Monday, April 2, 2012

Belief without Bounds

Day two of the A to Z Challenge and if you don't know what that is you may need to spend more time blogging. Here's the incredibly daunting list. I'll be working my way through it, slowly, over the course of the month, but say hello down below and I'll find you sooner!

Today B is for Belief.

"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" ~J.K. Rowling

 One of the things that I love about fantasy is that it opens up realms of belief that are no longer acceptable to modern society. As a rule, modern man has developed the idea that if you can't see it or touch it, it doesn't exist, though even sight is often doubted as smell, hearing and taste are. We demand that something has physical presence in order to exist.

This is the view that the inexperienced Harry Potter represents in the quote above. He wants to know if he is really, physically in the place where he speaks with Dumbledore at the end of Deathly Hallows or if he's only imagining it. (I won't say more about it in case any of you haven't read it.) But Dumbledore, wise in years, knows better. He knows that there is much that exists beyond what we can scientifically prove. The character Thomas Covenant from (wait for it) the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant has a much worse case of doubt than Harry. Thomas is a leper who gets into an accident and wakes up in the world of the Land where people have magic powers and there's an evil dark lord that they believe only Thomas can defeat. Thomas' education as a leper (a condition that makes it impossible to trust even your senses if you want to survive) convinces him that this is all a dream. It can't possibly be real. He fights against what the people of the Land want him to do, never truly accepting his destiny to be their hero. (It's for this reason that I don't like the character much.) The books chronicle a constant struggle between Thomas and the people of the Land. Them to convince him to become what he is meant to become and save them from destruction. Him to fight with every ounce of his being against what he sees as a mortally tempting descent into hallucination.

But most fantasy accepts that there is more to the world than meets the eye or brushes the hand. From the reality of gods of all shapes and sizes, to strange mythical creatures, to the ability of humanity to wield forces unimaginable with no more than our wills. Fantasy is all about exploring that which is beyond our human knowledge and our mortal strength. It reminds us that reality is more than what we can see, touch, smell, taste and hear. Fantasy allows us to believe, even if only for the span of a book, in fairies and monsters and gods and demons. Fantasy lets us be more than we could ever dream to be in this "real" world.


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  2. Really love that line from the HP books, Sarah. One of my favorites! I agree wholeheartedly about fantasy (and fiction in general, really); the best writers in the genre really know how to make you believe anything.

    It's why I read.

    By the by, I didn't realize this until now. I have a title character in one of my drafted novels with your exact name! I laughed out loud because I really noticed it just now. I swear I named her long before I knew you, so don't sue me for the usage or anything! : )

    The working title of the story is actually: Sarah McCabe & The Alpha Chip Protocol. You're totally famous on my hard drives!

    Looking forward to the rest of your A-Z.


    (had to make slight edit to appease the OCD gods)

    1. I think I'll pretend you named her after me anyway. ;) I never thought the name Sarah McCabe was interesting enough to be the title of a book. :)

  3. Like your last two lines a lot! The best authors make us truly believe in their worlds and their characters. I love it when that happens!

  4. I've always said that fantasy is more real than what we normally refer to as "reality". All the really important things --love, honor, morality, justice, hope-- can't be proven or seen to exist. We just have to believe in them to make them exist. Fantasy helps us open up to that. I think there is something about that in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather.

  5. Completely agree with everything you've said in this post. The "I believe in fairies" quote from Peter Pan completely epitomises what you've said. All you have to do is believe and everything can exist. I love that quote from Harry Potter. Also to me, Middle-earth and the Lord of the Rings is "real" and not just some story that I read in a book.

    I will definitely be following your blog now to keep up to date with your posts. I love fantasy so I'm looking forward to your posts throughout the challenge :)

    My theme for the month is The Lord of the Rings if you'd like you check it out :)

  6. We are following "Once Upon a Time", and the M/C problem is the lack of belief. Good post.

  7. Very nice. Great thoughts!

  8. I'm not a fan of the character Thomas Convenant either. I read the books a long time ago, but I remember he raped someone at the start, and then excused himself because he thought it wasn't real. Errr ... even if it wasn't real, why was he raping people in his dreams? He never grew on me.

  9. Just because I can't see something, doesn't mean I don't believe it.

  10. Yes it is belief that get us through a fantasy world of our own making...anyways nice post for B for a-z challenge do check out mine at GAC a-z

  11. I love the Thomas Covenant books. Donaldson is an excellent writer. Thomas is my favorite anti-hero, even if he's not likeable.

  12. Lovely post! And that is for sure one of my favorite HP quotes ever.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  13. Hi...I'm hopping over from the A to Z Challenge...nice to meet you! I write different types of children's stories (PB, MG, YA) but I am currently working on a YA historical fantasy (not my usualy genre) and you background picture captured my interest. I am a new follower. Good luck with the challenge...

    Donna Martin

  14. I struggle with fantasies...but I haven't given up on them! :)

  15. I remember struggling with Thomas too, because of his unbelief. I'd like to think if I got transported to a fantasy land, I'd believe in it whole-heartedly (though I'm sure I'd be a afraid, too, since i love my creature comforts and I know fantasy is also synonymous with difficult quests and tribulations of all sorts!)


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