KP Book Review: From Homer to Harry Potter

What can Christians glean from the genres of myth and fantasy? How do specific fantasy novels showcase certain worldviews? Where does the fantasy genre come from historically? And how should Christians view the use of magic in stories?from_homer_to_harry_potter

These are some of the many questions that Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara tackle in their work, From Homer to Harry Potter. Dickerson and O’Hara write from a perspective similar to Lewis and Tolkien’s, and they explain how this perspective enlightens the genre. The first half of the book largely focuses on exploring fantasy works that were written before Tolkien and Lewis redefined the genre. Then, post-Lewis and Tolkien, the writers move on to evaluate four different contemporary fantasy authors (Ursula LeGuin, Philip Pullman, Walter Wangerin, and J.K. Rowling) and how Christians ought to interpret their works.

The book can feel a bit disconnected between these two halves, but the writers do an excellent job in both categories. They have a clear understanding of how Lewis and Tolkien viewed myth and fantasy, which places many of the mentioned books in their proper context. The authors show how this view enhances not only our comprehension of the different works we read, but also our lives.

Additionally, they thoroughly analyze contemporary fantasy writers, drawing the authors’ worldviews out of their works and critiquing them. This was probably my favorite aspect of the book and the part that I recommend the most. Although I didn’t agree with all their conclusions (I thought they were too harsh on LeGuin, and I differ slightly on how to view the magic in Harry Potter), I appreciated and learned from their thoughts.

For lovers of myth and fantasy who want to dig deeper into the roots of the genre and how to view these kinds of works from a Christian perspective, this book would be a great addition to your shelf.

Discussion Questions:

How do Lewis and Tolkien define the genre of fantasy? Why do they think this genre is beneficial for readers?

How do the earlier forms of fantasy before Tolkien and Lewis differ from the fantasy we see today?

Do you agree with Dickerson and O’Hara’s conclusions on magic in their chapter on Harry Potter? Why or why not?

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.
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  1. Oh wow, this sounds like an awesome book. I love picking works of fiction apart and analyzing the author’s worldview. I must admit I’ve never seen an entire book on the subject though. 😛

  2. I’m going to have to check this out. Another great review 🙂

  3. I’m going to ask my library to get this. And if they don’t I’ll probably get it anyway. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. This sounds like a GREAT book. I need to read this over Christmas break!

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