Tag Archives: holidays

Christmas Fantasy

Today, I want to talk about fantasy tropes.

A trope is a commonly occurring motif or cliche, by the way. In Romance, for instance, you have a Happily Ever After. In a Detective Story, you get the big “reveal” explanation at the end.  While I talk, you can think about your favorite fantasies and what tropes they have.

(I’ve capitalized the tropes on purpose, for easy recognition.)

Almost all fantasy stories have a Hero, who is sometimes a Farm Boy or Poor Orphan but sometimes a Secret Prince (and sometimes both). Sometimes he’s a Chosen One, with or without a Prophecy. Sometimes he’s marked with a Special Sign that tells people he’s the Hero, and sometimes he’s so ordinary that nobody, including himself, believes that he’s the One. Sometimes the story starts with the Hero ready to Combat Evil, but sometimes the story starts earlier and the Hero has to Come of Age before he can really face his adversary.

Our Hero isn’t the only one in the story, of course. The Hero usually has Allies to help him Conquer His Enemies. There might be a Mentor of some kind. Sometimes his Allies include a couple of Best Friends, and sometimes, unfortunately, a Traitor. There’s sometimes a Damsel (or Dude) in Distress. On the other side, there’s almost always some sort of Dark Lord, though he might be called something else, and he has his Minions of Darkness, of course.

Most fantasy stories are about Good vs Evil, so all these characters will eventually face each other. They frequently go on some sort of Quest first, to gather a Weapon or learn how to use the Magic, or to collect their Allies. Sometimes they have a more ordinary Magic and depend more on personality characteristics to rally the troops and win, and sometimes their Magic is so spectacular that we can hardly believe it. There are usually some intermediate battles to fight before the Last Battle. The Protagonists (or Good Guys) will appear outmatched, but in the end, after several apparent defeats, they will Conquer their Enemies.

My favorite story has a lot of these fantasy tropes. The Hero is a Poor Boy (a carpenter instead of a farm boy, and living with his mother and step-father instead of being an orphan), but he’s also a Secret Prince whose real father is a king. He’s a Chosen One, Prophecy and all, but the Special Signs were all temporary, so he grows up with almost everyone believing he is totally ordinary. There are a few hints that he’s Special, but they are easily overlooked. The story starts with him as a baby, so he definitely needs a Coming of Age before he can Fight Evil.

As usual, he’s not the only one in the story. After he Comes of Age, he travels on a Quest, though is less physical than it is philosophical. He gets to know his real father, the King, and is given Power from him to save his Kingdom from the Dark Lord. Most people don’t believe him when he says who he is, but he is recognized by a Mentor and still Gathers Allies. He has *twelve* Best Friends. He combines the Rescue of Damsels/Dudes with the Quest to Learn to Use Magic, saving many as he goes. He even uses his Magic to bring one of his Allies back to life, which makes his Enemies very nervous.

This is the ultimate Good vs Evil story, and as the Hero’s Allies and Magic increase, the Minions of Darkness fight back. The Minions, of course, have a bigger army and more weapons and hold the current power in the Kingdom. Even though the Dark Lord commands his Armies from a distance through his chief Minions, his influence is strong, and his armies outnumber the Good Guys. They have no intention of letting the Hero gain power in the the Kingdom.

Despite the Good Guys being outmatched, they continue to gain Allies, partly because of his Magic, but mostly because of his personality. Then a Traitor among the Hero’s Best Friends swings the Battle to the side of the Enemies, right at a pivotal time. Our Hero is captured, illegally tried, tortured, and killed. Yes, really. It’s not a trick of the Author. And yes, it’s terrible.

It looks like the Chosen One and the Good Guys have lost. For three days, the Dark Lord’s Minions celebrate. Evil has won. The Hero is dead, and his Allies are hiding in fright. The story seems to be over.

Then our Hero pulls out his next bit of Magic. As it turns out, his capture and death were all part of The Plan. He uses his Power to come back from Death, and his Allies rejoice. The Enemies start the chase all over again, but they can’t catch our Hero anymore. Now he’s the Not-so-Secret Prince, and he rules the Kingdom. He doesn’t wipe out his Enemies yet, but only because he’s waiting for everyone to pick sides before the Final Battle.

Pretty cool story, huh? The best part is that it isn’t a Fantasy Story at all. It’s not even fiction. It has certainly inspired a lot of imaginary fantasies, in blatant or subtle ways, but it’s real, and we’re all part of the Epilogue.

So, in this Christmas season, I encourage you to read The Story with your family and think about the Hero of us all. (If you haven’t figured it out and need to know where to find The Story, let me know. I suspect you have The Book somewhere in your house.)

I wish for His Peace to be a Power in your life.
M. C. Lee

Christmas Reading List

Since Christmas is coming, I thought I’d list some of my favorite “Christmas” books. Some are set at Christmas-time, some are about Christmas, and some are about THE Christmas.

Set at Christmas

Marian’s Christmas Wish, by Carla Kelly. Adult Regency romance. Less fluffy than some of the genre. What I like best: the heroine is brave and determined and makes the hero change his mind about what he wants (with her brain, not her fluttering eyelashes).

Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series. Adult mystery. She has several Christmas volumes out by now, so pick one. The mystery is good, the humor is better.

The Thirteen Days of Christmas, by Jenny Overton. Young adult historical romance. Annaple’s suitor woos her with gifts. Mildly sweet, heavily funny.

About Christmas (loosely speaking)

The Silent Bells, by William MacKellar & Ted Lewin. Juvenile historical fiction. The cathedral bells are silent, but there’s a legend that one day they will ring again if the right gift is presented on Christmas.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Historical fiction. You know, the one about Ebenezer Scrooge. Although a little heavy-handed, it’s also a classic for a reason.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson. Juvenile contemporary. When the worst kids in town take over the annual Christmas pageant, the results are both absolutely hilarious and extremely touching.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. Juvenile poetry. If you’ve only seen the movie remakes, you are seriously missing out. (The cartoon based directly on the book is good.) This is the classic, and it’s a classic for a reason.

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas, by Madeline L’Engle. Juvenile contemporary. Vicky’s baby sibling is due around Christmas, but she doesn’t want it if it means Mother will be gone. A sweet Advent book.

The First Christmas

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher. Juvenile historical fiction. A young lady (disguised as a boy) and her younger brother with prophetic dreams join the Magi to visit the newborn Christ. I read it as a Beehive Award nominee, and it was one of my favorites that year.

How Far to Bethlehem? by Norah Lofts. Adult historical fiction. This story of the Magi is not as well-written (a bit dry & awkward), but the characters are compelling and the story is touching.

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey. Told from the point of view of the rebellious donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem, this is another hilarious-but-touching story.

Luke 2, in The Holy Bible. The ultimate classic story of Christmas. 😉

What’s your favorite Christmas story?

Merry Christmas,
M. C. Lee

Thanksgiving Reading List

I’m very thankful for my family, so in honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to post a list of some of my favorite books about families. I’ve limited it to fiction (or easy-to-read biography), not nonfiction/self-help/parenting.

In random order, but categorized for your convenience, here are a dozen suggestions for your Thanksgiving reading pleasure.

Contemporary (or close):

Cheaper by the Dozen/Belles on Their Toes, by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (Biography. Hilariously funny, tremendously moving, and not even in the same class as the stupid new movies.)

Chickens in the Headlights, by Matthew Buckley (Biography. Also hilariously funny.)

Ramona Quimby series, by Beverly Cleary (Such an accurate portrayal of the ups AND downs of family life.)

Dear Lola: Or How to Build Your Own Family, by Judie Angell (A bunch of orphans face off the world to form their own family.)

North of Beautiful, by Christina Chen (A girl with a birthmark learns about true beauty and love.)

Historical:

The Glamorist Histories series, by Mary Robinette Kowal (“Jane Austen meets magic,” but so intertwined with family drama. Could also be filed under fantasy.)

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (A confined girl is finally set free of her rooms and discovers what family should actually be like.)

The Five Little Peppers, by Margaret Sydney (Okay, so it’s pretty old-fashioned, but I love the way the siblings love each other so much.)

Fantasy:

Ordinary Magic, by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (When an ordinary girl is born into a magical family, what will they do with her?)

Castle Glower series, by Jessica Day George (When you’re an ordinary princess in an extraordinary family, how do you find a place for yourself?)

The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy, by Jessica Day George (The 12 Dancing Princesses, but better. And the series continues with other fairy tale retellings, so how can you go wrong?)

The Leland Sisters series, by Marissa Doyle (Historical YA romance, with sisters who are always there for each other.)

What are you thankful for this year? What book has made you the most thankful for something in your life?

Happy Thanksgiving (early),
M. C. Lee

Holidays and Hope

I’m going to break my pattern a little here, and talk about something other than books. Don’t worry, I’ll still be talking about hope and happy endings.

Christmas is my second-favorite holiday, right after Easter. Sure, I like chocolate and presents and family time and music, but that’s not why these two are my favorite. In fact, I’m not at all fond of the bunny and the man in the red suit, though I do try not to spoil the “fun” for other people’s children.

No, my preference for these two days is all about the Main Character in the story they tell. (Yes, I can talk about stories without talking about books.) You know Who I mean. Christmas is when we celebrate His birth, and Easter, to use literary terms, was the climax of His story. In fact, Easter heralds the climax of all our stories, all our happy endings.

Christmas reminds me of the hope the world felt at His birth. Hope that things would get better. Hope that people could find a way. Hope that their problems would end, but they would go on to a better chapter. Hope for relief from sorrow and pain. Hope for repentance and forgiveness. Hope for reconciliation and renewal. Hope for eternal life with His Father and ours. Hope is a powerful way to keep us turning pages, and we don’t have to worry about our hope being betrayed. The happy ending is waiting for us.

Easter is all our hopes fulfilled. Easter is when our Author autographed the book of our happy endings. Sure, we still have to read our personal stories, live through the ups and downs and story turns. And many times, the middle of the story is not much fun, whether we wrote it ourselves or someone else did. But at the end of each of our stories, there is a happy ending, thanks to Him. If we let Him sign our book, then whatever sad, happy, funny, or painful story covers most of the pages, the last page will share His story, His glory, His hope and happy endings.

How can you ask for a better story than that?

So during these holidays, look to the Light, the Life, and the Way. Look for hope and happy endings.

Be merry in Christ,

M.C. Lee