Fantasy opens portals to new life forms. It prepares us for supranatural humans, genetic adjustment, non-electronic novelty. It forms the core of natural-world reverence, maybe worship, the religion of the green future. It cherishes solitary, low-tech adventure in natural and neo-natural environments, typically northern forests and fashion-magazine imagery. It is a genre, a haphazard collection, a force as amorphous as blowing leaves, a western-European device born about 1900 and now global, but always quasi-imperialist, always of the north. It scares public-school teachers who loathe Hogwarts, the Old Religion, the never-ending ancient tradition so deeply rooted in the European cultural past that it shapes contemporary propriety. Holly and other evergreens bedeck churches at Christmas, but not mistletoe, the evergreen that killed the Norse sun god, Balder, the sky-tree Druids brought west from the Danube and grafted onto oaks, the Yule sovereign that permits kisses forbidden at all other seasons, part of the merry (not happy) in Christmas. Quality fantasy teaches that every tree species once had individual character (willows walk, sometimes assault: the Whomping Willow behaves naturally) and that the most powerful (mistletoe included) once named the letters of the alphabet, that the year had thirteen lunar months marking the earth-mother menstrual cycle, that the seasons proved weird to those in the know, witches especially. Out of the great northern arc from Finland to Ireland (stabbed by the westward-moving Celts and the Albion wraiths) originates quality contemporary fantasy, much of it written by British writers schooled in Latin from childhood. It comprises a grimoire of irresistible power. As climate change melts Arctic ice and opens new sea lanes, as Canada hurriedly builds a large navy, the north becomes more important politically, economically, and militarily – but its emerging conceptual importance orders this course this term. Cold, discomfort, swimming in the winter ocean, trusting to quality attire, knives, and open boats, seeing sideways in the winter dark, finding what one must find in the arboreal forests, all fuses into the meaning of north. Already fantasy slides past materialist and leftist ideology. It prepares children for authentic change.
Note: This course is offered jointly with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as AFVS 167.