“The dragon is sin”: Spenser’s book I as evangelical fantasy

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Abstract

The twentieth-century Christian fantasy writer Frank Peretti is less well known among Spenserians than J. R. R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis, but Peretti’s 1995 novel The Oath has striking parallels with Book I of The Faerie Queene. The Oath features a contest between an allegorical dragon and Dr. Steve Benson, wildlife biologist and fallible protagonist. In his quest, the hero is seduced by Tracy, a more sympathetic version of Duessa, and is rescued and mentored, not by Prince Arthur, but by the born-again and socially awkward Levi (who supplies this article’s title). Various characters’ sins, like Redcrosse’s, produce physical symptoms, and the healing of Steve’s infected wound is part of his conversion and experience of grace. Spenser’s dragon is often interpreted as sin, death, and the devil; Peretti invokes the same cluster of meanings for his dragon. Although Peretti states in an interview that he has not read Spenser, he writes with a similar view of sin and a forthrightly evangelistic purpose. Many anonymous early annotators of The Faerie Queene experienced Book I as Christian fiction and noted its biblical affinities rather than its literary excellence. The parallels between Spenser’s and Peretti’s works serve as a reminder of the evangelistic undertones of Spenser’s purpose: “to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline,” which may well include encouraging us, his readers, to identify and fight our own sins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-368
Number of pages20
JournalSpenser Studies
Volume31
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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