Dharma of Dragons and Daemons: Buddhist Themes in Modern Fantasy


Many books are called groundbreaking, but this one is truly unique and sure to appeal to anyone with an interest in fantasy literature. It employs a Buddhist perspective to appreciate some of the major works of modern fantasy—and uses modern fantasy fiction to elucidate Buddhist teachings. In the tradition of David Loy's cutting-edge presentation of a Buddhist social theory in The Great Awakening, this pioneering work of Buddhist literary analysis, renown scholar David Loy and Linda Goodhew offer ways of reading ...

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Many books are called groundbreaking, but this one is truly unique and sure to appeal to anyone with an interest in fantasy literature. It employs a Buddhist perspective to appreciate some of the major works of modern fantasy—and uses modern fantasy fiction to elucidate Buddhist teachings. In the tradition of David Loy's cutting-edge presentation of a Buddhist social theory in The Great Awakening, this pioneering work of Buddhist literary analysis, renown scholar David Loy and Linda Goodhew offer ways of reading modern fantasy-genre fiction that illuminate both the stories themselves, and the universal qualities of Buddhist teachings. Authors examined include J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip Pullman (of The Amber Spyglass trilogy, from whose works the word "daemon" is borrowed in the title), Ursula K. LeGuin, and the anime movie Princess Mononoke.

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Editorial Reviews

Inquiring Mind
"Eloquent. Loy and Goodhew find Buddhist truths in contemporary non-Buddhist stories. Having raised my daughter on Tolkien, Pullman, and Le Guin, I am delighted to reread beloved passages and revisit imaginary worlds which have animated my own inner life. Pullman's dead are released to become images of interpermeation reminiscient of Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings. Frodo's quest is not to find a treasure or slay a dragon, but to let go. Thus, apsects of Buddhist teachings come alive for children of the West."
Charles Johnson
"Readers who love fiction and Buddhism will be twice rewarded by The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons. First, because Loy and Goodhew beautifully discuss the buddhadharma in ways immediately relevant for contemporary life and Western practitioners; and, secondly, in the fiction of beloved fantasy authors ranging from Tolkien to Le Guin they reveal how those classic stories achieve the dramatization of ancient spiritual wisdom."
Joseph O'Leary
"A timely and valuable contribution to our understanding of the contemporary imagination... Thanks to this new approach, adults who guiltily read works of fantasy can now realize the ethical and cultural worth of their pursuit, and parents will be empowered to use children's reading to guide them to the deepest realms of the spirit and of the imagination."
Sumi Loundon
"Loy and Goodhew illuminate non-Buddhist stories to show us how they can speak to us and our children in Buddhist ways."
Thomas Jones PhD
"The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons is an accessible and inspiring interpretation of some modern fantasy novels and films. The authors convincingly reveal how the myths and stories, the wizards, hobbits and princesses, the expeditions to lands of the dead, bring alive truths of existence in ways that illuminate traditional Buddhist teachings. The book offers a first glimpse from a Buddhist perspective into why many of us find fantasy so enriching and important, and along the way addresses many important questions about the meaning of Buddhist teachings when translated into modern Western terms."
Shambhala Sun
"Kate Wheeler's introduction to Nixon Under the Bodhi Tree and Other Works of Buddhist Fiction suggested that everyone—even vigilantly rational Buddhists!—needs stories and myth. In The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, David Loy and Linda Goodhew advance this discussion by surveying Buddhist themes in speculative fiction. They illustrate how—despite the fact that they don't refer to Buddhism by name—J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin and others bring some aspect of Buddhism's teachings to life in a way that speaks to contemporary people."
Turning Wheel
"This delightful book finds Buddhist wisdom in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the novel Momo by Michael Ende, Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea novels, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Buddhists and others familiar with these fantasy classics will be fascinated by the authors' take on them."
"An intriguing little book, with broad appeal, which would be an excellent introduction to Buddhism for many readers."
Full Contact Enlightenment
"The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons delves into the magical worlds created by these artists and provides a successful entertaining demonstration of how a segment of popular literature can be examined through a Buddhist lens. I appreciate the character analysis throughout this book and enjoy how various Buddhist masters are cited in the development of the authors thesis for each chapter."
Publishers Weekly
A veritable cottage industry now exists to examine Christian themes in popular culture. But what of the Buddhist themes? Loy and his wife, Goodhew, offer a brief but compelling foray into the dharma teachings of modern fantasy in YA literature and film. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, may seem to be entirely un-Buddhist (it features a Christian-influenced resurrection and posits a profound dualism between good and evil), but its preference for non-violence, shown in the repeated sparing of Gollum's life, resonates with Buddhist principles. More importantly, Frodo's quest is one of renunciation; the story is fundamentally a lesson of nonattachment. Other chapters address Michael Ende's Momo, which the authors call "a Zen-like critique of our obsession with time"; two films of Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki; the Earthsea books of Ursula Le Guin; and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The authors concede that with the exception of Le Guin, none of the creators of these works ever explicitly refer to Buddhism, but the dharma connections are usually sound and fruitful. For best effect, readers will come to the book with some knowledge of Buddhism and of the works under discussion, which are not laid out in detail. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780861714766
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications MA
  • Publication date: 7/10/2005
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

David R. Loy's previous books include the acclaimed Money, Sex, War, Karma, The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory, and The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, a finalist for the 2006 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award. He was the Besl Professor of Ethics/Religion and Society at Cincinnati's Xavier University.

Linda Goodhew is a professor of English literature at Gakushuin University in Japan. She lives in Kamakura, Japan.

Jane Hirshfield is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Come Thief and After, which was named a "Best Book of 2006" by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and England's Financial Times. Hirshfield was born in New York City in 1953 and was a member of the first graduating class at Princeton University to include women. She studied Soto Zen intensively for eight years, including three in monastic practice at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the wilderness inland from Big Sur, and received lay ordination in 1979. She has cooked at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, driven 18-wheel trucks, worked as the independent editor of several books that have sold in the millions, and spent four years living without electricity. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in a small white house surrounded by fruit trees, a vegetable garden, lavender, and roses, with scientist Carl Pabo.

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Table of Contents

1 Fantastic dharma 1
2 The dharma of engagement : J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the rings 19
3 The dharma of time : Michael Ende's Momo 47
4 The dharma of nonviolence : Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the valley of the winds and Princess Mononoke 73
5 The dharma of death and life : Philip Pullman's His dark materials and Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea 101
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