An Echoes of Eternity post – seeking the Echoes of Eternity in fantasy and speculative fiction.
A good story.
This simple phrase means something entirely different to each reader. Perhaps for you it’s a book that you can’t put down, where the riveting action or the chair-arm gripping suspense keeps you captivated until the final sentence. Perhaps its a beautifully written book, where heart warming characters and vivid prose cause your world to disappear and transport you into the pages of the story.
Whenever I think of the phrase “a good story,” I can’t help thinking of a scene from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Lucy is flipping through the magic book in Coriakin’s house, trying to find the spell to make hidden things visible. Before she finds it, she stumbles upon a spell “for the refreshment of the spirit.”
The pictures were fewer here but very beautiful. And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. It went on for three pages and before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all. She was living in the story as if it were real, and all the pictures were real too. When she had got to the third page and come to the end, she said, “That is the loveliest story I’ve ever read or ever shall read in my whole life. Oh, I wish I could have gone on reading it for ten years. At least I’ll read it over again.”
But here part of the magic of the Book came into play. You couldn’t turn back. The right-hand pages, the ones ahead, could be turned; the left-hand pages could not.
“Oh, what a shame!” said Lucy. “I did so want to read it again. Well, at least I must remember it. Let’s see… it was about… about… oh dear, it’s all fading away again. And even this last page is going blank. This is a very strange book. How can I have forgotten? It was about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill, I know that much. But I can’t remember, and what shall I do?”
And she never could remember; and ever since that day, what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book.
(The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis)
That passage has always captivated me. I have always wanted to read that forgotten story for the refreshment of the soul. Nowadays, I imagine Lewis’ publishers would have given him a hard time over that scene. I can hear them saying, “Readers don’t want you to tell them about this good story, they want you to show them!”
And part of me really wishes that he had showed us the story. But I can’t help thinking that Lewis did this on purpose. Perhaps he meant to show us that this was what he desired his stories to be. To reflect that good forgotten story that Lucy had fallen in love with. Lewis was a Christian. Perhaps, he meant to point to the Greatest Story as the good story that all good stories should reflect.
Perhaps I’m speculating too much! :)
But this passage always sets me thinking. What do I consider a good story? My favorite books come from many different writing styles, genres, and authors. There are many books that I consider good and that I love to read. But when it comes down to those really good stories, those books that stick with me long after I close the cover, the tales that resonate within my soul, I would have to say that they all have one thing in common.
Those books all hearken back to the Greatest Story in some way, shape, or form. They aren’t necessarily an allegory, they’re not trying to preach a sermon, there may not even be an obvious reference to God or the Bible in so many words. But there is a sense of something deeper. A hint of something greater. An awareness that this life is not all there is, that truth is absolute and eternal. A story that reflects the glory and wonder of God. The echoes of eternity.
What do you consider a good story? What are some books that you place in that category?