allegory, art, britain, British Empire, C.S. Lewis, dan simmons, eagles, fantasy, Fiction, high fantasy, hugo, hyperion, illium, Lewis Carroll, Lord of the Flies, music, stephen king, the lord of the rings, tolkien, writing
I often like to draw parallels between the elements of what I refer to as High Fantasy (or epic Fiction, if ya ken) and the essentials of Music. One of the biggest shared pieces to that artistic pie is the presence of Allegory – the deeper meaning or allusion to something greater at stake than just a our mutual interest in a fun character and story. There are a ton of examples of Good uses of Allegory, and maybe just as many of Bad, overused, unsubtle meta-allegorical elements (I’m looking at you, C.S. Lewis). In fact, I find the similarities between that bawdish creator of Narnia and the Drug-induced Lewis Carroll eery, as if somehow Carroll knew that schoolchildren the world over would constantly confuse the two, and so wrote the equally unsubtle but infinitely more entertaining “Walrus and the Carpenter” tale simply to add to the duality, the twim, as it were.
“They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast”
The linkage between writers of music and those of fiction (and really, aren’t the two the same?) go even deeper, often to meaning found simply by the observer, entirely unknown to the artist at the moment of conception – which is one of the more misunderstood and yet profoundly powerful moments of allegory I know. I’m not talking about when your 11th grade English teacher has you attempt to stumble about and find some meaningful links between The Lord of the Flies and the Second World War, but that other, softer connection that is sometimes shared only by a single soul as he gobbles up one tale after another and finds them all somehow connected in the soup of memory.
But whether intended or not, found or
unfound, the role of Allegory in fiction is clear. From the playful Canterbury meta-games of Dan Simmons’ Hugo Winning series Hyperion, (and to a lesser extent his equally enjoyable, yet slightly more diaretic Illium) to the blatantly post-war British tones of Tolkien’s work which so poignantly highlighted the need for a suddenly much reduced British Empire (the sun never sets…) to have a fantasy all its own – Allegorical themes have allowed for connections to be filtered from one Culture to the next, a continuing Historical record of not just our factual past, but our intellectual and our fantastical past. In my mind, the best way to truly understand a person is in his imagination – his hopes and dreams, and the secret places to which he escapes in the cracks between ‘necessary’ tasks.
Which is not to say that High Fantasy is entirely made of fiction. Fiction for fiction’s sake is a bauble, a catnip for the human mind. I won’t go so far as to say such material is Useless, because I and countless others have found solace in its pages, thin as they may be. But the real substance of Fantasy is Truth.
The same can be applied to Music. A true Musician, which is to say more than a Singer or a Player, speaks in truths, however shaded they might appear. A musician, an artist of any kind really, has no secrets from the world, because an honest observer will always find truth in performance, in art. In order to create anything of substance, with connection to one’s past, future, or fantasy, the artist draws on his own world of experiences, emotions, and ideas, whether real or imagined. This, in turn, creates visualization – connection with the listener, the viewer, the reader. The secret isn’t in choreography, research, or over-performance (although these all have their merits, I know!) but in Honesty. Honest creation, and Honest observation, allows both performer and observer to enter a state of memory and dreaming which strikes chords in our very souls.
And I’ve rambled on enough for one day. What are your favorite examples of Honesty and Allegory in fiction, music, or art of any form? How have these struck you, and created connection to memory to shape who you are?