the story needs to change - from FAIRY-TALE to EPIC

Recently I told a story at my home church where I introduced the concept of "the fairy-tale controversy".

The genre of fairy-tale can be described as:
"a short narrative often used for children - often beginning with the phrase “Once upon a time …” - the story is often set in a far-away kingdom or forest, where human characters interact with magical or mystical beings.  The good side ultimately triumphs over evil, and the promise of a happily ever after ending is realised.”

In the story, it was argued that the way in which the good news message of Jesus is communicated often resembles the story-line of a fairy-tale - where:

“The familiar canvas of the FAIRY TALE leads us through the battle between GOOD & EVIL and leads us to a life of HAPPILY EVER AFTER.”

Sure, the use of the term "fairy-tale" is a little controversial, but the point is that the canvas of the story we're telling has been smaller than what our culture seems to require.

When we've been condensing compelling stories to pamphlets, comic strips, and perhaps the odd feature film, our culture is exploring the wonder of deeper character development and morally complex plot lines found in film franchises and extended TV series.  

It's a bewildering contradiction to observe a generation who have no trouble in binge-watching entire seasons on Netflix, when they are accused of lacking the ability to span their attention beyond 3 minutes.

Could it be that in the midst of our fleeting SnapChat stories, deep down we long for a larger canvas?

Which brings us to the 'modern epic':
"A long narrative poem written in elevated style, in which heroes of great historical or legendary importance perform valorous deeds. The setting is vast in scope, covering great nations, the world, or the universe, and the action is important to the history of a nation or people."

An epic shows us that we long to immerse ourselves (perhaps even escape) into the lives of the characters over an extended period of time and journey with them to shift the culture of a community, city or nation - as if we are writing history with them - where:

"The broader canvas of the MODERN EPIC leads us through the landscape of MORAL COMPLEXITY and leads us to the experience of TRANSCENDENCE."

If we moved from the canvas of 'fairy-tale' to that of 'modern epic' when it comes to the story of God ... what would that look like?


bookwormfaith said…
To this I leave the words of JRR Tolkien himself: A “fairy-story” is one which touches on or uses Faerie, whatever its own main purpose may be: satire, adventure, morality, fantasy. Faerie itself may perhaps most nearly be translated by Magic — but it is magic of a peculiar mood and power, at the furthest pole from the vulgar devices of the laborious, scientific, magician. There is one proviso: if there is any satire present in the tale, one thing must not be made fun of, the magic itself. That must in that story be taken seriously, neither laughed at nor explained away... It is usually assumed that children are the natural or the specially appropriate audience for fairy-stories. In describing a fairy-story which they think adults might possibly read for their own entertainment, reviewers frequently indulge in such waggeries as: “this book is for children from the ages of six to sixty.” But I have never yet seen the puff of a new motor-model that began thus: “this toy will amuse infants from seventeen to seventy”; though that to my mind would be much more appropriate. Is there any essential connexion between children and fairy-stories? Is there any call for comment, if an adult reads them for himself? Reads them as tales, that is, not studies them as curios. Adults are allowed to collect and study anything, even old theatre programmes or paper bags...Among those who still have enough wisdom not to think fairy-stories pernicious, the common opinion seems to be that there is a natural connexion between the minds of children and fairy-stories, of the same order as the connexion between children’s bodies and milk. I think this is an error; at best an error of false sentiment, and one that is therefore most often made by those who, for whatever private reason (such as childlessness), tend to think of children as a special kind of creature, almost a different race, rather than as normal, if immature, members of a particular family, and of the human family at large.
bookwormfaith said…
“The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale--or otherworld--setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the “turn” comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality ... In such stories when the sudden “turn” comes we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt makingcreatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality’. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.”

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