Having just seen the film version of Les Miserables, with its fantastic depiction of the redemptive nature of grace and the law (described well by by Tullian Tchividjian here), I’ve been thinking about where powerful stories of redemption have come from in the past and from whence they originate today.
The Les Miserables movie, obviously, is a film version of the stage musical which is derived from the novel by Victor Hugo. Such classic works of literature, many of which were written by deeply religious people living in deeply religious cultures, are often a source of such redemptive story lines. I think of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (another by Victor Hugo), Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes, and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. More recently I think of the works of such great Christian authors as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Many of these become further popularized in our day when they are turned into movies or musicals.
But what are the “classics” currently being written? How can we identify them in a day where sudden popularity means instant film treatment? And which of those carry redemptive themes?
Growing up, it seems like the Newbery Medals were meant to show us which books were destined for greatness and several of my favorites received that distinction — The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, The Grey King by Susan Cooper, Julie of the Wolves by June Craighead George, The High King by Lloyd Alexander, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Which of those will truly stand the test of time — and which contain redemptive themes — may be open to debate (although I’d say L’Engle is inarguably redemptive and if you’ve never read her Walking on Water, you need to).
I don’t think one can speak of modern, redemptive stories without talking about Harry Potter. The books and movies were both wildly successful and are unlikely to simply disappear into oblivion over time. And as much controversy as they engendered among some Christians, they clearly concluded with Harry serving as a Christ figure. Author J.K. Rowling, herself a Christian, felt like the religious parallels were always obvious, but refrained from pointing them out because she didn’t want people to realize where the series was heading.
So, what do y’all think? Got any good examples of modern tales that speak Truth as powerfully as Les Miserables — and do so outside the Christian subculture?