Tuesday, January 04, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: The Wolf of Tebron Day Two

Yesterday I may have given the impression that The Wolf of Tebron by C. S. Lakin was entirely forgettable. That's not entirely true. While the story itself was a pleasant diversion that didn't make too much of an overall impression, there were a few statements Lakin made in the pages through her characters that made my eyebrows shoot up into my rapidly-receding hairline. Perhaps I was reading too much into said statements, but they left me a little uneasy. But before we discuss what those statements were, I'd better break out my old friend . . .

First time for 2011! May the King of All Monsters continue to warn those who visit my little corner of cyberspace of impending spoilers!

Ahem. Sorry, I guess I got carried away there for a moment.

The first time Lakin really made me wonder what she was trying to say was when Joran visited the Sun's palace. The Sun's mother, Sola, discusses what keeps her child burning, namely human wickedness. At first, I thought that was clever and perfectly in keeping with the fairy tale nature of the story.

But then Sola said this:
The ironic thing is . . . the Sun will not speak to the sons of men because of his anger, yet his anger is what keeps them alive, for if he ever stopped burning, that would be the end of man. So another balance is required. Men must keep doing evil to keep the Sun burning. You could conclude, then, that maybe wickedness has a place in this world, and in another sense, is its very foundation.
So is Lakin implying that wickedness (or sin, to call it by another name) is a necessary part of this world? That it must exist to keep things in balance? Sola said that one could conclude that but this statement is never challenged by anyone. And it left me a bit uncomfortable because while sin might be foundational to a fallen world, I would strenuously object to the idea of sin being somehow necessary to God's creation.

Now if that was all that I found that worried me in this book, I would never have brought it up. But then there's the ultimate fate of Ruyah the "wolf."

In the end of the book, Ruyah turns out to be Joran's birthfather, one who sacrifices himself so Joran and Charris can be saved. This act allows him to claim the sunstone to defeat the all-consuming darkness that took his wife.

At times, Lakin paints the wizard as an immortal being of great power. Other times, he sounds almost human. By the time the book was done, I got the distinct impression that the wizard was a powerful human being, a long-lived one, whose sacrificial act somehow elevated him to a status worthy enough to claim and use the sunstone.

And that caused all sorts of alarm bells to go off in the theological centers of my brain. If I am correct that the wizard/Ruyah is supposed to be a sort of Christ-figure (and heaven knows that I've been wrong about such things before), then this portrayal drifts entirely too close to adoptionism for me to be comfortable.

Now maybe I'm making mountains out of molehills. Like I said, I've done that before, most notably with Donita K. Paul's Paladin character and Auralia in Jeffrey Overstreet's books. But as I've said before, we, as Christian authors, have to be careful when we create characters who could be mistaken for allegories for Christ. People might make some assumptions about what we're trying to say about the Real Deal, and that could be problematic.

So what do you all think? Am I overreacting yet again? Maybe some of my fellow tourists will have a different opinion. Well, there's only one way to find out:

Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler


Robert Treskillard said...

I had the same concerns, John, but decided to give the author the benefit of the doubt and tried not to read in too deeply. On my blog I pointed out that one might mistake C.S. Lewis for being a Monist because he has no analog to God the Father or God the Holy Spirit in The Chronicles of Narnia. Read The Wolf Of Tebron lightly, was my advice.

John said...

Not to quibble, but Lewis does make reference to the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea who is said to be Aslan's Father.

But I do agree with your advice. I have a tendency to be too serious when it comes to my reading.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Did either of you read the opening to the discussion at the back of the book? In that Lakin makes some fairly clear statements about what she was aiming to accomplish. No guess work needed, I think.


John said...

Ummmmm . . .
I plead the Fifth?
No comment?

No, I didn't. I'll go hide in a corner somewhere.

Jason said...

I wouldn't hide if I were you John. The author writes their book and that is their "grand statement". Yes, authors can state in a foreward, postscript, discussion, etc, what they are thinking. But in my mind, if they don't make it clear in the body of work, they do so at their own risk. Now I'm OCD when it comes to reading (I'll read the cereal box at breakfast), so I read everything the author puts in there, but I don't think they should *assume* people will read it. My impression is most won't. Anyway, I don't think it should be held against you if you didn't.

The defense rests.

Anonymous said...

In tomorrow's post, I said I had a hard time with the novel at first. I was really trying to find the allegorical references, comparisons to Lewis, etc. I finally gave up and read it as strictly fairy tale. That made me like the book and the characters more. I may have missed what the author was hoping to achieve with this method, but the other way was just making my head hurt.

Fred Warren said...

I'm with Beckie on this--I had a much better time reading the book once I stopped trying to ferret out the references and symbols and approached it as a fairy tale. That said, there definitely are some passages that are perplexing if you don't know what the author's trying to do (or even if you do). I think John's concern is legitimate and part of the extra burden a book carries if it's marching under the banner of Christian fiction.

As to Lewis, there's a beautiful, unambiguous, Trinitarian image near the end of The Horse and His Boy, when an unseen Aslan is walking beside Shasta in the mist, keeping him from falling off a sheer cliff.
Shasta asks who it is that's walking with him, and Aslan replies, "Myself," in three different ways representative of the three Persons of the Trinity.

Robert Treskillard said...

John and Fred ... thanks for clarifying Lewis's Trinitarian inclusions ... those are things I didn't remember, maybe because its been so long since I've read them myself. I think I need to break out my copies again!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Sorry, John, I wasn't trying to point any fingers, so you don't need to hide in the corner on my account. I mostly was trying to say, you are right about your assumptions.

But I agree with those saying that to give up on understanding the story in the way we usually read Christian fantasy eased some of the problems. I've decided I need to post on this today rather than doing a typical review.


Julie J. said...

I struggled with "getting" this book until I read it strictly as a fairy tale. It was then that I started to enjoy the book.

Your post and this discussion have been a very enjoyable read!