Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fantasy in My Veins (#SilmAwards2017)

Well, my friends, the 2017 SilmAwards have come to a glorious and bittersweet end. If you missed any of the presentations, I finally got around to putting a list at the end of my own presentation post, which you can find HERE. Thanks for joining us in this epic event!

Now, to wind it all down on the very birthday of Lord of the Rings, we're throwing a party to celebrate Tolkien and all things fantasy! Feel free to join in with your own blog post or update on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever, using #SilmAwards2017. The more the merrier, of course. (And one side of me is chuffed as chips that this coincides with Realm Makers--how appropriate!)

Last year I presented a small smorgasbord of Lord of the Rings stuff--quotes, pictures, musings on what the books and movies and soundtracks mean to me, etc. Today I wish to broaden my view with a reflection on my reading history, and fantasy as a genre.

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picture via Pinterest, graphics my own

Fantasy is my literary homeland.

See, I grew up in a family that treasured stories. My parents read to me copiously as a child. I vividly remember afternoons snuggled up next to my mom with a picture book, prodding her awake and asking her to reread pages when she grew sleepy and began slurring the words I'd memorized . . . evenings gathered around the kitchen table to eat night snack with my siblings while my father read a storybook of our choice . . . trips to the library every three weeks, during which my family of six would haul out 60-70 books at a time . . . lonely bus rides during my earliest elementary school years (prior to homeschooling) when I would bury my nose in a book and ignore the noisy teenagers in the back seats . . . I even recall bedtimes as a teenager, when my dad read a chapter of a novel to me every night just for old time's sake.

I remember learning to read. I remember my parents telling me that books were like picture windows. When one learns how to read, one can go through those windows into another place.

I remember grade one, when a beloved teacher taught me the bare bones of crafting a story: beginning, middle, and end. She unlocked the first of many doors into a world of making my own magic.

I was hooked.

The moment I mastered beginner readers with stories like "The cat sat on the mat," I reached for bigger books with longer sentences. From there I jumped to novels like Anne of Green Gables, which was marvellously long and dense for such a young mind, and full of words I didn't yet understand. As I outgrew animal stories about puppies and horses, I discovered the mystery genre. The Boxcar Children, Jigsaw Jones, Nancy Drew, and Mandy Shaw books held me in suspense and piqued my fascination with the unknown, with secrets to be discovered and trails to be followed.

But the moment a young classmate recommended The Chronicles of Narnia to me was the moment that changed the course of my reading years. I distinctly remember climbing to the second floor of my school library and hunting down the name C.S. Lewis. That day I went home with a copy of The Magician's Nephew, and I was utterly enchanted.

I was rather young at the time, perhaps eight years old. My parents were wise enough to put the rest of the series, which was a wee bit over my head, on hold for when I turned ten. Yet another clear memory: the day they put a massive tome containing all seven Narnia books in my hands.

There was no looking back. I had found a world that entranced me, inspired me, kept me captive and set me free all at once. The idea that another world might be as close as the next wardrobe nestled somewhere deep inside my heart. Here was a genre that deepened my understanding of reality by stretching my vision into realms beyond my own. Here was a genre that strengthened my hands with the courage of a knight and filled my heart with the compassion of a hero. A genre that allowed me to soar on dragon's wings.

Thereafter followed several years of testing my mother's patience every single time we visited the library. I very quickly exhausted their supply of age-appropriate fantasy, plagued my mother with cries of "I have nothing to read!" and subsequently turned down every thoughtful suggestion she made that fell outside the realm of my beloved fantasy. (God bless Mom.) She eventually managed to help me stretch my horizons, and I found enjoyment in a collection of other genres as well.

Older horse stories took me to Thoroughbred races and equestrian shows. Frank Peretti took me to wild jungles with the Cooper family. Melody Carlson immersed me in the elitist ranks of drama-loving high school girls. Countless other authors introduced me to all sorts of wonderful things.

But fantasy remained my One True Love. From the beginning of my teenage years, Bryan Davis and Wayne Thomas Batson pulled me into worlds of dragons, slayers, quests, and swords. More recently, authors like Anne Elisabeth Stengl have painted heart-rending images in my mind's eye of love and loss and beauty all wrapped up in another realm. And so many other authors in between have done the same.

I'm thankful for all the genres I've read, no doubt. But fantasy is where I feel most at home. Fantasy is often where I experience the greatest joys and deepest sorrows as a reader. It's where my imagination takes flight. And most importantly, it's where I see facets of the real Author's character the clearest.

pictured above: The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis // Liberator, Bryan Davis //
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien // Halt's Peril, John Flanagan // The Door Within,
Wayne Thomas Batson // Heartless, Anne Elisabeth Stengl // The Bones of Makaidos,
Bryan Davis // White, Ted Dekker // The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien //
Prophet, R.J. Larson // Raven's Ladder, Jeffrey Overstreet

In Aslan of The Chronicles of Narnia, I witness His sacrificial love.

In King Eliam of The Door Within, I see His blinding glory.

In the actions of Billy, Bonnie, Professor Hamilton, Sapphira, and their friends from the world of Dragons in Our Midst, I see what great warriors of the faith are capable of doing.

In the Prince of Farthestshore of Tales of Goldstone Wood, I see my Savior wooing me to His side, and in the song of the wood thrush I hear Him calling me to His path.

In the waters of Elyon from the Circle quartet, I find transformative joy.

In the Keeper of the Auralia Thread, I sense His mystery.

In the courage of hobbits, the strength of men, the wisdom of elves, and the determination of dwarves in Lord of the Rings, I see treasure hidden in jars of clay. I see what happens to the small and insignificant when committed to the hands of One much greater.

I escape into fantasy not to avoid the trials of this life here on earth, but to find wells of inspiration that bolster my faith to face them.

And that, my friends, is why I call fantasy my homeland. These books and more echo the cry of my heart for something beyond this world, for something greater than myself, for wonders hidden beneath what my eyes can see--and to all those desires, I hear my Father answering yes, yes, yes.

Yes, the unseen is more real than the seen. Yes, I AM greater than you yet know. Yes, I have hidden jewels of wonder in the crevices of your days, and the final treasure trove awaits beyond the veil of this life. Yes, I am here. Yes, I am present. Yes, I care. Yes, I am the One who compels you to a quest of your own, the One who charts your best path, the One who infuses your weary limbs with strength, the One who promises a crown to all those who stay the course.

Perhaps I stray too close to the ditch of exaggeration, but I think not. God knows what best speaks to our hearts, and I think He finds pleasure in my delight over the fictional worlds I travel. Whatever mouthpiece will speak the loudest, the clearest, is different from person to person. But as for me, the far-flung reach of fantasy is one of the greatest calls I hear.

It's a call I have listened to for years, and it is one I shall return to again and again for years to come. For me, fantasy is woven into the song of my Father.


  1. TRACEY. THIS - THIS! I literally have no words. Nothing.

    This was so beautiful, and I loved it SO MUCH. Everything I say in my comment isn't going to be enough to say how much I LOVED THIS, but I DID. Thank you so so much for sharing it, it's one of the best posts I've read this month. <3 <3 <3 <3

    Sadly, I'm going to be too busy to get a post up for the LotR celebration - I meant to, but I didn't have enough time to write a post that would be "quality" enough to suit me xD. But I so enjoyed reading yours! Thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts with us, Tracey! <3

    ~ Savannah | Scattered Scribblings

    1. *BEAR HUGS* Savannah, I don't think *I* have words to properly say it, but thank you so much! <3 I'm deeply honored to hear that this resonated with you.

      No worries! You can always put up a LotR-inspired post on your own time someday. I'd love to read your thoughts on it too. (But I totally understand not having the time to write a post of high enough quality. XD)

  2. This was so beautiful, Tracey. I know you're at Realm Makers and won't see this for a while... but thank you for sharing. Your story is eerily similar to mine. :)

    1. 'Ello, I'm back! Your story is similar? That's so neat--I'd love to hear it sometime. Thanks for your lovely comment! :D

  3. Amazing post, Tracey. Your reading journey is similar to mine with trips to the library and reading at night (though I didn't find my love for fantasy until I became a teenager). The end of this post is shiver-inducing! God does delight in our delight of stories, I think. Praise be to the Father!

    1. Is it? Awesome! I love hearing people's stories--how they got where they are in life, how authors got into the writing business, how readers fell in love with certain books and genres... all of it. So I think it's wonderful that you discovered fantasy as a teen! You were probably more self-aware of what was happening than I was. XD

      Yes, praise Him!

  4. Wow, Tracy...I never have thought of fantasy in that light before! I should read more fantasy, haven't been able to get a hold of any good ones lately.


    1. Well, I'm happy to hear I've offered a new perspective! But oh dear, a reading slump, particularly in the fantasy genre, is never fun. What kind of fantasy do you enjoy? There's so much variety, so many subgenres, that I could run around willy-nilly offering suggestions you might not even like. But if I know your tastes, I'd LOVE to share some recommendations! :)

  5. Oh my gracious alive. *clutches heart* This post is too gorgeous for this earth. I...I literally don't even know what to say. You've rendered me speechless with the beauty of your words. I just want to soak up the beauty and truth of this post and keep it inside me forever.

    I absolutely adore how important stories were to you and your family during your growing up years. I can so relate to that. I devoured books like nobody's business all through my childhood and on. (I miss those days where I actually had time to read all the time...heh.) And then when fantasy entered my life...oh my. There was no going back. I think I ALWAYS loved fantasy and fairytales. But I don't think I was entirely aware of how MUCH fantasy was a part of me until I read The Hobbit at the age of ten. Then my awareness of it came alive and...well...the rest is history. XD I toootally relate to being desperate for more fantasy books but unable to find any, too! I struggled with that for yeeears. Now I laugh at those times as I lay suffocating under my 2983498034 books from my TBR pile. Eheh. Ah, simpler times.

    But ANYWAYS, everything you said about fantasy. Just...YES. Fantasy isn't an escape from reality, it teaches us the TRUTHS of life to help us better understand them, to help give us a broader knowledge of the world and life.


    1. A certain commenter I know is too wonderful for this earth too! ;) <333 Does it get old, me shouting THANK YOU all the time? XD

      Oh, YES, I miss those long stretches of childhood reading too! (One reason why vacation was so lovely. I can't remember the last time I devoured a book in a day or two. *happy sigh*) I hear you--when fantasy calls you, that's the point of no return! I love your story of discovering The Hobbit. What a classic entry point into fantasy! LOL, now we drown in our TBRs and laugh maniacally about those childhood book shortage woes... XDDD

      AMEN, SISTAH. ^_^

      BUT AWWW, THANK YOU. I'm so glad!

  6. Very nice. I like Christine's penultimate paragraph above with her explanation of what fantasy is to her. I'm a sci-fi enthusiast foo, but fantasy is my greatest love. My third-grade teacher read the class The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and I started my first Harry Potter novel before that grade ended. The Order of the Phoenix was my choice, as an 870-page hardcover just seemed insane, but I wanted to do it.

    1. Your third-grade teacher sounds like an angel with great reading tastes! Yikes, 870 pages is massive for anyone, especially for an elementary school student! I applaud your ambition. XD

      And as for sci-fi, I like the IDEA of it, but have never really gotten into the genre. I should keep trying, though. So far the only brushes with the genre I've had that I've really enjoyed, however, are closer to the soft sci-fi end of things, maybe even a blend of fantasy and sci-fi. Any good recommendations for what to try next?

    2. Well, you can find some great sci-fi short fiction around, but for novels, I'd recommend the Enderverse books to start. Ender's Game is the first one, then I've read the next three (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and The Children of the Mind) which are a lot different from Ender's Game but equally great.

    3. I've actually been interested in Ender's Game, so thanks for reminding me it's out there. I did quite enjoy the movie version of it, so that's promising. Thank you!


    It's amazing how much fantasy can shape someone's life, and it's amazing how much of our Savior we can find when reading it. So, so cool. Thank you for sharing this!! ^_^


      Yes, it's amazing how much FICTION, PERIOD can shape someone's life! I love how God uses it to impact us as readers. ^_^

  8. Beautiful post,kinda like a love letter to books and God.

    1. Oh my goodness, Skye, that is the PERFECT description! <3

  9. This was so beautiful to read. Thank you for sharing your reading journey. So much of what you wrote about why you read fantasy resonated deep within my soul. Thank you for putting into words things I have only felt.

    1. Wow, thank YOU, Jenelle! That's wonderful to hear. *hugs* I love how fantasy impacts us so deeply!

  10. Love this post! I like how you grew up with fantasy. I didn't actually grow up with it although we did read Narnia aloud. I discovered it as an older teen, but a good fantasy book still feels like coming home. Awesome post!

    1. Thank you, Ashley! Ah, Narnia practically BEGS to be read aloud, doesn't it? But like I said to Abbey, there's probably an upside to falling in love with fantasy at an older age. You might have a clearer remembrance of your thought processes, the book(s) that started it all, etc. Thanks for the comment! :)


    I LOVED this. So, so beautiful, especially as fantasy is the genre of my heart, too. All my life I've been a voracious and wide reader, dancing over many genres, but, certainly as a child, nothing could thrill me as much as returning to worlds of magic. It's so lovely that Narnia was That Series for you. For me? I can't quite remember. Potentially Pure Dead Magic by Debi Gliori (hilarious Scottish fantasy), or the Icemark Chronicles by Stuart Hill (still some of my favourite books!) or the Inkheart trilogy. Then when I was nine, Harry Potter came along and changed my life. But I did love fantasy before Harry.

    (Confession: I was twelve or maybe even thirteen (or actually maybe fourteen, I think) when I read all of Narnia for the first time. I'd read some of them when I was younger, but never made it to the end. Baffling, yet true. And it wasn't until I was embarrassingly old (like, sixteen) that I read LotR! Whoops.)

    It is so, so true, that other worlds can teach us about our own, and tap into our desire for our true home, a home far more wonderful than this world. And, on the flipside, books about magic teach us to find magic in the everyday, too.

    Once again, LOVED this post. I've said it before, I'll say it again: you are a beautiful writer <3


      I looked up Pure Dead Magic and it does sound hilarious! (Very cool that it's Scottish as well.) Ohhhh, the Icemark Chronicles--I keep meaning to read those because you've flailed about them so much and they're apparently kind of obscure...! Harry Potter is also on the TBR.

      To me, Narnia is so magical that it doesn't matter what age you discover it! Wasn't it C.S. Lewis who said that a book worth reading as a child should be worth reading as an adult? I was about sixteen when I started LotR too! :D I don't think I would've appreciated it at a much younger age, anyways. It's such a rich, dense writing style.

      Yes! I love that flipside you mentioned! The magic we read about open our eyes to the beautiful things in the real world. So well put!

      Awwww, thanks so much, darling! <333