(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Stephen R. Lawhead’s The Song of Albion Trilogy is the story of a young man’s venture into another world, where he attains the status of a mythical hero before returning to the time and place from which he came. The hero of the trilogy is Lewis Gillies, an American graduate student at Oxford University, where he is specializing in Celtic studies. His cynical, aristocratic friend and roommate, Simon Rawnson, who also enters the other world, becomes one of the primary villains in the Otherworld.

The first book in the series, The Paradise War, begins with a startling discovery. While scanning the newspaper at breakfast, Simon sees a photograph of an aurochs, a oxlike creature that appeared near Inverness and promptly died. Because the aurochs has long been extinct, Simon persuades Lewis to drive up to Scotland with him to investigate. At Carnwood Farm, they find a cairn with a hole in it, and Simon disappears.

When Simon does not return, Lewis drives back to Oxford. There he is approached by Professor Nettleton, a don at Merton College. Nettleton, or “Nettles,” informs Simon that the border between the worlds has become unstable, thereby imperiling everyone, because everything good in the real world depends on archetypes stored in the Otherworld. The two men travel to Scotland, only to find the cairn area occupied by a hostile group of “metaphysical archaeologists” headed by Nevil Weston. Eluding them, Simon flings himself into the Otherworld, where he soon finds himself in the midst of a battle. To Lewis’s amazement, one of the warriors is Simon, who has just killed the enemy’s champion. Simon gives Lewis the victim’s head, thus buying him acceptance into the band to which Simon belongs. It is led by Prince Meldron, the son of Meldryn Mawr, king of Prydain.

Although he still means to take Simon home with him, Lewis is sent to a school for warriors that is headed by the woman warrior Scatha. On the way, the bard Tegid Tathal teaches Lewis the language, and they become friends. After seven years, Lewis, now called Llew, is released from the school so that he can attend a gathering of bards. There Llew witnesses a demonic creature’s attack on the king’s chief bard, Ollathir, which ends with his death. Gwenllian, who is one of Scatha’s three daughters, announces that the struggle between good and evil has begun. The Phantarch, who guards the magical Singing Stones, has been killed, and the Song of Albion has been silenced. She adds that good cannot triumph until the song is restored and Silver Hand becomes the ruler.

When Llew and Tegid find the Phantarch’s body, Llew spots the Singing Stones, which the Phantarch had hidden. Llew and Tegid take the stones with them and use them to help Meldryn Mawr defeat the evil Nudd. In recognition of Llew’s contribution to his victory, Meldryn Mawr names him the king’s champion. Before Llew can intervene, the former...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Andraski, Katie. “Through the Door.” Review of The Paradise Door by Stephen R. Lawhead. Christianity Today 35 (October 7, 1991): 32-33. Admires the style and the spiritual depth of The Paradise War, which the reviewer calls a story of redemption.

Irwin, Robert. “From a Science Future to a Fantasy Past.” Antiquity 69 (June, 1995): 238-239. Irwin states that though most mass-market fantasies are unimaginative and non-Christian, Lawhead’s trilogy displays an impressive “imaginative conviction.”

Manlove, Colin. Christian Fantasy: From 1200 to the Present. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992. By analyzing a number of major works, the author shows how the genre has altered over time. Extensive notes and index.

Schaap, James Calvin, ed., and Philip Yancey, comp. More than Words: Contemporary Writers on the Works That Shaped Them. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2002. Twenty-one Christian writers, including Lawhead, pay tribute to the literary masters who inspired them.

Summer, Bob. “Crossway’s Crossover Novelist.” Publishers Weekly 236 (October 6, 1989): 28, 32. Lawhead explains to the interviewer how his theological training, his research into Celtic history, and his faith have influenced his works.