No Jewish Narnias: A Reply
I like my fantasy high and my Judaism deep. In my essay “Why There Is No Jewish Narnia,” I explored the question of why these two things don’t come together as they have for Christianity, and whether this might tell us something about both. I didn’t expect the controversy that ensued though perhaps I should have, since people are almost as passionate about Judaism and Christianity (and the differences) as they are about fantasy literature.
To recap, I suggested that high fantasy in the mode of Tolkien and Lewis has been an uncomfortable genre for modern Jews, both because of fantasy’s medieval ambience and because of the fervent Jewish commitment to modernity. But my real focus was on whether there can be fantasy—what Tolkien in his essay “On Faerie Stories” called the work of “sub-creation” for the purpose of “enchantment”—that is profoundly Jewish. That is, I wondered aloud how suited the theology of normative Judaism—profoundly demythologizing, halakhic, and without a developed tradition of evil as an autonomous force—is to the making of modern fantasy.
I want to respond to three of my most thoughtful critics, Abigail Nussbaum on her blog, Ross Douthat at The New York Times, and David Goldman of First Things.