I’m a huge fan of fantasy. I grew up on J.R.R. Tolkien books—first, The Hobbit in seventh grade English class, which I adored (the book, the class, and the teacher). As soon as we finished that unit, I grabbed my mom’s copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and quickly devoured it. Then I gobbled up the other two books in the trilogy, racing my friend, à la Legolas and Gimli, and beating her by a few days.* By eighth grade, I was perusing The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales behind my textbook in algebra class. (That teacher was another favorite. . . . I wonder if he knew/cared what I was really reading, since I was making an A.)
Sometime during high school, I discovered The Tolkien Reader and came to understand more about why I love fantasy so much. His poem in the essay On Fairy-Stories especially resonated with me:
Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seeds of dragons—’twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we’re made.
Tolkien’s coined term sub-creator means we cannot create new things ex nihilo, like the One whose image we are made in does, but we can—and have every right to—produce beautiful, colorful arrangements of words and ideas that already exist. So even though “there is nothing new under the sun,” we can still invent imaginary worlds that are unique and have never been thought of before.^
No one has ever pressed me to justify my writing of fiction . . . probably thanks to Tolkien. But my own inner critic (I’m such a perfectionist) has niggled at me from time to time, asking whether I ought to be undertaking this (ad)venture I so immensely enjoy. Whether or not I ever make money off my writing, I do believe crafting fiction—maybe someday high fantasy—is worth it on a higher level. A spiritual level, I suppose. We are made to love and enjoy God forever, as well as imitate Him. Sub-creating glorifies Him. I consider it a great honor that He gave me some writing talent, and I aim to hone that ability and never misuse it.
An additional reason I enjoy fantasy is because I’m a very high N (iNtuitive) according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. My head is always in the clouds, and I love to ask “What if?” . . . But that’s a topic for another post.
Keep refracting, my sub-creator friends! As Owl City says, “Life is cinematic.” But I would also add: “Life is prismatic!”
* Yes, I know, they weren’t competing for speed but rather killing orcs. We were killing chapters and pages. ;)
^ After all, there was once a time humans didn’t exist—we were like a fantasy way back then. I wonder if God told stories of us to the angels before He made us!
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Sarah Awa lives in Ohio with two hairy guys and writes books about werewolves.