebted to God for creating the sun and
whispers a reminder that "Jesus is the Light of the world."
Like every part of creation, literature
belongs to God and we can enjoy it and use it for His glory. Make
reading with your children an act of worship, whether in the Bible or
simply in the captivating words of a good story well told!
Further Thoughts (in which we wax eloquent and get a bit long-winded on this subject):
the best and most beautiful pictures of spiritual truths have come to us
from the pages of a fantasy. Why is this so? Perhaps because when
people write about deeply spiritual truths, it often comes across as
cheesy or trite--even in the hands of a gifted writer. Extrapolate out
the essence, place it in another world, and suddenly it sounds more
majestic and captivates our imaginations better.
Aslan's country might
not be the Celestial City, but it surely helps us imagine the awe, the
freedom, the eagerness, the glory that awaits us. We can't see demons
and angels with our earthly eyes, but reading about a fight between
Henry's relatives and the evil forces in the 100 Cupboards books helps
us get a feel for what an awesome and terrifying spectacle it would be
if our eyes were opened as Elijah's and his servant's. Or, what about
the awe at hearing--really hearing--the voice of God and then obeying? Gen certainly feels this on the rooftop in The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia.
Is it okay to read Harry Potter? We have no problems with it. There is ultimate good in those books, and
the good soundly trounces the evil. The final book is one of the most
redemptive books we've read as characters are revealed for who they truly
are, unknown sacrifices come to light, and heroes step forward to lay
their lives on the line. Are we going to let our young children read it?
No. Not yet--but someday, they will. In contrast to the clear sense of
good and evil in Harry Potter, the postmodern ambiguity in the Lemony
Snicket series started out humorous and collapsed into an empty fading
away, denying the reader any satisfaction of their hopes and
speculations. The humor became shallow mockery, and our enthusiastic
recommendations for the series sadly lessened.
We use the same standards for fantasy
that we use for other works of literature: is sin revealed to be
sin/evil? Are the right qualities shown to be right/honorable? Is it
redemptive? Are there consequences for disobedience? Are humans shown to
be something set apart, a special creation? etc.
There are a host of well written essays (and whole books) written on this subject of the fantastic in the arts as compatible with a Christian world view. Check out Leland Ryken's books (such as The Christian Imagination--a collection of essays edited by Ryken), On Fairy Stories by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis's collected critical essays, Gene Veith's Reading Between the Lines, and Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water for a start....