Every culture is unique, and all people are different. Each one of us has our own voice, our own thoughts. Some things, however, are common across all cultures, all eras, all countries. One of these is our endless, unrelenting creativity. Princess Arete is not famous for being a thrilling or well-paced movie, but the story sets out to reveal the true capacity of humanity, and this is what it accomplishes.
Princess Arete has been locked in a tower since she was a child, and the narrator informs us that she is destined to stay there until she is married. The adults around her underestimate her quiet, crafty resourcefulness, and she has found ways of briefly escaping the castle. Every day she observes the ordinary people, even if mostly from afar. She is acutely aware of how sheltered she is, and wishes to be free and learn things, especially the human “magic.”
A magic of sorts exists within the story, including various devices the declining population of once-numerous wizards left behind them, but this is not the magic in which she is interested. When she sees humans talking with each other, learning from each other, and creating beautiful things together, she realizes that this is a sort of magic too.
When I see the splendor of the mountains, the sun, and the sky, I am filled with the desire to create. It is the fingerprint of God on our hearts that anything we do could become an outlet for creativity, and so our houses become works of art and presentation in food becomes important. We cannot contain it, because he made us to be like him. I can’t escape the artistry of God anywhere on earth, least of all inside of me.
Some of the most beautiful works of art were created by the church. Whether through music or painting, we can express our love of God and the love that he shows us in ways that are incomprehensible through normal means. It is because God made us in his image that we are special, that we can create. We each have our own personalities and hopes, which shows that God made us to be individuals, yet through our common experience, we can all relate to each other.
Unfortunately, some Christians see neither art nor individuality in this light, and have responded with fear or a desire to make others conform, but this is at odds with how God made humans. Rather than suppressing our individuality, God created us to all be different, and he desires for us to discover who he made us to be. Our uniqueness is God’s artistic expression, not something that needs to be stamped out. Because of this, I have been trying to focus on understand others, especially when experiencing new art forms, as people are using them to try and bring to light something that is a part of them.
Since times long past, art has drawn us nearer to the heart of God. By acknowledging the beauty of his creation in ourselves we acknowledge the unfathomable awesomeness of the one who made us. In Princess Arete, they call this truth magic, and in a way, it is. God, who has already blessed us far beyond anything we could ever bear to understand, has given us this way of expressing ourselves and using our minds. It’s unbelievably wonderful.
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9 thoughts on “Princess Arete and the Magic of Creativity”
Lynna, thank you for this! It may be worth noting that *arete* is an ancient Greek word usually translated as “virtue”, but its meaning is more general that moral virtue. It basically means “excellence”, including artistic excellence. 🙂
Also, have you read JRR Tolkien’s “Essay on Fairy-Stories”? If not, I think you’ll like it. He lays out a whole theory of “sub-creation” as he calls it, arguing that we make (artistically) in the image of the One in whose image we are made. He also makes the case that the real “happy ending” stories couldn’t exist without the Incarnation of Jesus.
Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had actually looked up the meaning of Arete, but I didn’t actually connect it with artistic virtue, so that’s a really cool insight.
I have not actually read that yet! Though I am familiar with Tolkien’s thoughts on storytelling. I love him so much. I feel like there’s a been bit of a disvalueing of storytelling as an expression of who God is among the Christian writers/artists of this generation (I’m generalizing, of course), instead sacrificing the story for the sake of the message. Part of what made Tolkien’s stories so amazing was their subtlety and his dedication to the the message being a foundation rather than the story itself.
Excellent post! 😀 To a certain extent I’ve rationalized the situation we’re in by imagining God as the world’s most competent Dungeon Master. That is, that the world is a story, or a Roleplay of sorts, that He is writing. Mar is What He Is because he has to be, for the thing to work, the same way that in the “Superdome” novel I wrote with friends Impulse had to be kind of a jerk and Rosie had to be somewhere between culpable and innocent. It gives me a measure of peace, I think. That, and…
If ever there were a heaven I could tolerate being in, eternal peace in the dull sense is not what comprises it. It is watching as God continually creates more and more wonderful and exotic and beautiful things for us to see. It is Berkeley talking with Him at length regarding DNA. It’s my sister finally getting that soul-bonded giant eagle. It’s finally getting to ask Him all the really complicated questions I’ve been meaning to ask.
I’m really glad you liked it, Luminas! Thanks for sharing your thought– I usually think of God’s involvement in our lives in terms of storytelling, but roleplaying actually makes a bit more sense because we’re being involved in it in addition to him.
I think “eternal peace” is a vastly simplified view of heaven anyways. The Bible does say God will create a new heavens and a new earth, after all, so it would make sense if he continues to create things far more beautiful than what came before them.
“He also makes the case that the real “happy ending” stories couldn’t exist without the Incarnation of Jesus.”
The main problem I have with this is that they did. Many Hero’s Journey tales are older than the time of Jesus’ incarnation. And many involved very happy endings. The one that comes immediately to mind is the Ramayana, although you might not be fond of what it has to say. These were ancient morality tales, reflective of the values of the culture they were written for. They were complicated stories, yes, but they definitely had happy endings. Are they older than Jesus Himself? By definition, no. But they are older than His arrival.
I oversimplified what Tolkien said for reasons of length and simplicity. He’s talking about a specific kind of “happy ending,” which he calls the “eucatastrophe.”
As someone who studied classical Asian literature in grad school, I very much do enjoy those stories. Nor was I saying that I agree with Tolkien. It’s simply a thought-provoking piece I thought the author of this post would enjoy.
While I haven’t actually read the essay negativeprimes mentioned, I’m guessing that Tolkien’s argument is more along the lines that the stories are not happy because of the event of Jesus’ time on earth but because of a hope that it would happen. I know that Tolkien (and CS Lewis) both felt like a lot of the old myths were small revelations of what had happened and was going to happen in the future. For me, this makes sense: after all, the book of Job takes place long before any of the prophecies about the messiah, but Job still says “I know my redeemer lives, and in the end he will stand on the earth.” which for me gives the general feeling of the hope of a happy ending.
This post moved me! I love art, and I like to make drawings out of my favorite Bible verses. I hope I can inspire people with my art and glorify God. 🙂 Speaking of creativity, why did Beneath The Tangles change their style and font?
Aw! yep I know 🙂 I don’t know