Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I cannot follow you where you're going here, Ross, and not only because I'm not a Christian. *All* successful literature is true - that's why it is successful: because it is truer than what is real. (Realist fiction is the special case that achieves its success by creating a fiction that is *realer* than what is real.) Allegory weakens fiction because it points outside to something truer than itself *by definition* - because that's what an allegory is. (By the same token, realism has failed when it reminds you of reality; it has succeeded when reality reminds you of *it*.) Tolkien is right: the allegory weakens the Narnia books, because it *has* to.
Now, that doesn't mean allegory is a bad thing per se. As a tool of philosophy, or theology, allegory is extremely useful, because it lends to those disciplines many of fiction's strengths. Allegorical stories make some of the best sermons. But they don't make the best stories.
And it is perfectly possible to construct Christian fairy tales that are *not* allegorical, but rather operate within a Christian framework. We know this because Hans Christian Andersen achieved exactly that. The Snow Queen is a whole lot better than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and one reason why (though not the only one) is that Andersen's fable, while making use of even more explicitly Christian content, is not the simplistic allegory that Lewis' is.