Over a year ago, I posted online about a silly fantasy book concept. The post outlined a simple idea for a magic system I might want to work into a book someday—nothing out of the ordinary for my personal blog that often devolved into ramblings over whatever story I was working on at the time. One of the examples I used to illustrate how the system would work involved Jewish witches and wizards.
It was probably not long after, that someone commented on the post:
>> ”fantasy book”
It was an innocuous enough comment if it hadn’t been so clear that this person thought he or she had unraveled my entire idea just by quoting three different words from my post. As if the very concept of Jewish people existing in a made-up world was so laughable it contradicted itself.
I wasn’t laughing. I smothered the urge to retort and settled for blocking the commenter.
However, that didn’t stop my un-typed retaliation from bouncing around my head. What was so unbelievable about the idea that some characters in a fantasy book could be Jewish? It wasn’t like society at large had a problem with Christianity or Christian characters in fantasy books. For example, the entirety of The Chronicles of Narnia; in fact, my liking for the series waned dramatically after someone explained to me that Aslan was a Jesus-figure.
Finding out about the purposeful Christian parallels in Narnia put a wall between the story and me. Somehow, I just couldn’t connect with it the way I previously had. This particular interaction stands in sharp contrast to my relationship with another series, The Squire’s Tale by Gerald Morris.
Book six of the series, The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight, follows a girl named Sarah. She and her mother were taken in by a Jewish man named Mordecai when she was young, and he was the closest thing she had to a father. He gave her the name Sarah. While the book never specifically says that Sarah considered herself Jewish, I always imagined that she did.
As a little girl, I was proud to recognize the reference in Mordecai’s name that other children may not know, and to have known before the book explained it that Sarah meant princess. It was just the backstory to the book, but it meant the world to me. It connected me to Sarah and the book in a way I haven’t felt connected to Narnia in years. Suddenly, I understood Sarah more. Suddenly, I could have been the girl in the forest, learning to wield a sword and ride with King Arthur’s knights.
Isn’t it that kind of bond—that feeling of having broken through the walls between reality and fantasy to grasp the hand of a character—one reason for writing in the first place? I think it is a worthwhile goal to pursue, and one I don’t intend to relinquish.
Yes, condescending commenter—Jews in a fantasy book. It makes perfect sense to me.
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