Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why There Is No Jewish Narnia

Michael Weingrad has written an intriguing article for the Jewish Review of Books that makes me assess the work of Lao Americans writing fantasy and science fiction in a new light as well.

The essay opens with the fine retort Tolkein gave when the Nazis wanted assurances he wasn't Jewish before they brought the Hobbit to Germany. Tolkein not only critiqued them on the proper use of the term Aryan but noted:  “As far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects.” As to being Jewish, Tolkien regretted that “I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”

Among the notable bits, Weingrad suggested
"...we should begin by acknowledging that 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. Ever since the Crusades, Jews have had good reasons to cast doubt upon the romance of knighthood, and this is an obstacle in a genre that takes medieval chivalry as its imaginative ideal."
It's a long article, but offers some intriguing notions that have applications for other communities and cultures.

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