Fantasy fiction and religion have obvious similarities: like religious narratives, fantasy fiction is populated by superhuman beings (elves, dragons, ghosts, gods) and full of magic and miracles. Due to its more or less religious content, fantasy literature lends itself to religious use, and this lecture discusses two categories of ‘religious use of fantasy fiction’. First, we examine how authors of fantasy fiction use fantasy as a narrative vehicle to get a religious message across. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, for example, are fantasy works that are not intended to be believed literally but which nevertheless communicate certain religious truths and values. Lewis does not, for instance, want the reader to believe that Aslan is real, but he does want the reader to understand that Aslan is a metaphor for Christ. Second, we examine three cases of religious use of fantasy that go against the intentions of the author: Satanists and chaos magicians who invoke the monster gods from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, Jediists who have created a religion based on George Lucas’ Star Wars series, and practitioners of Tolkien Spirituality who engage in rituals with the Elves and the Valar (lower gods) of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth fantasy. Besides describing these fascinating examples of fantasy-based (or broader: fiction-based) religion, the lecture takes up the more theoretical questions of how fiction-based religions emerge and develop, and which kind of fantasy it takes to ‘afford’ religious use.
If you wish to attend, please write to the secretary of Religious Studies, Antoinette Rutten, firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information, write to: email@example.com.