ASLAN'S KIN ¶ Interfaith Fantasy and Science Fiction

Madeleine L'Engle

Anglican writer Madeleine L'Engle explores Christian mythology in many of her speculative fiction novels for children. An American, L'Engle has also written a number of nonfiction works for adults about Christian life.


And yet we are still being taught that fairy tales and myths are to be discarded as soon as we are old enough to understand "reality." I had a disturbed and angry letter from a young mother who told me that a friend of hers, with young children, gave them only instructive books; she wasn't going to allow their minds to be polluted with fairy tales. They were going to be taught the "real" world.

This attitude is a victory for the powers of this world. A friend of mine, a fine story-teller, remarked to me, "Jesus was not a theologian. He was God who told stories."

Yes. God who told stories.

St. Matthew says, "And he spake many things to them in parables . . . and without a parable spake he not to them."

When the powers of this world denigrate and deny the value of story, life loses much of its meaning; and for many people in the world today, life has lost its meaning, one reason why every other hospital bed is for someone with a mental, not a physical illness.

Clyde Kirby writes, "Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything. . . . it is not that 'God' is a myth, but that myth is the revelation of a divine life in man. It is not we who invent myth; rather, it speaks to us as a Word of God."

The well-intentioned mothers who don't want their children polluted with fairy tales would not only deny them their childhood, with its high creativity, but they would have them conform to the secular world, with its dirty devices. The world of fairy tale, fantasy, myth, is inimical to the secular world, and in total opposition to it, for it is interested not in limited laboratory proofs, but in truth.

When I was a child, reading Hans Christian Andersen's tales, reading about Joseph and his coat of many colours and his infuriating bragging about his dreams, reading The Selfish Giant and The Book of Jonah, these diverse stories spoke to me in the same language, and I knew, intuitively, that they belonged to the same world. For the world of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is the world of Story, story which may be able to speak to us as a Word of God.

["Healed, Whole and Holy," Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art]

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Creative Commons License: Some Rights ReservedThis text, or a variation on it, was originally published at Copyright © 1999 Heather Elizabeth Peterson. Some rights reserved. The text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( You may freely print, post, e-mail, share, or otherwise distribute the text for noncommercial purposes, provided that you include this paragraph. The author's policies on derivative works and fan works are available online (