The Fantasy Makers: Tolkien, Lewis, and MacDonald
"The Fantasy Makers" is a Canadian documentary which is chockfull of fascinating information about three fantasy writers, all Christians, who have authored some of the best known and best-loved books of the last sixty-plus years. Two of the authors' names are immediately recognizable: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, authors of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Chronicles of Narnia", respectively. The third author, George MacDonald, is not so well known. MacDonald was a 19th-century Scottish minister and writer. He was a major influence on both Tolkien and Lewis, and the first part of the documentary tells us a lot about MacDonald's life, including this tasty morsel: that MacDonald "writes the first-ever work of fantasy of the modern era," a book that "Is the Harry Potter of its day," The book is
Director Andrew Wall chose fourteen interview subjects for his documentary, ranging widely across the spectrum of people considered experts of fantasy literature. His interview subjects include a Methodist pastor and gamer, Derek W. White, who is known as the Geek Preacher, Dr. Helen Cooper, Professor of English at the University of Cambridge, and Matthew T. Dickerson, a professor of computer science and fantasy writer, and eleven others. All of the participants offer insightful and pertinent information on the three authors featured in "The Fantasy Makers," and on the history, challenges, and attributes of fantasy literature, as well
Shot partly on location in the province of Manitoba, Canada, the interviews take place in libraries, gracious book-filled offices, and at least one church. All of these locations add an aura of beauty to the film. In addition, actors represent the three featured authors at various stages in their lives, which helps to give the documentary a visual time-stamp.
One of the surprising revelations of "The Fantasy Makers" was an observation by two contributors, Malcolm Guite, and Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson. They believe England experienced a time when the English, as a people, lost their story -- their identity. After the Invasion of Normandy in 1066, says Malcolm Guite, the English abandoned the Arthurian legends and other myths of their past and took on stories of France, Rome, and Greece. George MacDonald, among others, recognized this regrettable situation and it was at this time that he wrote "Phantastes." According to Guite and Johnson, it was because the popular fantasy story "Phantastes" told of knights and chivalry in ancient England that the English became reacquainted with and grew interested in regaining their own story. Their imaginations had been awakened by a fantasy story, but they then moved from fantasy to reality and began pursuing their English identity. Such is the power of story. As author, professor, and theologian, Leonard Sweet says in his video from Tabor College (Tabor E-lab #6, 2014) "Bring Back the Table": "Identity requires narrative form."
"The Fantasy Makers" is an excellent documentary which discloses many fascinating aspects of the lives and works of fantasy writers George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. Buy yourself a copy of this DVD and get ready to be delighted and surprised.