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From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy Paperback – May 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587431335
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587431333
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.3 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #903,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In their informative, highly entertaining examination of the literature of faerie throughout the centuries, Dickerson and O'Hara insist that if literature works at all, it works as story. First defining myth and fairy story and discriminating their differences and similarities, they proceed to describe the work of such seminal nineteenth-century romantics as the Brothers Grimm, Andrew Lang, Hans Christian Andersen, and George MacDonald; explore how the Bible functions as myth; discuss Homeric myth and "epic" fantasy; and cast a jaundiced eye at Beowulf, the Arthurian legends, and the Norse sagas. They even scrutinize some modern work, including Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, Walter Wangerin Jr.'s Book of the Dun Cow, and, of course, Harry Potter. The book is especially intriguing for the links it makes, for example, discussing the effect of The Odyssey on The Hobbit, and the plot devices borrowed from Beowulf in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Dickerson and O'Hara prove reliable guides as they amply confirm that fairy tales aren't just for the young. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Matthew Dickerson (Ph.D., Cornell University) is a computer science professor at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, and author of Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in The Lord of the Rings, The Finnsburg Encounter, and Hammers and Nails. David O'Hara (Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University) is assistant professor of philosophy and instructor in classical Greek at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Religious Writings of Charles S. Peirce.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
The two words have no linguistic connection whatsoever.
Classics teacher
The application of these concepts to the writings discussed was extremely helpful, along with the examination of the worldviews of the writers.
Ann Castro
I've only read the last couple of chapters of this book, but my advice is, don't buy it for the Harry Potter part.
K. J. Kebarle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
Perhaps I am just new to this type of analytical writing, but I found this book absolutely fascinating. True, the first part was deep, but it was worth wading through. I picked it up because I am tired of Harry-bashing and wanted to see what these guys thought. I kept reading it because I liked what I read. I found I had to keep a piece of paper in the book to keep a list of other things they recommended, and have been reading their recommendations ever since and loving it all. I am now reading Lawhead's "Taliesin" because of "From Homer..." and have been fascinated by his (Lawhead's) quote of the "Mabinogion." Actually knowing how the two books are related makes it all that more interesting. I highly recommend this book for anyone seriously interested in any genre from Faerie to Myth and how Christians should intelligently approach these types of books. HIghly recommended too for homeschoolers at the high school level for English Lit credit.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Evan Herberth on August 3, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is just the book I needed to cushion my sorrow of having finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which to me was like saying goodbye to an old friend. This fine overview of the literature of myth and fantasy, from their origins to the present, is from an entirely Christian perspective, while simultaneously showing a love for these works in the spirit of Tolkien and Lewis. After introducing us to the foundations of all myth and fantasy, they use the principles of Tolkien and Lewis to explain the adherence to tradition, or the lack thereof, in modern works of fantasy, such as the His Dark Materials trilogy of Philip Pullman, and of course, Joanne Rowling's Harry Potter.

The best part of this book, for me personally, was the final chapter, entitled Harry Potter: Saint or Serpent? I considered myself well read on all of the Christian defenses of the Harry Potter theories, especially those of author John Granger, but also others all over the Internet. I was very pleasantly surprised. Although John Granger does very well in elucidating positively on all of the Christian symbolism and aspects of the Harry Potter series, these authors do more than I have ever seen in terms of their negative arguments concerning the harmfulness of the magic in Harry Potter. The nature of magic in the books is thoroughly dissected, along with comparisons from other works to assess its appropriateness for Christian readers. All along the way, even when analyzing Pullman's trilogy (a work that is terribly disrespectful to Christianity and all theistic religions), the authors wisely avoid any of the disrespectful zealousness of fundamentalism, while still remaining true to conservative Christianity, and not shying away from reasoned criticism where necessary. This is a marvelous feat, and all accomplished during a pleasurable read, especially if you're curious about what came before and paved the way for Joanne Rowling's wonderful addition to the edifying land of fairies.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Carter Place on April 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Excellent book from Matthew Dickerson and David O'Hara covering a wide variety of myth and fantasy. If you're looking for a thoughtful, engaging and well-written discussion of stories, or if you just plain like them, this is for you.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ann Castro on October 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
I came across this book somewhat by accident and am very glad that I did. It is an absolute treasure trove of information. And, as I said to a friend when recommending it, the authors quote all the right people, especially Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
I was in synch with the authors from the beginning, having long ago been converted, along with Lewis, to the concept of "true myth" and to an understanding of the Christian story as the one True Story. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I deeply appreciated the authors' Christian viewpoint, one which is becoming increasingly rare these days. Since I considered their discussion of works I know (e.g., Ursala LeGuin's "Earthsea Trilogy" and Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series) to be accurate and insightful, I am also willing to trust their judgment regarding Pullman's "His Dark Materials."
Although I am very well read in the genres under discussion, I still found some material that was new to me, e.g., the "Heliand" and the writings of Patricia McKillip. But what I found most beneficial was the application of several key concepts to the understanding of myth, fantasy, and fairy tale. These are borrowed from Tolkien: the great cauldron of story, the three faces of myth and faerie, and the fact that these stories take place on or near the boundary between worlds. The application of these concepts to the writings discussed was extremely helpful, along with the examination of the worldviews of the writers.
My only disappointment was with the last chapter on Harry Potter. I do not agree with John Granger (whom several reviewers cited) the Rowling is writing Christian fiction.
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By C. Medine on February 25, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think this is a great book for setting the Harry Potter novels in a larger context of fantasy and classical literature. It is clearly written and works well in an introductory class.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Liam Thorpe on July 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
review written by the person I bought this book for.

I was excited to receive this book as a present, as I teach subjects on mythology and fairy tales, and enjoy the Harry Potter books. However, I was very disappointed when I got to the section on Homer, as it contains a large number of basic errors about the plots of the two epics, especially the Odyssey. These are mistakes that I would be annoyed to find in my students' essays, and would remark to them that it they seemed not to have actually read the epics, or at least not recently. I haven't finished the book yet, but my confidence in the statements made by these authors in other areas has been greatly shaken.
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