Fantasy Literature and Christianity

A Study of the Mistborn, Coldfire, Fionavar Tapestry and Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Series


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About the Book

The debate surrounding the Christian aspects of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter has revealed not only the prominence of religious themes in fantasy fiction, but also readers’ concerns over portrayals of religion in fantasy. Yet while analyses of these works fill many volumes, other fantasy series have received much less attention.
This critical study explores the fantastic religions and religious themes in American and Canadian works by Stephen R. Donaldson (Chronicles of Thomas Covenant), Guy Gavriel Kay (Fionavar Tapestry), Celia S. Friedman (Coldfire Trilogy), and Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn). References to biblical tradition and Christian teachings reveal these writers’ overall approach to Christianity and the relationship between Christianity and the fantasy genre.

About the Author(s)

Weronika Łaszkiewicz, Ph.D., works at the Institute of Modern Languages at the University of Białystok (Poland). She has written a number of articles on fantasy fiction and American literature.

Bibliographic Details

Weronika Łaszkiewicz

Series Editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 223
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7170-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3483-8
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 3

1. Religion in Modern Fantasy Literature—A ­Cross-Disciplinary Approach

  Definitions and Classifications of Modern Fantasy Literature 9

  The Influence of Myths on the Religious Aspects of Modern Fantasy 24

  Phenomenology of Religion and the Study of Fantasy Literature 32

  Christianity in Fantasy Literature—Recent Studies 42

2. The Christian Foundation of Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
  Introduction to The Chronicles 57

  Images of the Numinous 61

  The Numinous and Institutionalized Religion 65

  Other Faces of the Numinous 69

  Secondary Mythology, Instruments of Power, Sacred Places and Events 73

  Biblical References in the Figure of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever 79

  Christianity and Donaldson’s Fictional Gods 82

  Christian Undertones in the Selected Themes of The Chronicles 86

  Christian Symbols and Language in The Chronicles 91

  The Chronicles and Christian Ethics 96

  Criticism of Institutional Religion 101

  Stephen Donaldson and the Religious Dimensions of The Chronicles 103

3. Christianity as a Constituent of Religious Pluralism in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry

  Introduction to The Fionavar Tapestry 107

  Images of the Numinous 108

  Other Faces of the Numinous 114

  Religious Practices and Institutions in the World of Fionavar 117

  The Protagonists’ Experiences of the Numinous 120

  Diversity in the Structures of Fionavar’s Secondary Religions 123

  Christianity and the Fionavarian Numinous 127

  Biblical Motifs and Christian Ethics in The Fionavar Tapestry 129

  Guy Gavriel Kay and the Religious Dimensions of The Fionavar Tapestry 133

4. The Fantastic (De-)Evolution of Christianity in Celia S. Friedman’s The Coldfire Trilogy

  Introduction to The Coldfire Trilogy 136

  Images of the Numinous 138

  The Church on Erna and other Religious Institutions 140

  The Church on Erna and Christianity 145

  Biblical References and Christian Morality in the Portrayal of the
  Protagonists 150

  Coldfire and the Motif of (Self-)Sacrifice 155

  Divine Grace and Salvation Through Faith 158

  Celia S. Friedman and the Religious Dimensions of The Coldfire Trilogy 161

5. The Alternative Vision of Salvation Through Christ in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Series

  Introduction to the Mistborn Series 164

  Images of the Numinous 166

  Religious Institutions and the Process of Religious Reformation

  Deification 175

  Religious Pluralism in the Wax and Wayne Series 176

  Christian Elements in the Portrayal of the Fictional Numinous 181

  The Christ Figure and the Fictional Church 184

  Christianity and Ascension to Godhood 188

  Brandon Sanderson and the Religious Dimensions of the Mistborn Series 191

Conclusion 194

Chapter Notes 199

Works Cited 205

Index 211

Book Reviews & Awards

“A definite boon to scholars of the fantastic”—Fafnir-Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research