Reply To: Allegory vs symbolism

Forums Fiction Themes Allegory vs symbolism Reply To: Allegory vs symbolism

Daeus Lamb

@kate Yes, it’s a very new project. I love my trilogies, but I think with a lot of thought and investment, I can come up with something even better. It will definitely be in another world, not this one.

I appreciate the deep thought! I think the crux of what you said actually lies at the point that confused me.

In fact, there is something that feels very off about creating a world in which there is no Gospel, no Jesus, and no salvation.

But at the same time, I think there is definitely room for creating worlds in which there is no Gospel present (as such), no Messiah figure, and no way of salvation.

What to make of that confused me for a bit, but I’m going to guess I found the key to it. You also said:

I want my readers to leave my books wanting to know God better. I want my stories to push and influence readers towards the Gospel if they are not saved, and if they are saved, to know God and His truth better.

This is the exact thought I’ve been having recently. Fiction might save a couple people here and there, but its real purpose is to drive people to explore further. I’d also say it has a purpose in creating a culture that fosters meaningful conversations.

So, I’m going to guess that what you meant when you said having no gospel in a story didn’t feel right (but at the same time you could see it) is that if your world is gospel-less and that’s that, you’ve totally rejected the truth, but if the purpose of the story is to drive people to explore God further, than it is in line with the purpose of Christian literature even if it doesn’t have a specific gospel allegory. Is that right?

That’s interesting and I’ve honestly never thought of it in that light, but now that I consider it, I’d say I really have to agree.

The trouble though is how to do this. I think we all agree Tolkien did a good job with this, but he also came short in some places. I honestly can’t think of a perfect example to look to. Like allegory, I think it’s risky. Do a bad allegory, and people might get the wrong idea, but be too vague with symbolism, and people might not even know you had a point to make.

I’m pretty sure it can be done though and you’ve got me excited to think about this more.


I think of symbolism and allegory running in a rough continuum. Symbolism represents a basic truth or aspect about human nature, God, or the world. The Ring, for instance, has symbolic ties to sin nature in that it drives one to be like God and it is constantly calling to you. I think when Frodo put the ring on and it took Gollum biting off his finger to save him, that was great symbolism of man’s helplessness and that he needs someone else to save him. It certainly wasn’t allegory though. Gollum does not represent Jesus!!! Tom Bombadil is also symbolic, as is Aragorn the rightful king, the Grey Havens, and the whole Middle Earth theme of going on a journey and overcoming struggles to come to a final place of rest.

Allegory, I consider to represent and closely follow specific events: creation, the fall, the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the great apocalypse, etc. Aslan’s creation in The Magician’s Nephew is what I would call true allegory.

Then in the middle is what I consider loose allegory. Loose allegory depicts specific events, but replaces important details with symbolic representations. For instance, if you’ve read The Warden And The Wolf King, I’d consider the ending of that book to be a loose allegory. It represents a specific biblical event, but it doesn’t completely depict that event nor does the fictional event accomplish everything that was accomplished in the real event. It is merely symbolic of that event — but it is symbolic of an event you see, not just a general truth, so it is what I would call lose allegory.

Like I said, I see these three in a continuum. Also, a book can contain all three of these elements. The Silmarillion for instance contains very small ammounts of true allegory, small amounts of loose allegory, and a lot of symbolism.

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