As a parent wanting to feed my child’s mind with not just good books but great books I find myself wondering if what we are exposing our child to is helpful or hurtful. This is why I found this book amazing and inspiring.

Mr. O’Brien leads the reader down a path of understanding why it is important to teach our children the difference between good verses evil in a very clear black and white sort of way. He discusses how important the old fairy tales are and why they are important. Further’ he discusses why to be wary of today’s modern movies and books; how and why to look for the gray area and to take heed with introducing the gray area at too young of an age.

I know this summary is lengthy but I feel you will not be disappointed. The summary is mostly a compilation of all my favorite quotes. I have refined the summary even further by making the quotes that I find extremely important in bold. My hope is this is seamless review made up of reference and quotes of this book. Giving you practical advice to start using without having to actually sit down and read the whole book. Of course I hope that each of you will one day want to read the whole book once you have the opportunity.

I give you reference to the page thus allowing you to refer straight to that page and chapter if need be. I have also included some of my personal thoughts before and after some quotes. But I really haven’t written much personal notes just because I believe this book truly speaks for itself. This book truly speaks for itself!
CHAPTER 1: Encounters with Dragons
pg 19: “It is a wise parent who recognizes the first awakenings of these mute dreads as the first buds of a spiritual faculty.” … “But I think the greater threat to children today lies in giving too little, rather than too much, attention to so-called imaginary fears.” … “But if a child’s fear of monsters under the bed or dragons in the closet always are ridiculed as nonsense, his spiritual guard is in danger of being lowered, with the consequence of his becoming more vulnerable to spiritual evil and less sensitive to spiritual good.” … (pg 20)… “We should neither inflame nor repress his raw spiritual instincts, but rather we should guide them in the direction of a confident realism.”

CHAPTER 2: The Shape of Reality — Seeing the True Form
pg 28: “On Fairy Stories…They contain rich spiritual knowledge.” … “…there is a retained in it a faithfulness to the moral order of the actual universe.” … “…magic has been used traditionally in fairy stories to give a visible form to the invisible spiritual powers. But a crucial distinction must be made between the use of ‘good magic’ and ‘bad magic’ as they appear in fairy stories, because for us in the real world, there is no such thing as good magic, only prayer, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and abandonment to divine providence. ‘Good magic’ in traditional fairy stories represents these very realities, symbolizing the intervention of God in the lives of good men put to the test. It is actually a metaphor for grace and miracle, the suspension of natural law through an act of spiritual authority, culminating in a reinforced moral order.” … “Bad magic in traditional stories represents the evil power that the wicked use in order to grasp at what does not rightly belong to them — whether worldly power, wealth, or even love. It is also a metaphor for the intervention of the enemies of God, the evil spirits, in the lives of wicked men.”
pg 30: “…’fairy tale’…deal with a variety of supernatural beings and imaginative happenings…” … “…they display a surprising uniformity in their depiction of good and evil: good is good and evil is evil.” … “A rich treasure trove of such fiction grew with he passing of centuries. A pattern of symbols emerged that signified real presence in the invisible world. Beautiful winged person represented unseen guardians and messenger spirits. At the opposite end of the spectrum, dragons (and a host of other monsters) represented the fiendishly clever spirits that sought mans’s destruction. These symbols were common to so many races and cultures that they were practically universal. But they were also well suited to the spiritual insights of Christian civilization. The shape of these symbols told the reader in a flash some essential information regarding the invisible realm — a realm that long predated Judeo-Chrisitan civilization and was, even then, a spiritual battleground.”
pg 32: … “Actual dragons may or may not have existed, but that is not our main concern here. What is important is that the Christian ‘myth’ of the dragon refers to a being who actually exists and who become very much more dangerous to us the less we believe he exists.” … (pg 33)… ” Of course the well-nourished imagination knows that dragons are not frightening because of fangs, scales, and smoke pour from nostrils. The imagination fed on truth knows that the serpent is a symbol of hatred and deceit, of evil knowledge and power without conscience.” … “The dragon that takes no form is the worst kind, and I would rather it not prowl around the neighborhood I call home. Most of all I do not want it infesting my children’s minds. I do not want them befriending it, either, or do I want it calming their instinctive good fears and perhaps in the process taking possession of their very selves.” … “At this point I may sound somewhat contradictory. It seems that I do not want dragons in my children’s minds, I say, and yet at the same time I want them to read a plenty of stories in which there are dragons that act like dragons and meet a dragon’s end. In fact there is no contradiction here. It is the real dragon against which I want my children armed.” … “It is good that our children fear dragons for in the fearing, they can learn to overcome fear with courage. Dragons cannot be tamed, and it is fatal to enter into dialog with them. the old stories have taught our children this.” … “The imagination must be fed good food, or it will become the haunt of monsters.”
pg 36: … ” The secret is not to deprive a child of his sword but to make the sword with him and teach him a code of honor.”
pg 39: … “The purpose of dragons in literature,…is to arm the soul with an ever-developing discernment of spirits. The purpose of the fairy tale is not to breed superstition but rather to defend the mind against superstition.”
pg 40: … “…important to note here that violent people, on the whole, tend to be lacking in character.” … “When the moral order of the universe is reinforced, as it is for these children, man begins to know who he is, where he is, and what he is for.”….
CHAPTER 3: A Child’s Garden of Paganism
pg 47: “Jesus Christ was born into a people barely purified of their idolatry.”
pg 50: … “There are countless false visions emerging, but among the more beguiling of them is the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, which in our times is enjoying something of a comeback. Its modern manifestation has many names and many variations, including a cold rationalist gnosticism (science without conscience) which claims to have no religious elements whatsoever.”
pg 54: … “The error of Gnosticism is that knowledge can be obtained and used to perfect oneself while circumventing the authority of Christ and his Church. Using a marketing technique…Satan always packages this offer with the original deception, by proclaiming that God and the Church do not want man to have knowledge…” … “…the Church…warns that unless the pursuit of knowledge is in submission to the pursuit of wisdom, it will not lead to good;…”
pg 56-57: … “What has happened to the people of our times? Why do we have such short memories? It is because over-familiarity and the passage of time blur the sharp edges of reality. Minds and hearts grow lax. Vigilance declines. Again and again man sinks into deep forgetfulness. Serpents and dragons are now tamed like pets by some, worshiped by others. …book of Revelation…reminds us…we are in a war zone. Every human soul is in peril;…Our danger increases to the degree that we do not understand the nature of our enemy.”
CHAPTER 4: The Mortal Foe of My Children
In this chapter Mr. Obrien analyzes many movies and talks about the good they may have and the cracks in them. It is an excellent way to really get to understand how media is trying to corrupt our senses. There are too many movies for me to go through but I have summed up what he was trying to get at during this chapter.

pg 59: … “…our minds are becoming increasingly passive and image oriented because of the tremendous influence of the visual media.” … “…inventions have lessened the need for the disciplines of the mind that in former generations were the distinguishing marks of an intelligent person.”
pg 60-61: … “By contrast, the loss of our world of symbols is the result of a deliberate attack upon truth, and this loss is occurring with astonishing rapidity. On practically every level of culture, good is no longer presented as good but rather as a prejudice held by a limited religious system (Christianity). Neither is evil any longer perceived as evil in the way we once understood it. Evil is increasingly depicted as a means to achieve good.” … “…children are especially vulnerable to the power of images…” … “…in a culture that deliberately targets the senses and overwhelms them, employing all the genius of technology and art, children have fewer resources to discern rightly than at any other hie in history.” … “The Modern mind is no longer formed on a foundation of absolute truths…” … “The children who do not drink from them can feel alienated from their own generation…”
pg 62: … “…Scientific studies have shown conclusively that within thirty seconds of watching television, a viewer enters a measurable trance like state. This allows the material shown to bypass the critical faculty, so that images and ideas are absorbed by the mind without conscious reflection.”
pg 64: …“When culture is deprived of moral vision, the rise of the ‘diabolic imagination’ is the inevitable result.”
pg 65: …”The readers imagination can select what it wishes to focus on, whereas in electronic visual media the mind is pummeled with powerful stimuli that bypass conscious and subconscious defenses.” … “At least in the old days dragons looked and acted like dragons.”
pg 67: … “…the momentary horrors that occur in classical tales always have a higher purpose; they are intended to underline the necessity of courage, ingenuity, and character; the tales are about brave young people struggling through adversity to moments of illumination, truth, and maturity; they emphatically demonstrate that good is far more powerful than evil.”
pg 72: … “Walt Disney died in 1966. During the late 1960’s and 1970″s the studios approach gradually changed. Its fantasy and science fiction films began to show symptoms of the spreading moral confusion in that genre. ‘Bad guys’ were at times presented as complex souls, inviting pity if not sympathy. ‘Good guys’ were a little more tarnished than they once had been and, indeed, were frequently portrayed as foolish simpletons.” … “What began as a hairline crack began to grow into a chasm.”
pg 82: … “Disney’s point is clear: Traditional Christianity is weak, blind and selfish; ‘real Christianity’ is sociological and ‘politically correct’.”
pg 85: … “We worry that our children might be affected adversely by it, but at the same time we don’t want to overreact.”
pg 86: … “Our first step must be in the direction of finding a few helpful categories, a standard against which we can measure examples of the new culture. I have found it useful to dive the field of children’s culture into roughly four main categories:
1. Material that is entirely good.
2. Material that is fundamentally good but disordered in some details.
3. Material that appears good on the surface but is fundamentally disordered.
4. Material that is blatantly evil, rotten to the core.”
CHAPTER 5: Neopagan Literature for Children
pg 94: … “Neopaganism…is a transition. It is a downward slide.”
pg 95: … “In the following century a branch of humanism developed that attempted to make a final break with the concept of God and religion.”
pg 96: … “On every level of modern society the Conditioners shape and reshape our concepts of reality, and these concepts are overwhelming secular humanist.”
pg 102 … “Our truest stories tell us who we are and where we should be going. They inform us about the nature of the enemy. They strengthen us for the journey. A badly flawed tale, on the other hand, can weaken and confuse us. It may direct us into some very dangerous territory.”
pg 104: … “A simple rule of thumb is to ask the following questions when assessing a book, video, or film: Does the story reinforce my child’s understanding of the moral order of the universe? Or does it undermine it? Does it do some of both? Do I want that? What precisely is the author saying about the nature of evil? What does he tell the reader (or viewer) about the nature of the war between good and evil?”
pg 105: … ” How do we discern between category 2…and category 3…?”
pg 106: … “…a parent’s primary tool for discernment must be his own interior barometer.”
pg 111: … “Are we willing to sacrifice precious time to pre-read some novels about which we may have doubts?”
CHAPTER 6: The Restoration of Christian Storytelling
In this chapter Mr. O’Brien discusses in great detail several authors. There are some that he finds their writings flawed and he explains. Then there are those who he finds their works great in moral lessons and so much more.

pg 117: … “…Chesterton …In The Everlasting Man, he pointed out that ‘the sanity of the world was restored and the soul of man offered salvation by something which did indeed satisfy the two warring tendencies of the past…’…”
pg 119: … ” The ‘baptized’ intellect must also be about a long labor of developing its skills and understanding. Because true culture has an inherent restorative power…that culture alone will not restore a society to sanity…” … “….I think the classical fairy story has a great deal to teach us.” … “The work of three Christian writers in the tradition of true fairy tales provides models of some of the possibilities that are open to us: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald.”
pg 122: …”The discernment of the right paths that must be taken, if good is to triumph is dramatized…. Tolkien’s world is faithful to the moral order of the universe…”
pg 132: … “…Lewis outlines what so often happens to a mind without God…”
pg 158: … “Lewis, MacDonald, and Tolkien are Christian writers whose works are built upon a common moral foundation.” … “If Lewis represents those Christian writers whose witness value is most obvious — who labor at the evangelical harvest of souls — Tolkien represents those who prepare the soil, and MacDonald represents those who plant it. Ultimately…are each concerned with the destiny of human souls. Their primary concerns are salvation, grace,virtue, and spiritual warfare.”
pg 159: … “…if you want your children to grow up to be thinking people..Genuine literature stimulates the asking….it is about the imparting of the great adventure, the majesty and mystery of the moral cosmos.”

CONCLUSION: Are Christians Intolerant?
pg 162: “The early Christians were not squeamish about political incorrectness.”
pg 163: “A society sliding back into paganism may try to reassure itself that it is in no worse condition than a society crawling out of paganism.” … “The convert from paganism has known darkness and has turned toward the light. Our society has known the light and is turning back toward darkness. This is the crucial difference. It is into the core of this difference that we must speak….”… “the Christian’s task is now to rediscover a firm commitment to this truth and to show how it can be combined with an effective love of our neighbor.”
pg 164: … “…we are to love the personhood of each and every individual human being….not…remain paralyzed and silent regarding acts and ideas that are killing us…We have a right and a duty to speak the truth with simplicity and calmness, clearly and fearlessly, without rancor or personal condemnation, wherever untruth invades the life of our family.”
pg 165: … “Overwhelmed, we can be deluded into choosing a less demanding form of faith, a seemingly more ‘compassionate’ kind of religion….We can gradually come to think that the torrent of noise is normal. And when the pressures become intolerable, we might even begin to agree with what the noise is saying.”
pg 166: “That is why we must reduce the noise in our lives and open the ears of the heart to real listening. We parents especially need moments of complete stillness.” … “The absolutely essential task of parents is to give their children a true culture, a sure foundation on which to stand.”
At the very back of this book, from page 169 through 261, are lists of suggested reading for each age level all the way through adult reading. Some familiar choices and not so familiar. Either way a great wealth of knowledge all compiled together to make it easy for us readers to pick from.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about this thought provoking book. I know I have enjoyed revisiting it for you and remembering just how important it is to fight “THE BATTLE FOR YOUR CHILD’S MIND”!

3 thoughts on “A LANDSCAPE WITH DRAGONS by Michael D. O’Brien

Add yours

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Kelly. I really enjoyed reading them. Regarding pg 104: One thing I think we as parents also need to guard against as our children grow older is the unspoken fear that Truth cannot be exposed to challenge because it will possibly falter. I have found some Christians prefer to shelter their children from the culture instead of teaching them to live in it and influence it as Christ did. I am curious as to how the author defines “undermining”, in contrast to challenging. As my girls are growing, I think it's important to expose them to more views, not fewer, so they will be thinking Christians, and will be able to see the fallacies of various world views. Thank you for the opportunity to comment!


  2. Susan…thanks for your comments and insight. I agree with what you are saying. I think we all as parents have to determine what is the age that we allow more outside influences to give them teachable moments. I think the balance is not so much allowing them to be “exposed” to outside influences but teaching our children how to walk and be in this world but not of this world. It is building steps. Each year we allow a little more awareness to things so as to not “shock” them into society but to be aware of where society is going and what path do they want to choose. It is hard to be a parent that is for sure. I commend all parents who struggle with these issues of trying to find balance BECAUSE if a parent is struggling with these issues and questions then they are trying to be apart of their children's lives not just coast through it. Teaching our children how to be beacons of light without their light being burned out or blown out is the greatest challenge we face!


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