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Christian Fantasy
Classic Authors

These are the authors whose works, I would argue, form the core of Christian fantasy in English. They have also, I think it fair to note, had a significant impact on the subsequent development of fantasy literature, Christian or otherwise, especially (of course) J.R.R. Tolkien.

George MacDonald (1824-1905)

The publication of George MacDonald’s Phantases was a turning point in the history Christian fantasy for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the role it played in the conversion of C.S. Lewis.

A very poor Scottish preacher, forced into even greater poverty by his disbelief in Calvinist theology (the foundation of Scottish Presbyterianism), George MacDonald wrote prolifically, in large part just to stay alive. The uneven quality of his literary output has often been noted, but his fantasies have survived very well. In fact, a large number of his fantasies are available on-line (the same cannot be said for his realistic novels, none of which—as far as I can determine—are available).

A brief biography of MacDonald is also available on-line, as is a short chronology of the major events in his life. Of MacDonald’s fantasies on-line, Phantases is probably the most important (as was mentioned above), followed closely by his other fantasy novel for adults, Lilith. The other on-line fantasies are some of his children’s stories, all of which (with the possible exception of At the Back of the North Wind) I have found to be absolutely marvellous. My personal favorites are The Light Princess and his famous duology (is there such a word?), The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie. (Unfortunately these last two have not yet been converted to HTML format and are only available as plain-text files.) Last in my list, but by no means the least, are two short stories, “The Day Boy and the Night Girl” (a beautiful little romance), and his classic tale, probably the best introduction to MacDonald’s fantasy available, “The Golden Key”.

The most complete George MacDonald site on the ’net has got to be The Golden Key: The George MacDonald WWW Page, a nicely organized page with lots of links to other MacDonald- related web-sites, as well as links to most of the on-line texts available. Other George MacDonald web-sites worthy of note are George MacDonald: An Overview, part of the scholarly Victorian Web, the George MacDonald Society Homepage, and a small but neatly-organized collection of MacDonald’s stories listed under The Enchanted Worlds of George MacDonald in The Realist Wonder Society’s web-site.

J.R.R. Tolkein (1892-1973)

As is only fitting for a man who could be called the father of modern fantasy, there were far too many Tolkien-related sites on the ’net for me to sift through them thoroughly (Yahoo alone listed 92!), though of all the authors here Tolkien is probably the most in need of an evaluated list of web-sites. Tolkien sites in particular tend to vary widely in quality.

A chronology of Tolkien’s life and background is available at The Tolkien Timeline.

By far the most definitive collection of Tolkien-related links seems to be The J.R.R. Tolkien Information Page, though it presents its large collection of links without commentary.

The most interesting scholarly resource I’ve found is The Electronic Tolkien Encyclopedia Project. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that there are two levels of Tolkien research: one is peculiarly Tolkienian, set entirely within Tolkien’s vast sub- creation, the other is the more usual level of research that studies the works of Tolkien as literature. A particularly interesting example of the first sort of scholarship (along with a useful list of Tolkienian web-links) may be found on Stephen Geard’s home page: he’s compiled his own history and chronology of Númenor (Tolkien’s pre-Lord of the Rings heroic kingdom).

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

C.S. Lewis regarded George MacDonald as his master. I—and a good many other Christians, writers, would-be writers, and otherwise—regard C.S. Lewis as mine. A noted scholar of medieval and renaissance literature, C.S. Lewis is probably best known for his Narnian Chronicles, The Screwtape Letters, and his most famous apologetic work, Mere Christianity.

C.S. Lewis’ life was like a book, embodying a sort of artistic unity. His Narnian Chronicles are set in the literary universe that he studied, his science fantasy “Space” Trilogy draws on medieval cosmology (again, a subject of his studies), Milton’s Paradise Lost, and, in the last book, on Arthurian legend. Christianity permeates both these series, as it does every fiction and apologetic work Lewis wrote after his conversion. (I would argue that Christianity informs his academic works as well.) His other major fantasy works are The Great Divorce (a bus-tour from Hell to Heaven), Till We Have Faces (though it might be more accurately categorized as “revived myth”), and, possibly (unless you entirely separate allegory from fantasy), The Pilgrim’s Regress. When he fell in love, he wrote a book out of it (The Four Loves), when his love died, he wrote a book about it (A Grief Observed), as for his own death, he spent all his life and a great deal of his fiction preparing for it (see, for example, my essay half-on Out of the Silent Planet)—I know of no man, alive or dead, whose life was so bound up with literature, fantasy, and Jesus Christ. This web-site is dedicated to him.

There are quite a number of web-sites dedicated (in one or both senses of the word) to C.S. Lewis. The best two that I’ve found are Into the Wardrobe, a popular site with a nice little archive of Lewis-related papers, and the scholarly C.S. Lewis and the Inklings Web Site (which also has a nice collection of Lewis-related texts). The Inklings are, of course, the influential little group of writers (including J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams—who probably deserves a separate spot on this page, but about whom there is little to be found on the ’net, other than The Charles Williams WWW Page) who “hung out” at Oxford and drank and chatted together. A bit more information about them may be found at The Mythopoeic Society Home Page.

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