The Christian Guide to Fantasy
Young at Heart


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It's here! Review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Year 4)!

Looking for an alternative to Harry Potter? Then also check out the Fairy Tale Pages - Once Upon a Timers and Twice Upon a Time!

C. S. Lewis

Any page dealing with Fantasy Literature for Young Adults ought to begin with C. S. Lewis' immortal Chronicals of Narnia. His other books, whether fiction or philosophy, are more than heartily recommended.

The Chronicals of Narnia

Literary Quality:
Christian Morality: Excellent
Age Appropriateness: Child

Comprised of seven books (The Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The Horse and his Boy; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Last Battle), Lewis tells the story of children from England who by various means enter the wonderous realm of Narnia, where Christ is literally the Lion (Aslan), and epic battles of good vs. evil are waged. This particular boxed set also includes all of the original interior illustrations. Highly, highly recommended!

Lloyd Alexander

The author of many young adult fantasy novels, Lloyd Alexander is best known for (and rightly so) his Prydain Chronicals. His more recent books tend to fall significantly short of these originals, both in story-telling and in morality.

The Prydain Chronicals
The Book of Three
The Black Cauldron
The Castly of Llyr
Taran Wanderer
The High King

Literary Quality:
Christian Morality: Excellent/Good
Age Appropriateness: Child/Pre-Teen

In these series of books, we follow Taran from his humble beginnings as assistant pig-keeper to noble hero, from awkward adolescent to a holy man, encountering adventure, love, and just plain fun along the way! The characterizations are exquisite, the action surprising, and the morals wonderful. This series is an especially good answer to the recent Harry Potter craze (see below), since it follows a young boy's journey to heroic manhood, but with the moral bent and just as much fun (and better literary quality)!

Brian Jaques

And for those who prefer animals as main characters, check out the delightful Redwall series by Brian Jaques!

Redwall Series
Mariel of Redwall
Martin the Warrior
The Bellmaker
Outcast of Redwall
The Pearls of Lutra
The Long Patrol
The Legend of Luke
Literary Quality:
Christian Morality: Excellent/Good
Age Appropriateness: Pre-Teen

"I've read all of the Redwall Books - there's about 12. I found them half-Catholic, half-Protestant. The stories take place in or around the Abbey, and the set-up of the Abbey seems Catholic, but sometimes they have a mother Abbess over men and women, brothers and sisters. These brothers and sisters ARE chaste. And if anyone is there who's not a brother or sister, they generally end up a brother or sister, or get married. There's never any cross-species relationships, homosexuality, or immorality!

"The bad guys are bad guys, but they don't carouse or practice sexual immorality. They're shown as being bad, not misunderstood.

"These books are mainly for middle-schoolers. But they're fun to read at any age. There's lots of adventure. There's always some mystery with clues that you have to solve - riddles, etc. Christian parents can definitely let their kids read these books without supervision. However, it would be a really fun read-aloud.

"The literary quality is the best for middleschoolers (not ness. adults). Some of the books are better in plot quality than others (i.e., how obvious it is). Definitely my most favourite is the first one, "Redwall."

"It's a good idea to read them in the order they were published, rather than chronologically. Otherwise, you may not know all the references in the book and may get lost in the storyline."

~Julie Snyder
(c) 20 July, 2000

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dawson) was a great admirer of George MacDonald, and the author of quite a few literary works, is still best known for his Alice books - two delightful romps through the wild and fantastic upsidedown Victorian world.

Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass
Literary Quality:
Christian Morality: Harmless
Age Appropriateness: Child/Pre-Teen

This particular edition of the book boasts not only both Alice books, but also all the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. Classics themself, the Alice books, chronicalling the title character's journey through a topsy-turvey world are delightful romps for both children and parents alike. An excellent choice for those who like the wackiness of Harry Potter. Chess enthusiasts will especially enjoy the second book - since the characters actually play out a chess game!

M. M. Kaye

Disgustingly priced (see link below) M. M. Kaye's classic novel is priceless...for anyone who can afford it!

The Ordinary Princess
Literary Quality:
Christian Morality: Good
Age Appropriateness: Child/Pre-Teen

"You shall be ordinary," the fairy cursed the youngest princess - and ordinary she became. This charming tale teaches us that there's more to being a princess than merely good looks. A beautiful book!

Susan Cooper

Well beloved author of the Dark is Rising Series, Susan Cooper's name is often listed with Ursula K. LeGuin and Madeline L'Engle's. Our very own Anne Pelrine was kind enough to give us her thoughts on the childhood classics.

The Dark is Rising Sequence
Literary Quality:
Christian Morality: Harmless/Dangerous
Age Appropriateness: Child/Pre-Teen

"The Dark Is Rising" was the first book of the Sequence that I read, although it's the second in line. I've read several books that have a similar idea. The whole thing is set in Great Britain, specifically England and Wales. In the fourth book, you get a brief lesson in Welsh pronunciations. Kinda fun. Will, the main character, finds that everything is going really wierd on the day before his eleventh birthday, people are telling him a lot of things that he's not sure how to handle, and animals are terrified of him. Essentially, he's being recognized as something he never knew he was. His eleventh birthday comes, and he discovers he's the last and youngest of a race of people called the Old Ones. In this respect, it kind of resembles the Harry Potter opening. Anyway, it turns out that Will belongs to the Light, and he has to fight the powers of the Dark. And there are many things that he has to find and use. His elder and mentor, Merriman, is interesting. He's one of the oldest Old Ones in existence and has to do a lot to help Will out. As a story, it's pretty good. Howsomever, you have to be careful on the morals. It's definitely a good vs. evil story, but it's iffy on recognizing God as the source of everything good. Also, the Light and the Dark are seen as two poles of one force, the Light being good and the Dark being evil. However, they're shown as having an equal chance to influence the course of human history. Yes, the Dark is shown as being a lying source that promises great rewards and then gyps people, but they're shown as having equal strength and chances when compared to the Light. So you have to be careful about that. Still, the story is, in my opinion, better than Harry Potter. It's more along the lines of J.R.R. Tolkien in terms of tone, funny in parts but with a more serious view.

The third book in the Dark Is Rising Sequence is entitled "Greenwitch". The title alone might tell you that a lot of things that fall under the category of "magic" happen. Anyway, Will and Merriman are at it again, this time trying to get their hands on the chalice that was found in the first book and stolen by the Dark in this one. Merriman is the "uncle" of the three kids in the first book, and so the five of them (Merriman, Will, and the three Drew kids--Jane, Simon, and Barney) trapse off to Cornwall, England. The interesting thing about this whole sequence is that Will and Merriman find and meet Old Ones all over the place. There's an Old One in Cornwall. There, Merriman and Will go down into the sea to talk to Tethys, who is a goddess of some kind, so you kind of know you're not in Christianity anymore. Tethys gives them permission to talk to the Greenwitch--a figure made of rowan branches, seaweed, other stuff I don't recall, stuffed with rocks, and pitched into the sea--after touching it and making a wish--for good luck with the fishing for that year. Jane makes a wish for the Greenwitch and so befriends it. You can kind of guess how the rest of it goes. I'm probably going to wind up saying this a million times, but this sequence has a pretty good story-line. The problem is that good and evil are given equal footing. And it also seems that there is a third force or power that sometimes keeps the two sides "in check" or at least are not allied with either side. In the second book--the first one I read--you have Herne the Hunter and the Wild Hunt that chases and scatters the Dark for a while. In the third book you have Tethys and the Greenwitch and I think the forces of Old Magic that do not belong to any side and really don't care about the things that happen in the lives of men, nor do they try to harm men. So there's that to consider and sometimes avoid. To use myself as an example, I liked the stories. I liked the descriptions. I liked the characters. But I almost always had this voice in my head saying, Boy, this goes against the Church! Superstitions and magic pretty much abound. So you can enjoy the story, but you have to keep your wits about you.

One thing I really liked about these books is the rhymes you find in the beginning. I think I can quote these here:

"When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back,
Three from the circle, three from the track.
Wood, bronze, iron, water, fire, stone.
Five shall return and one go alone.

"Iron for the giving, bronze carried long,
Wood from the burning, stone out of song,
Fire from the candle-ring, water from the thaw.
Six signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

"Fire on the hillside shall find the harp of gold,
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the Old.
Power from the Greenwitch, lost beneath the sea.
All shall find the Light at last, silver on the tree."

Kinda cool. There's another one, but I don't remember that one completely. So that's kinda cool, but you still have to tread carefully.

Okay, that's going to have to do for now. My head is throbbing. I'll continue this later on. Take care! Happy reading!

Patricia Wrede

Multitalented Ms. Wrede is the author of several novels, from Sword and Sorcery to Alternate Reality. But she is perhaps best known and best beloved for her Enchanted Forest Chronicals.

Enchanted Forest Chronicals
Dealing With Dragons
Searching for Dragons
Calling on Dragons
Talking to Dragons
Literary Quality:
Christian Morality: Harmless
Age Appropriateness: Child/Pre-Teen

Although these books feature sympathetic dragons, tomboy princesses and several other earmarks of "liberalistic" or "neopagan" fantasy, Wrede's books come off much more lightly in tone - and with a wink (to tease both the conventions, and the recent anti-conventions) which render these pleasant fast-moving books morally harmless, and a good remedy to Harry Potter mania.

J. K. Rowling

It's here! Review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Year 4)!

Want to discuss Harry Potter? Join us at Phantasmagoric Miscellanea - a web based bulletin board for the discussion of the Christian Guide to Fantasy!

Harry Potter at

Literary Quality:
Christian Morality: Dangerous
Age Appropriateness: Teenager/Adult

After the tremendous promotional build-up in the US with the import of J. K. Rowling’s first three Harry Potter books (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, & Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Year 4) was greeted with near hysteria as hundreds of thousands of eager parents and children invaded Barnes and Noble bookstores at midnight to be among the first to purchase the book. Hundreds of thousands of customers also ordered the book through Amazon, which promised to deliver that Saturday (through a special arrangement with Federal Express) – and kept a “Muggle Count” of how many had purchased the book. (Several people I know, purchased two copies of the book: USA and UK!) Not to mention the hundreds of thousands that pre-ordered the book at their local retailer. Indeed, when I purchased my copy (I’d forgotten about its release date, to be honest, and only remembered as I walked out of a bookstore and saw a display), the sales clerk informed me that as of 10 a.m. that morning, they’d already sold 140 copies beyond those pre-ordered! Even this blind chiqua can see that Harry Potter really is the most popular thing since sliced bread.

So, why the uproar? Just how good are these books? What makes them different? Are these books even worth all the hoopla? And how in the world does Harry Potter 4 measure up?

Let’s take these questions in sequential order, shall we? And hopefully, when we get to the end, we’ll have a better understanding of why these books have become such a battleground between Christians and the world.

So, why the uproar?

The flippant answer to this is: it’s all the publicists’ fault. However, let’s take a brief look at its history. A-way back when, somewhere around 1997/1998, a book came out in the UK entitled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It enjoyed mild success, positive word of mouth, and encouraging booksellers. Given these earmarks, the publicists turned their sights towards the consumeristic US in 1999 and launched a massive campaign to promote the book overseas. Three books were offered at once, huge displays were available for booksellers, Amazon sales and more, reviews, went through the roof (1000+ for the first book alone), and teachers promulgated the book in class. The general enjoyment of a segment of the populace became the epidemic applause across the boards, thanks in equal parts to a fun book and an amazing publicity campaign.

Just how good are these books? What makes them different?

Naturally, publicity alone isn’t enough to sustain such hysteria. So what’s the Harry Potter books have that other books don’t? Several things (in no particular order):

1. The language is easy, and therefore accessible to everyone.

2. The protagonist is a male, which, again, widens the potential audience to both male and female readers.

3. The authoress does not make her own name gender specific, aiding number 2.

4. The books are formulaic, giving the readers a “stable” product. Further, the formula itself is classic.

a. Harry Potter lives with his aunt’s horrid family (thus “sympathising” with all the disgruntled pre-teens, and reinforcing the Nickelodeon generation ideal).

b. The majority of the action takes place at a school (again, an immediate bond with the audience).

c. The dilemma always arises from the requisite “bad guy” who Harry defeats – in this case, Lord Voldemort, the wizard who killed his parents.

d. The interim is filled with fanciful and fun “magic,” such as the HP4 “omnioculars” which are binoculars that can also see real-life events in playback and repeat.

e. In addition to the study of (nearly) fantastical magic, Harry is also a member of the Quiddish Team, which is a sport somewhat like basketball on broomsticks.

f. Each book ends with a puzzle, wherein one character is not who he seems to be (adding in the element of Mystery to Fantasy).

Are these books even worth all the hoopla?

Weeell…they’re certainly worth the initial interest. Harry Potter is very likable, as are his cohorts in crime, Ron Weasel and Hermione Granger. Likewise, the world that they inhabit is loads of fun, with various magical gizmos, the inimitable Quiddish (see above e.), and nifty puzzles to solve. It reads something like an activity book with a plot.

And how in the world does Harry Potter 4 measure up?

In all honesty, HP4 doesn’t, in a lot of respects. After all, after four books you can’t help but be subject to sequel syndrome. Rowling does a fair job of attempting to vary the usual formula by beginning the book with a dark and scary scene between the two bad guys, and then “subjecting” us to only two chapters of the awful Dursleys before whizzing us away to the International Quiddish Match, and then off to Hogwarts for another riproaring year – this time with no Quiddish, but the Tri-Wizard Tournament (for which Harry makes a fourth), and a horrifying, gory ending with the restored Lord Voldemort himself.

However, despite these raised stakes, HP4 also contains several logical plot holes. For a discussion on these, please refer to the Library Board on The Republic of Pemberley. Likewise, Rowling’s language is worse than her previous books. The second chapter is almost entirely explanation, but worse, her last five chapters are monologues, where Harry is literally tied up and Voldemort is explaining his dastardly life. Gack. Rowling wrote better than that before! The puzzle is less surprising and intricate than her previous books, one of the major plot lines (the liberation of the slavish house elves) is dropped entirely without a word of explanation, and another one of her plot lines (the Imperious Curse which makes the accursed brainlessly slavish) acts rather like Chekov’s gun that never quite goes off.

Further, there are more swears (several use of d--n and Oh G-d!), greater intimations of the characters being aware of their own sexuality (Harry and Ron happen upon two minor characters in the bushes – nothing is said explicitly…yet), and quite a bit more gore (a character dies, and another performs self-mutilation).

Added to all of this is the simple fact that HP4 is a 600-700+ (depending on whether you’ve bought the UK or US version respectively) page book, which is a bit too long for this particular series.

So, what does this mean for the Christian?

Despite all the good things that can and should be said about Harry Potter (i.e., that it’s helping children read), concerned parents should consider what these books say. Repeatedly, the Harry Potter books promulgate lying, cheating, stealing, disobedience, and revenge – to name a few. The morality is distinctly pagan; the virtues when dissected read as Machiavelli for kids. People are either good or bad depending on someone’s outside arbitrary judgement, rather than on their actions. Harry and Voldemort both extract vengeance, but Harry – being dubbed the hero – can do no wrong, even when he sins time and again. Whatever will gain him his goal will justify the means he uses – whether that be lying or telling the truth. Further, Harry takes only one responsibility upon himself – revenge for his parents upon Voldemort and his minions – but that sort of responsibility should not rest solely on any child’s shoulder. Rowling, apparently, doesn’t agree with this. But let’s take a look at the first question of Harry’s propensity towards lauded sinful behaviour.

Rowling “Stacks the Deck”

I think I've commented before that the HP books tend to promote rule-breaking, lying, and revenge. However, every time I mention that, others come back saying, "yes, but HP did that to the bad guy, so it was OK." Specific bad guys generally include, however, those that strictly follow the rules, lie outrageously either through malice or ignorance (rendering HP's lies "trivial"), and are "out" to get Harry.


1. Harry's archenemy, Lord Voldemort, is always trying to kill him. Therefore it is "right" of him to disobey school rules in order to save his skin, to lie to his teachers in order to cover up his disobedience, and to prepare himself for some sort of horrid revenge on the fellow.

2. Harry lives with an abusive family. Therefore it is "right" of him to disobey them, to lie to them, and to get revenge on them. (I.e., HP4: eats sweets, willing to sneak out to friends, laughs when cousin's tongue enlarges and turns purple.)

3. Harry's schoolmate enemy, Drago Malfoy, is always trying to humiliate him. Therefore it is "right" of him to disobey school rules in order to get revenge on him, again "right" to lie to superiors about his disobedience and vengeance.

Thus, when complaining about rulebreaking, lying and revenging, people can justly say, but it was a matter of necessity, survival and justice. Further, what if children who are in such a horrid situation (i.e., on the run, in an abusive family, or downtrodden by a quarter of the school) read this book and gain self-esteem, isn't that good?

Well, yes, as far as it goes. But what we need to realise is that JKR has been stacking the decks in such a way that we MUST agree with her. Because, YES, people have the right disobey if it's a matter of life and death - whether physically, mentally or spiritually. However, if children can get their hands on HP4 hardcover, it's hardly likely they're running for their life or that their parents are abusive!

But that leaves schoolfellows humiliating us, doesn't it! The majority of the children reading these books will have suffered something similar to a Draco Malfoy - therefore how Harry handles the situation is still pertinent to the readers. This, of course, begs the question - is, then, the way that Harry handles pettiness (i.e., in the same fashion as he handles death-threats and abuse) the "right" way to do so? Are the three situations entirely equable?

Of course not. Draco is petty, and Harry's disobedience, lying and revenge upon him are more than petty, they're degrading. But since JKR has already stacked the decks in favour of Harry breaking rules, lying and revenging in critical and unlikely situations, she's flavoured everything else he does with a sense of "rightness" - for right or for wrong.

This fallacious argument (technically, "poisoning the well," "hasty generalisation," and "extrapolation") is the center of HP4. In it, JKR raises the stakes. Now it's not only Harry that's in mortal peril if he obeys the rules (telling, non?), but everyone else, as well. She lingers on house-elves which Hermione names "slaves," and she introduces a curse which will render the cursee completely (horrifically according to JKR) obedient (brainless slavishness). Only HP is able to repell the curse - and for that he's given high marks.

Our argument is more difficult. Of course no one's going to argue in favour of any form of slavery! Of course in that instance one should fight off the oppression. But the thing is that JKR by stacking the deck even higher has made the distinction between right and wrong governance even more hazy to see. She has replaced Machiavelli for turning the other cheek; she has degenerated us back into the dark ages of Hammurbi’s Code. As Dumbledore, the kindly headmaster, sums up in the end, "I find that generally the truth is more preferable than a lie." (Italics mine.)

So what should the concerned parent do?

Well, one of the best things any mother or father could do is to just keep these books out of their house. Check out Narnia, Prydian, (see above) or Middle-Earth first, and move on from there. However, if your son or daughter has already read the books, why not take some time to discuss the books with your child? Even better, why not read the books aloud together, pausing to discuss certain points? But by all means, if you are going to allow your child to read the books, please read them yourself, in order to make an informed judgement.

God bless all you Warriors in Our Lord! Be sure that my prayers are with you all!

For a good synopsis and evaluation go here to Focus on the Family's Homepage

With the coming of HP4, several rumours have been flying about regarding its content and suitability for young children (see Cynthia's review, "By Whose Power" below, for some excellent thoughts concerning Harry's maturation and age appropriateness), which can be located at the Facts & Rumours page of the Unofficial Harry Potter Fan Club.

*Note:* Concerned parents might find it helpful to peruse this site and other fan sites devoted to Harry Potter, to see what sort of actions and mindset these books produce.

Harry Potter: By Whose Power?
© 4 April, 2000

I have read Michael O'Brien's book, A Landscape with Dragons, a book that looks at children's fiction and analyses it from a philosophical and Christian perspective, and found it very helpful. (It is published by Ignatius Press, and includes a list of book suggestions) He stresses the importance reading books that reinforcing the moral order of the universe. Does the world in the book work the same way ours does? Is good rewarded and evil punished? In C.S. Lewis, that is most definitly the case. Most fairytales also keep the proper order. I would suggest George Macdonald as another author who succeeds in doing this.

Being a die-hard children's literature junky and fantasy lover, I was interested when I heard that there was a new series of books that was fairly well-written on the market. So I read the books with interest.

Given the guideline that the world in the book must reflect the moral order of our universe, I have three main concerns with the Potter books.

(1) End justifies the means. There are several instances, especially in the second book, in which the children steal or break the rules, in order to do a "good" thing. This is a distortion of morality, in which a good end NEVER justifies evil means. Period. This is a common problem in the world today (rational behind abortion. Most everyone knows that it is a child that dies, but it is okay, because the mother is freed from the burdens of child-rearing when she is not ready or able to undertake it) and you don't want to suggest that it is a good way of thinking.

(2) Harry gets a year older each book, and the books are coming out every 6 months or so. If a child is 8 or 9 when he begins reading them, how old will he be when Harry is 17 and the series ends? Not really old enough to deal with all of the potential issues that Harry at 17 will be undergoing. JK Rowlings has said that in the 4th book Harry is going to discover girls and death. Adolecense, hormones, sex? What morality will the readers be exposed to? How much do you want to have to explain to your child when they are exposed to it by a book that very likely will present it in a skewed fashion? Can you tell a child that it is okay to read the first book, and maybe the 2nd and 3rd, and then explain that the 4th and 5th books are not good, especial with their popularity and peer pressure?

(3) The children are portrayed as conquering evil on their own power. No adults are consulted, and those who are supposed to be teaching them how to counter evil in their "Defense Against the Dark Arts" course are frequently weak or incompetent. They go against possession of people by evil forces in both the first and second books. This is a real occurrence in the world, and the last impression I want to give children is that they can deal with that! Christ says that these are only conquered by much prayer and fasting. How much of that do we adults do? I was very disturbed by the 2nd book which I would place in the horror genre. There are traces of that genre throughout, with something feeding on unicorn's blood, ritual sacrifice of sort, etc.

If some of your kids have started to read them, I wouldn't necessarly forbid them outright. That makes things more enticing! I would encourage you to read them before your kids do, or at least along with them. Mark those parts that you get a bad feeling about. Pray about them! And talk to your kids about them. Frequently young people will be more sensitive to the "wrongness" that they find since they haven't a jaded palate yet. Challenge your children with the parts that are not quite right. Ask if it is worth the time it takes to read them when there are others that are good that they could read. Keep an open dialogue. Above all PRAY. God has given you these children to raise rightly, and he has also given you graces to help.

An Unsolicited Opinion
~ Found on SFF Net Webnews

I found while lurking about the (science fiction/fantasy) newsgroups, which is populated by published and reknowned sff authors, many of whom are contendedly pagan. I was in no way looking for or soliciting the following remark:

From: Catherine Hampton
Subject: Re: The awful truth ...
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 05:33:45 GMT


By the way, whoever recommended the Harry Potter books was right, if you enjoy reading books written for children. (As I do.) And in your case, I suspect you might enjoy them even if you don't like most kids' books, because the books have a lot of paganism and magic(k) in them. I don't know real magic(k) from carnie tricks, of course, but a good friend of mine who definitely does bought me all three Potter books for Christmas.

For more Harry Potter reviews, see also Steven Greydanus' excellent essay "Magic, Middle-earth, Merlin, Muggles, and Meaning: A Christian Reading of Spells and the Supernatural in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books," or visit the on-going debates at the Library Archives of the Republic of Pemberley.

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