Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
If it is difficult for adults to distinguish good from evil in contemporary books and films, how much more this is going to be so for children. I read A Landscape with Dragons when it first came out and after my recent second reading I regard it as a classic.
The author notes that in most of the great works of the past, dragons were regarded as evil and not to be pitied: " Dragons cannot be tamed, and it is fatal to dialogue with them." The serpent and the dragon were powerful symbols of evil but in our time they have become heroic figures. For Scorsese, Cady is made less evil by the behaviour of the deeply flawed and adulterous Bowden. Who is really the bad guy? Are there good people left? The author writes:" In children's culture, a growing fascination with the supernatural is hastening the breakdown of the Christian vision of the spiritual world and the moral order of the universe. Reason and holy knowledge are despised, while intoxicating signs and wonders increase."
There is thus an inversion of the classical symbols of Christianity. The diabolical is rendered innocuous and goodness is found nowhere. The "good" person turns out to be a hypocrite. There are no heroes, no saints.
The author puts it well: " Truth is what you believe it to be. Right and wrong are what
you feel are right and wrong. Question authority. To become what you want to be, you must rebel. You make your
self. You create your own reality." One is reminded of the serpent in the Book of Genesis: " If you eat
of the fruit, you will not die. You will become like God, knowing good and evil"
The author writes that "evils that appear good are far more destructive in the long run than those that appear with horns, fangs and drooling with green saliva." He later quotes Carl Jung: " The unconscious is not just evil by nature, it is also the source of the highest good: not only dark but also light." The Star Wars movies can be regarded as Jungian adventures in outer space. How is it even possible to be moral in this universe?
This is a wonderful book which reminds us of the current malaise that is afflicting our culture in the pursuit of moral goodness.