(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has an active fantasy life that’s almost as much fun as his real one.
(Lange) James Bond was strapped into a chair, the captive of a bad man who wanted information with which 007 was loath to part. A large goon (named Teeny-Weeny, I think) was bending James’ pinkie finger backward a little farther with each refusal. I was listening to this drama late at night, on the tape deck in my truck, on deserted I-89.
Bond was not talking. The finger bent farther and farther back, almost to the snapping point. I glanced at the speedometer. I was doing 95. My heart was doing 120.
Now, James Bond has never lived – except in our imaginations. Hansel and Gretel, either, or Cinderella, Nancy Drew, Stephen Maturin, or Frodo Baggins. But they have a firmer grip upon our consciousness than many real people who have lived. What is it about fantasy that makes it so irresistible?
Harry is a young wizard whose parents were murdered by Voldemort, the greatest of the dark wizards; but Harry’s mother, sacrificing herself, had made him virtually invulnerable to evil magic and drained the corporal matter from Voldemort. Now Voldemort’s trying to get his body back, establish his rule of darkness, and kill Harry.
Pretty stupid, eh? Pretty simple, too. As in all fantasy, the bad guys are all as sneering as Snidely Whiplash, and the good guys straight as Dudley Doright. The heroes are always trusting and open, their antagonists devious and cruel. The story builds through increasing danger to apparently certain death – think of James Bond wrestling with Jaws on the outside of a private jet 20,000 feet above the desert – but we know that virtue will triumph.
Harry is not only a good little wizard; he’s rich, too. Heroes have no financial concerns. Can you imagine 007 checking his wallet? Or Bruce Wayne complaining about the Batmobile’s gas mileage? A hero needs to be able to fight evil without concern for mundane matters.
So if fantasy is stupid, simple, and unrealistic, why is it so fascinating?
It’s the freedom. All of us are constrained by gravity or poverty or the fear of looking ridiculous. Heroes can transcend all that and carry us with them. And like us, they’re warm, compassionate, loyal, and courageous.
J.K. Rowling, Harry’s creator, writes her own yearnings into the character and the story: the pain of an absentee father, a hatred of bullies, and distaste for the English class system. What’s not to like about that?
At the end of her last adventure, righteousness triumphs once again, but as always, not completely. Voldemort is stronger. We’ll see him again and suffer his Cruciatus Curse, which will cause us excruciating pain. But we’ll handle him all right. Not a bad way to spend a cold weekend, fighting dark wizards in fantasyland!
This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I’d better get back to work.
Willem Lange is a contractor, writer, and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. he spoke from our studio in Norwich.