Day 3: Miracle
Here is a special Christmas surprise: a light novel Christmas post! After all, why leave light novels out of the Christmas fun?
So you want to write a Christmas episode for your story, because everyone loves Christmas stories. But what if your story is a fantasy story, taking place in a world without a “Jesus Christ” in its history and thus no reason for Christmas to exist? Obviously, in an isekai story you can just have the isekai’d protagonist introduce a Christmas-styled festival and call it a day. But in a non-isekai fantasy, what justification would you have for a festival that looks awfully similar to Christmas? Sure, you could always just loosely attach the festivities to a religion or god/goddess and call it a day, but if you want some more in-depth worldbuilding, you can do what the light novel An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride does, and create a Christmas-like festival with its own lore and even its own “eventually comes back from the dead” figurehead to celebrate.
As a quick primer, An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride is about the sorcerer Zagan, and the elf slave girl Nephy he falls in love with at first sight. While he initially buys her (sorcerers don’t exactly subscribe to human morals), he does eventually free her, and as the two have mutual feelings, she stays by his side as his “bride,” though their awkwardness has kept their relationship from getting too deep. When Zagan becomes an Archdemon, one of the thirteen most powerful sorcerers, he has to start dealing with the other Archdemons as well as other dangerous threats he uncovers. Also in the story is the Church, which generally opposes sorcerers and Archdemons, but an underground faction seeks to cooperate with willing sorcerers in order to deal with more malicious sorcerers and other dangers.
In this story setting, the Church worships an unnamed god while also showing great respect to a number of “saints.” These saints are people who have performed some kind of “miracle” after death, such as becoming a Sacred Sword that can defeat an Archdemon, or leaving behind an arm that can heal people (Zagan and many of his fellow sorcerers suspect these “saints” are actually sorcerers).
And the most important saint is, in fact, one who actually came back to life after dying. This saint is celebrated in a winter festival called “Alshiere Imera,” in which people wear red suits with white fluff and give gifts to their beloved people. In other words, it is a fantasy world version of Christmas, complete with its own resurrecting figurehead.
Of course, there are significant differences between Alshiere Imera and Christmas. While the saint of Alshiere Imera might have come back from the dead, there is no indication that they died for anyone’s sins, or for any sort of noble purpose at all. Rather than get too caught up with the differences, though, I think it is worth looking at the themes that Elf Bride’s Alshiere Imera does share with Christmas, as that can further enhance our own understanding of Christmas.
And the first shared theme is “death.” Or perhaps more specifically, “overcoming death.”
The truth of the saint behind Alshiere Imera would probably completely undermine the entire holiday if it came to light. After all, the “saint” of Alshiere Imera, Alshiera, is an actual character that Zagan and his compatriots have encountered… and she’s a vampire who exists outside of the concepts of “life” and “death” entirely. Rather than coming back from the dead, she claims she was “rejected” by death. In-story, the Church at large considers her sort of existence the most abominable kind, which makes it all the more ironic that, since they mostly have not met her in person, they do not know about the true nature of her “resurrection” and instead revere her as a saint.
Oh, and there is a zombie invasion going on (Because clearly, zombie invasions go with Christmas). And for those they are targeting, they would definitely much rather not meet with death anytime soon. However, in order to survive, they will need a miracle. Good thing Alshiere Imera, as with Christmas, is also associated with miracles.
Alshiera describes miracles as the successful result of a strong will to overcome the natural order. She says that sorcery in itself is a type of miracle, just like the “miracles” the Church espouses, as if to further highlight how sorcerers and the Church are not so different. In this situation, where imminent death is the natural order, the will to avoid that death leads to praying for a “miracle”: the gathering of Zagan and his allies all at the right time and place and all with the right powers to put an end to the zombie invasion.
In Christianity, “miracles” refer to acts of God that go against the “natural order” that God has set in place. These miracles do not require human will, as God may perform a miracle simply to show His power. However, there certainly are many instances of miracles that came about because of a person’s strong will to bypass the natural order, whether it be feeding a crowd of thousands with just a few loaves of bread and fish, or wanting to get healed just by touching Jesus’s cloak. God might not grant everything His people ask for, but He makes it clear that praying to make your own will clear to Him is important, whether or not He decides to break the natural order as a result.
All this ties back to Christmas and the ultimate “miracle” of “overcoming death.” After all, if humanity was allowed to progress through life naturally, they would ultimately encounter “death”: not just the physical death of their bodies but also the “death” of their souls in Hell. Overcoming that fate would require nothing short of a miracle… and that is where Jesus’s miraculous birth comes in. His birth is a miracle not just because of the whole “virgin birth” thing, but also because he is God Himself coming down to be with us, setting the example of not only our salvation from death but also God’s will to be in relationship with the people He loves. And while the celebration for it is still a few months away, the ultimate miracle of overcoming death—Christ’s resurrection—is still critically important in celebrating His birth. All that is left is our own will to overcome death, by accepting Christ as Lord.
Alshiera might not be the actual nameless god that the Church of Elf Bride worships, but as it turns out, she is in fact that nameless god’s “little sister,” and she is working with Zagan and his allies for some kind of greater purpose after all. Oh, and said nameless god was apparently the one who started the Alshiere Imera festival and designed for it to be celebrated on Alshiera’s birthday, which vexes her to no end. The portrayal of Alshiere Imera in An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride might be just a shadow of the actual Christmas celebration, but I was still intrigued by how many elements of the Christian meaning behind Christmas the author worked in, as distorted as they may be. And on top of all this are plenty of sweet moments between Zagan and those close to him, as well as various beta couples forming amidst the side characters. All in all, it is a great Christmas light novel volume.
An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride is available from J-Novel Club, with the first two volumes also available in paperback. Tomorrow’s post covers episode 21 of Dr. Stone, which you can stream on Crunchyroll.