Pondering the work of Christian fantasy-novelists J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Michael Weingrad asks, "why don’t Jews write more fantasy literature?" Weingrad is not only curious why there are few Jewish fantasy-writers of their stature. He also wonders why there aren't any such novels that have notably Jewish themes. As he puts it,
Why are there no works of modern fantasy that are profoundly Jewish in the way that, say, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is Christian? Why no Jewish Lewises, and why no Jewish Narnias?
Weingrad has a few theories. First, "the conventional trappings of fantasy, with their feudal atmosphere and rootedness in rural Europe, are not especially welcoming to Jews, who were too often at the wrong end of the medieval sword." Second, Weingrad thinks that "for Jewish writers working after the Holocaust," the fantasy genre's themes of redemption and magic in our world "becomes all but impossible." But there's more:
To put it crudely, if Christianity is a fantasy religion, then Judaism is a science fiction religion. If the former is individualistic, magical, and salvationist, the latter is collective, technical, and this-worldly ... Christianity has a much more vivid memory and even appreciation of the pagan worlds which preceded it than does Judaism ... In general, Judaism is much warier about the temptation of dualism than is Christianity, and undercuts the power and significance of any rivals to God, whether Leviathan, angel, or, especially for our purposes, devil ... Judaism is far more skittish about acknowledging the existence of powers acting apart from God, even in rebellion--which leaves a lot less room for magic.
Is this true, and is this enough to explain the phenomenon? Why are there so few Jewish fantasy writers?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.