The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons - Praise

Buddhist Themes in Modern Fantasy


176 pages, 6 x 9 inches


ISBN 9780861714766

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eBook Bundle (PDF, epub, mobi)


ISBN 9780861718276

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“A veritable cottage industry now exists to examine Christian themes in popular culture, but what of the Buddhist themes? Loy and Goodhew offer a compelling foray into the dharma teachings of modern fantasy. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, may seem to be entirely un-Buddhist, but its preference for non-violence, shown in the repeated sparing of Gollum’s life, resonates with Buddhist principles. More importantly, Frodo’s quest is one of renunciation; the story is fundamentally a lesson of nonattachment. Other chapters address Michael Ende’s Momo, two films of Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki, the Earthsea books of Ursula Le Guin, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The dharma connections are usually sound and fruitful.”—Publishers Weekly

“Eloquent. Loy and Goodhew find Buddhist truths in contemporary non-Buddhist stories. Having raised my daughter on Tolkien, Pullman, and Le Guin, I am delighted to reread beloved passages and revisit imaginary worlds which have animated my own inner life. Pullman’s dead are released to become images of interpermeation reminiscient of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. Frodo’s quest is not to find a treasure or slay a dragon, but to let go. Thus, apsects of Buddhist teachings come alive for children of the West.”—Inquiring Mind

“A grand and important piece of work in the ongoing dialogue of Buddhism and Western culture--and in the individual heart.”—from the foreword by Jane Hirshfield, author of Nine Gates and Women in Praise of the Sacred

“Readers who love fiction and Buddhism will be twice rewarded by The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons. First, because Loy and Goodhew beautifully discuss the buddhadharma in ways immediately relevant for contemporary life and Western practitioners; and, secondly, in the fiction of beloved fantasy authors ranging from Tolkien to Le Guin they reveal how those classic stories achieve the dramatization of ancient spiritual wisdom.”—Charles Johnson, National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage

“A timely and valuable contribution to our understanding of the contemporary imagination... Thanks to this new approach, adults who guiltily read works of fantasy can now realize the ethical and cultural worth of their pursuit, and parents will be empowered to use children’s reading to guide them to the deepest realms of the spirit and of the imagination.”—Joseph O’Leary, professor of English literature at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan

“Loy and Goodhew illuminate non-Buddhist stories to show us how they can speak to us and our children in Buddhist ways.”—Sumi Loundon, editor of Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists

The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons puts into contemporary practice something that Buddhists have known for a long time: that morality and wisdom are best imagined, assimilated, and even experienced through stories. In this book, David Loy and Linda Goodhew sensitively elucidate the Buddhist truths to be found in some of the most powerful (and multicultural) fantasy fiction and film of today. The enterprise not only connects Buddhist teachings to a particular kind of narrative, it promotes readers’ abilities to reflect upon the stories of their own lives by seeing the truth of fictive tales. Just about all religions recognize and utilize the emotional accessibility of stories, of course. What The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons demonstrates, however, is that Buddha Dharma addresses life as all people live and know it, and for that reason, Dharma is found in all good, complex, true-to-life stories. The suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, to be sure, is a powerful narrative, endlessly retold in the full spectrum of Western secular stories (consider Melville’s Billy Budd and Hollywood’s ‘Terminator’). If the central story of Christianity has become an archetypal tale of savior figures and special dispensations, however, Buddhist stories do not seek to fashion the world through a particular enchantment. Instead, they are in awe of what is already possible. For this reason, past Buddhist cultures have persisted in the view that ‘secular’ stories are no different from Dharma. The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons is a most contemporary and accessible telling of that vision.”—Francisca Cho, Georgetown University, translator of Everything Yearned For: Manhae’s Poems of Love and Longing

The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons is an accessible and inspiring interpretation of some modern fantasy novels and films. The authors convincingly reveal how the myths and stories, the wizards, hobbits and princesses, the expeditions to lands of the dead, bring alive truths of existence in ways that illuminate traditional Buddhist teachings. The book offers a first glimpse from a Buddhist perspective into why many of us find fantasy so enriching and important, and along the way addresses many important questions about the meaning of Buddhist teachings when translated into modern Western terms.”—Thomas Jones PhD, co-editor of Urthona, the magazine of Buddhism and the Arts.

“Kate Wheeler’s introduction to Nixon Under the Bodhi Tree and Other Works of Buddhist Fiction suggested that everyone—even vigilantly rational Buddhists!—needs stories and myth. In The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, David Loy and Linda Goodhew advance this discussion by surveying Buddhist themes in speculative fiction. They illustrate how—despite the fact that they don’t refer to Buddhism by name—J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin and others bring some aspect of Buddhism’s teachings to life in a way that speaks to contemporary people.”—Shambhala Sun

“A fascinating read; complete, well researched, and explained in an easy to read fashion. This book will be equally enjoyed by anyone interested in popular culture, the student of Buddhism, or the researcher looking for information on religion themes in popular works.”—, The Book Review Site

“This delightful book finds Buddhist wisdom in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the novel Momo by Michael Ende, Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea novels, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Buddhists and others familiar with these fantasy classics will be fascinated by the authors’ take on them.”—Turning Wheel

“An intriguing little book, with broad appeal, which would be an excellent introduction to Buddhism for many readers.”—Megapolitan, WUSB, 90.1 FM, NY

From a review titled “Where There’s Magic, There’s Buddha”: “Readers less interested in Buddhism than in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Ende, Philip Pullman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Hayao Miyazaki will be not disappointed. ‘This book,’ the authors explain, ‘is about . . . Buddhist stories: not about stories to be found in Buddhism, but about the ‘Buddhism’ to be found in some modern stories.’ It is, therefore, one of the few books that belongs on the same shelf as R.H. Blyth’s Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics. Both books endeavor in part to find Zen in the work of authors who were in many cases not Buddhist at all. [. . . ] Readers may have thought they picked up Tolkien solely for the sense of wonder his work can inspire, but even as they are entertained they can learn, from Frodo and Sam, a lesson about how to be in a world often less than wonderful. Even most non-Buddhists will find it hard to argue with the “generosity, loving-kindness, and wisdom” that are the ultimate point of each of the Buddhist lessons Loy and Goodhew locate in these fantasies. In showing us how the Middle Path runs through Middle Earth and other fantasies, Loy and Goodhew succeed admirably at what they set out to do.”—Japan Times

The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons delves into the magical worlds created by these artists and provides a successful entertaining demonstration of how a segment of popular literature can be examined through a Buddhist lens. I appreciate the character analysis throughout this book and enjoy how various Buddhist masters are cited in the development of the authors thesis for each chapter.”—Full Contact Enlightenment

The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons: Buddhist Themes in Modern Fantasy was a finalist for the The Mythopoeic Society’s Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies.