Myths That Divide Us

A Battle of Truth vs. Fact

In any bookstore today you will find such books as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia sharing a shelf with Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones, and a whole slew of trashy fantasynovels. “And what’s wrong with that?” you can imagine someone saying. Aren’t they all fantasy authors—that is, authors writing fiction, drawing fake maps, and inventing mythologies about places that don’t really exist? Is there really that much difference between J.  R.  R. Tolkien and George R.  R. Martin?

Though we will find these two authors’ works in the same places, they are representative of very different traditions, and they mean something so different—opposite in fact—by the word fantasy (and reality for that matter), that they can be said to inhabit two different universes. Fantasy for one (I’ll let you guess which) means flight from the real world into the imaginative pleasures of make-believe, while for the other, fantasy means flight from the man-made images of an increasingly artificially constructed world into greater and eternal realities. One writes stories to escape the ordinary and humdrum world in which we unfortunately live, to find some relief from an otherwise bleak and meaningless existence. The other writes stories to get at the great truths behind the sacramental world we see and experience with our bodies—writing fantasy to uncover greater truths than can be ascertained by mere empirical observation. In this sense, this kind of fantasy is mythic. And though both authors live on the same terrestrial ball, they inhabit very different worlds.

Two Kinds of Myths

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N. E. Ziegenhagen is an Anglican priest at Good Shepherd Reformed Episcopal Church in Tyler, Texas, and headmaster of Good Shepherd School, the parish school.

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