“The world is full of resurrections. Every night that folds us up in darkness is a death; and those of you that have been out early, and have seen the first of the dawn, will know it–the day rises out of the night like a being that has burst its tomb and escaped into life.”
— George MacDonald
Recurring themes abound in fairy tales and fantasy novels, and many have theorized why stories of similar types exist across cultures. Some have attempted to explain this by claiming that they rise from a collective unconscious that embraces universal archetypes, but Scripture supports the idea that most of these common themes spring from patterns written by God on the human heart. It attests that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” (Romans 1:20)
Of course, this speaks of the created order, but I think “what has been made” also could include stories crafted and passed down for generations, tales that in some form testify of the qualities and nature of God. Admittedly, many of these are a dim reflection, but they still contain a glimmer of truth.
One of these pervasive patterns is that of death and resurrection, a common motif in fantasy novels and fairy tale alike, and one with clear Scriptural parallels.
In the oft-told tale, Sleeping Beauty falls into a slumber akin to death. For a hundred years she lays so, until a kiss restores her life.
In myths of old, the majestic Phoenix rises from the ashes of death, a newly born creature, full of strength and vitality.
In the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf sacrifices his life for his companions, and then receives it anew…and in the restoration comes greater power.
In such tales, we perceive shadows of the greatest Story yet told. Often the tellers of such tales reflected truth unaware, for not all of them shared a Christian perspective. In fact, many of them worshiped pagan gods and walked in great darkness. Yet even so, something woven into them by their Creator bore witness to truth. So whether intentional on the part of a writer or not, these echoes of something grand and wonderful in folklore attest to a Creator and have potential to prepare the heart to receive full truth (as they did in the case of CS Lewis).