I’ve always thought that the fantasy genre is like philosophy in images. Literary images. Metaphysical realities like good and evil, love and hatred, are visualised—in words—through a story which, though beyond our material reality, still has a very clear moral reality.
If you turn someone into a frog, your hatred has taken on a visual metaphor, and the consequences are evident. Fantasy can make hard to grasp realities just a little bit clearer.
Could any character better depict the bourgeois life than the humble hobbit? Or show the miserable, thuggish servitude of the cohorts of darkness than the death eater?
And so I believe it is important to introduce children to fantasy from a young age. Good fantasy, where these metaphysical truths—good and evil—are honoured and explored. C S Lewis or Lloyd Alexander are an obvious place to start.
More recently, Emily Rodda’s Three Doors Trilogy is a treat for introducing young readers to the moral inspiration of good fantasy.
The characters are smart and yet humble, daring and yet thoughtful, demanding and yet charitable. There’s loads of action and adventure, and the plot twists have your brain working hard to keep pace. The intricate puzzle made up of people, times and places comes together masterfully, revealing a whole new dimension from the finish line.
But above all, it explores deep truths which are normally hidden in everyday reality: courage and selflessness, humility and fortitude, and that moment when the ‘hardest way’ becomes the path to victory.
The three books in the series are best read from beginning to end without pause in order to get the most from the rich overlap of details. And after that… you’ll almost be ready for Tolkien.