C.S. Lewis: Fantasy, Fairy Tales and Writing

Narnia Lion

“I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.”   C. S. Lewis

 

Lewis Fairy TalesC. S. Lewis believed that a children’s story is sometimes simply the right form for what a writer wants to convey and that a good story would be re-read and enjoyed at any age. He cites The Wind in the Willows as an example saying, “I never met The Wind in the Willows…books till I was in my late twenties and I do not think I have enjoyed them any the less on that account.”  He cautions against writing sentimentally about children as seen by their elders noting that our childhood was lived differently from what our elders saw.  The reality of childhood creeps out if we are open and allow those characters to speak for themselves.  C. S. Lewis wrote children’s books in the sense that he excluded what he thought they would not like or understand but did not write down to them or below what would attract an adult. “I never wrote down to anyone; and whether the opinion condemns or acquits my own work, it certainly is my opinion that a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then.”  cslewis bath lion

Lewis dismissed writing what children might like for entertainment or need to hear on moral grounds. He views these kinds of writers more as anthropologists observing children as a distinct group and producing works that they themselves do not like but what  children are supposed to like or need educationally or morally.  Lewis cites commercial motives for these types of writers as well.  Lewis remarks that he would lay very long odds against the Ministry of Education writing a good story for children.  “Good writers neither patronize nor idolize children but treat them with respect”.

Lewis with LionLewis advises writers to bring a story into being from the “whole cast of the author’s mind” and write from elements of their own imagination they share with children. He describes his writing process similar to bird watching, initially waiting quietly and watching what pictures arise in the imagination (the fawn with the umbrella was the first picture to come to mind for Lewis in the Narnia series) to take form and then joining them up with other similar pictures eventually creating a complete story.  Lewis admits that stories rarely come together whole and complete and usually have gaps that need “deliberate inventing” to complete the story.  However if the writer is lucky, the whole set of pictures join together “without doing anything yourself” other than taking dictation.  The main point of his process is that the story comes up from within the writer’s imagination and is not imposed by outside considerations of marketability or moral necessity.  In addition, some of the best stories, Lewis says, are written extemporaneously by authors such as Kenneth Graham, Lewis Carroll and Tolkien for a particular living child.             Continue reading “C.S. Lewis: Fantasy, Fairy Tales and Writing”

The Lioness is featured in L&M Hospital’s Online Magazine, First Hand.

The first book in the Urwelt Chronicle series
The first book in the Urwelt Chronicle series

This recent article was written by Bill Hanrahan, L&M writer and photographer, as a personnel profile for First Hand, the L&M Hospital’s internal online magazine.  

Marian Lee, an L+M Hospital Chaplain, is also a weaver – a weaver of themes and cultures and ideas, all of which thread together in the words on the page of her first book, a fairy tale saga set in Wales, in a place called Brumley Hall, where a loving grandmother sometimes morphs into a lioness.

The 219-page book for “Tweens,” or middle-grade children, is titled The Lioness of Brumley Hall; And Her Most Unusual Grandchildren. On sale in the L+M Lobby Shop for $9.95, the self-published work stems from a lifelong literary passion, says August Pearson Benners (that’s Lee’s pen name on the book).

“Ever since I was in fourth grade I just had to write,” Lee says. “I kept journals with words and phrases, and I’ve always been fascinated with word play. I remember writing stories and having my teachers read them and give me feedback.”

That passion took flight one recent summer as Lee tried to decompress after a semester in Tampa, Florida working on a doctoral degree.

“I needed a break from academia,” she said. “Working on my Ph.D. was very intense. I was writing about five papers a semester, all academic writing, and I was reading a couple of books a week. So, over summer break, I just wanted to relax, but I couldn’t not write. I had had this book idea in my mind for a couple of years and it just suddenly all came together.”

While the book is aimed at kids grades 9 to 12, “It’s written sort of on two levels,” Lee says. “It’s a story about a magical family that works together to fight the evil king in the fairy world, so for kids it’s an action-fantasy-adventure. Then, I wrote it for my generation, too, with references that the kids might not necessarily get. So it’s a good read for grandparents and maybe parents as well.”

Themes woven through the chapters include environmental preservation, Celtic mythology, a touch of Buddhism and cultural diversity. There is a boy from a Jewish background and another character who is half Japanese, Lee says.

And, while Lee is a chaplain, “The book is not religious, although it does have spiritual concepts throughout,” she notes.

New to L+M in July, Lee has previous experience as a chaplain in Tampa, Florida. She moved back to the New England area in part because her son is stationed as an officer at the Submarine Base in Groton and because she missed the seasons and family nearby in Maine.

Lee says the work of being a chaplain is something that rivals her enthusiasm for the written word. Like the themes in her book, her work at L+M combines an appreciation and understanding for different cultures, religions and approaches to life.

As for the grandmother who turns into a lioness, that character is partly based on Lee’s own grandmother, an inspiration in Lee’s life. “She’s very present in the book,” Lee says. “My grandmother was a very straightforward, down-to-earth woman, but she often told me of her interesting mystical experiences, too, so she was open to the unseen world of spiritual experience.”

Lee will hold a book-signing at the New London Public Library at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19. She is also looking into the possibility of holding a signing event at the Lobby Shop.

And, for those who read and like The Lioness of Brumley Hall, there’s good news. “It’s going to be a series,” Lee says. “I’m already three-quarters of the way through the second book.”

Visionary Fiction Guest Post on Magical Realism

Magical Realism Art by Tomek Setowski
Magical Realism Art by Tomek Setowski

Revealing the Magical

Today’s post, Revealing the Magical,concludes last week’s post, The Visionary Perspectivein which I attempt to distinguish between the genres of visionary fiction and magical realism—how they differ and where they may overlap.

Magical Realism

The genre of magical realism blends the supernatural or what is typically unseen by human consciousness with the natural and familiar world by using the existence of fantasy elements in the real world. This is not done by inventing new worlds as fantasy books do, but in revealing the magical in this world.

The magical is a common and ordinary occurrence in my book, The Lioness of Brumley Hall, and harnessing these magical elements is one of its key themes. Political critique is often a main focus or subtext used to challenge the reality of established viewpoints. Cultural clashes are part of this critique. The Lioness does this by briefly highlighting the political/cultural clashes between China and Tibet and accessing the Celtic mythology of the Faerie. Continue reading “Visionary Fiction Guest Post on Magical Realism”

My Visionary Fiction Guest Post on Visionary Alliance Website

The Visionary Perspective

The Visionary Perspective

I suspect many of you, like me, struggle to define visionary fiction, not to mention how it differs from magical realism.

In today’s post, The Visionary Perspective, and next week’s post, Revealing the Magical, I will make an attempt to distinguish between the two genres—how they differ and where they may overlap.

An Accurate Place to Land

For me, an integration of visionary metaphysical and magical realism seems to be the most accurate place to land—a combination of the embrace of esoteric wisdom emphasizing the human transformative capacity and the hidden mystery of the magical elements breaking through into ordinary “real” life.

This type of fiction, according to Italian writer, Massimo Bontempelli, attempts to change the collective consciousness by “opening new mythical and magical perspectives on reality”.

The Unseen Within the Visible

Visionary FictionI knew exactly what I wanted to write about for my book, The Lioness of Brumley Hall, but struggled with how to explain it and where to place it on Amazon, Goodreads and even in bricks and mortar bookstores.

I knew the book was not pure children’s literature or fantasy.  My story takes place in a real world setting but with some unusual occurrences.

My main character, Gran, possesses a spiritual consciousness and attitude towards the daily world and tries her best to maintain this perspective in response to the unseen within the visible.

However, I thought it would be more interesting for children, particularly if they lived in the everyday world where magic was a part of their existence and used to achieve a deeper understanding of the transcendent.

Both visionary fiction and magical realism speak to the notion that reality is more than what is seen by what I call consensus consciousness. Continue reading “My Visionary Fiction Guest Post on Visionary Alliance Website”