Magic + Kids: Why I’m Pro

I know that there are many families out there that believe that magic is not appropriate for kids. They have viable arguments, they defend themselves, and I am not here to criticize them. But, I am here to offer the other side of the argument. If you’ve spent much time around here, you probably know that I am a big Narnian fan, and I just shared a review of 100 Cupboards last Friday which is a fun world-traveling book for kids, and {don’t tell anyone} I’m actually a bit of a Harry Potter fan.

fairytales

So, if you are one of those undecideds who isn’t quite sure what they think about magic for kids, then please read on, and I hope that my thoughts here will offer you a few morsels of thought that will help you make informed and wise decisions regarding the material that you allow your children to read and watch.

Now, to begin, I do believe that magic is something that we should be careful with. There are definitely instances in which too much magic can be detrimental for children, and especially when that magic is never followed with meaningful discussion or evaluation. In shepherding our children’s hearts, it is of paramount importance that we know them, their weaknesses, what is going to hurt or deter them, and respond accordingly. So, please do not take these as blanket statements, but rather as some things to ponder as you decide whether or not magic is an appropriate topic for your own children.

My thoughts on this topic are coming primarily from the book Live Like A Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles by Joe Rigney {hopefully you will be seeing a review of this in the next two months!}.

Magic is a part of this world.

“Magic is a real feature of the world that God has made.”

This quote from Rigney’s book is true, and I think it is something that we often glance over. I remember being challenged with this thought while listening to the Father Gilbert Series by Focus on the Family Radio Theater. {Still some of my favorites!} Father Gilbert, a former police detective turned vicar, often deals with ‘supernatural’ crimes or mysteries that come up within his parish. He brings up the fact that in the Bible, Jesus had to assure the disciples when He was walking on water that He was not a ghost (Matthew 14; Mark 6). We also see magicians and dream-interpreters in several Old Testament stories, including Joseph and Daniel. Whether or not magic plays a real part of our lives, and especially our spiritual lives, we cannot deny that it exists, and that even God, in the Bible acknowledges that it exists.

Rigney points out that, essentially, even miracles are a kind of magic, in that they are something that we cannot explain by normal scientific means. What it comes down to, then, is why and how magic is used and portrayed. There are, of course, instances of evil magic or black magic which can elevate sin and distort the beautiful story that God is writing. When that kind of magic is used, praised, or highlighted, then I think we need to be extra vigilant to not let such magic become desirable or good in our children’s eyes. We’ll get to this in the third point. 

However, magic is real, and denying that seems to perpetuate a state of chosen ignorance – it will not change the fact that magic does indeed exist. Magic that aims for the good and seeks to build people up can have some very positive effects on children. Which leads me to my second point . . .

Magic creates a parallel world in which to explore difficult issues. 

Probably you’ve heard G.K. Chesterton’s quote:

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist.Children already know the dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Or C.S. Lewis’:

“Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage… Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book.”

Lewis also discusses whether or not it is more healthy for a child to explore issues of fear and danger in stories which include magical knights and dragons, or stories of burglars and murderers such as exist in their very neighborhood. Is it safer, or more desirable for their fears to weigh on them so heavily that a parent cannot assuage them, as the parent himself wrestles with the same fears? Or, do we foster courage and nobility through stories of magnificent knights who face the giants and the dragons to rescue the maiden? Rigney writes that by using fairy tales, or stories of magic, we learn how we should live in this world:

“We go there so that we then can live better here. By taking us out of this world, Lewis enables us to become something that we weren’t before, something greater and grander, so that, when we return out of the wardrobe, we face our own Giants of Despair differently. We face them as true Narnians.”

dragons

The use of magic needs to be balanced and in correct position. 

As I mentioned above, magic that seeks the harm of others is unhealthy and wrong. Rigney points out that several times magic is forbidden in the Bible, especially in places where it is clearly linked to other sins. Magic is not an excuse for sin, nor should it be praised when it leads to sin. In the fairy tales we discuss with our children, this kind of magic should always be condemned, such as the magic of the Witch in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Her magic only furthered her own evil purposes to control the world and remain in power. This links to idolatry and pride.

However, Rigney also talks about magic in this way:

“When we acknowledge we ultimately do not control God and his power, and we seek power from the hand of God for the good of people, God’s miraculous signs and wonders through us might be described as a kind of good magic.”

“There is a kind of white magic in the stories: a magic wardrobe that is a doorway to another world as well as a “magic” in the house that came to life and chased the children into Narnia. Such magic is mysterious and beyond the children’s ability to control; they’re unable to enter Narnia at will.”

These positive uses of magic highlight truths about ourselves, in that there is something much bigger than us at work in this world, and the fact that we cannot understand that is okay, and maybe even healthy. Furthermore, this white magic or good magic is always working for good, not evil.

A final note I’d like to point out, and because I cannot say it any better than Rigney, I will just share his conclusion:

“This [speaking about the Deeper Magic when Aslan returns to life and breaks the stone table] is the true picture of magic in Narnia, and its magic is mirrored in our own world. Conflicts of power and enchantments are real, and they matter. But beneath the power encounters and magical warfare is Deep Magic and Deeper, the inflexible solidity of the Moral Law and the breathtaking beauty of Sacrificial Love. Lewis reminds us that substitution is a kind of magic, a mysterious and supernatural force that transforms the world, overcoming every form of treachery. In Narnia, as in our world, Deeper Magic triumphs over Deep Magic. Through sacrifice, Mercy triumphs over Judgment.”

—————

I agree with Rigney in that there are both right and wrong ways to think about and enjoy magic in stories. When it comes down to it, I am pro-magic for my kids for two primary reasons:

  1. I want them to realize how big and mysterious this world is. Trying to explain God and His plan for our lives and redemption is mind-boggling. I want them to taste magic from the time they are little so that they will be prepared to accept, without fully understanding, hard truths. I want them to be aware, yet trusting. I think magical worlds are a good place to start this critical thinking training.
  2. I want my children to expand their imaginations. I want them to see more worlds than what exists here. I want them to get excited about an hour in the woods because they can conjure up Mr. Tumnus and the Beavers. I want them to spend a day exploring the cupboards looking for post offices and links to enchanted places. I want them to enjoy spending time in their own mind, and not needing constant entertainment from someone or something else.

And in all reality, I want them to enjoy magic, because they are some of my favorite stories and I want to share them together.

“Some day you’ll be old enough to start reading fairy tales again . . .” -C.S. Lewis

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