Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gods with a small "g"?

I have a question for all you Christian readers and writers out there. What do you think of literature that incorporates gods into the story as characters? You know, gods like Zeuss or Jupiter or others from ancient mythology.

I'm asking this now because I recently finished reading The Lightning Thief, the first book of a kids' series called Percy Jackson and The Olympians. The premise is that twelve-year-old Percy, a misfit who has been expelled from numerous schools but still is a pretty good kid, discovers that he is one of many "half-bloods" in the world. In other words, his mother is a regular mortal woman, but his absentee father is actually the god Poseidon. Percy discovers this when some not-so-mythological-after-all monsters try to kill him, and he is sent for his protection to Camp Halfblood, where a lot of other children like himself learn how to fight and live with their unique situation.

The Lightning Thief was, for the most part, an imaginative and enjoyable read, and Percy is a pretty admirable little hero. But I have to admit, I'm always a bit uncomfortable with stories with gods and goddesses. The Percy Jackson stories are secular books, of course, but I had the same problem when I read The Chronicles of Narnia last year. I loved Aslan and all the Christian imagery, but then started to squirm when Baccus came prancing through, or when the characters were saved by a river god.

I trust C.S. Lewis and his writing, though, and I know that Shakespeare sometimes threw in an appearance by a goddess or two. (I'm thinking of The Tempest in particular.) So what am I missing?

Is this just another of those things that you have to examine the motives of the writer and the rest of the story? Or could it be that in Shakespeare's and even Lewis's day, no one believed in gods and goddesses anymore so they didn't have to fear anyone taking the story seriously? I'm not sure I could say that in these Da Vinci Code times.

So what do y'all think?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Robin,

    I thought this was a new post, but it has an older date. When was it published, and if it is old, I wonder how I missed it. Anyway, I've been thinking about this question since I saw the taglines on facebook. In my mind, a distinction has been forming between Greek gods, for example, and hindu gods. And I guess that is because it seems that no one believes seriously that Zeus exists anymore, but many people apparently believe in the many, many gods of hinduism and other more eastern religions. What are your thoughts on this? I definitely believe distance and legend have a lot to do with it- are these characters archetypes, as Theresa suggested on facebook, figures from mythology that once represented reality to people but now only represent culture, or are they real life idols that people follow. Also, the context of the book- is it a fairy tale or meant to be taken literally, and the intentions of the author matter a lot to me!