Christian Eucatastrophe for unChristians

I went to Romania on my lunch break on Friday.

It was virtually, unfortunately, but even virtually attending a live conference halfway across the world would be unthinkable just a few short years ago. If nothing else, COVID-19 has brought the world a little closer together through technology.

Thanks to Dr. Brenton Dickieson’s post about it, I tuned into listen to the C.S. Lewis & Kindred Spirits Connected “Inklings of Imagination” conversation. It was a thoroughly delightful experience, not least because I don’t think I’ve ever been in a “room” full of Christian scholars before.

Room of Christians? Absolutely. Room of scholars? Occasionally! But a room full of people that unapologetically (and apologetically in another sense) proclaimed their faith? That’s a rare treat.

And as I sat listening, I began to wonder about something.

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Magic in Earthsea and The Problem with Dragons

One of the aspects of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series that fascinated me immediately upon my arrival in her archipelago is the way magic works in her world. While Harry Potter’s wizards focus on spells and wands, and Tolkien’s wizards wield the innate light-power of the Maiar, magic in Earthsea (or rather “magery”) is entirely based on knowing and calling the names of things.

Le Guin’s choice of “magic system” in Earthsea seems to be based on a long tradition of names-based magic, both in European tradition and also in Native American tradition. Le Guin’s father was an anthropologist, and undoubtedly some of his experience and stories shaped the way she approached her world building.

In any case, a young boy who wants to become a wizard of Earthsea must spend a year of long hours poring over endless lists of names in the Isolate Tower on Roke Island, supervised by Kurremkarmerruk, the Master Namer. He tells them that “magic, true magic, is worked only by those beings who speak the Hardic tongue of Earthsea, or the Old Speech from which it grew. That is the language dragons speak.”

And there’s where things get weird.

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