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LIGHTBRINGERS AND LAMPLIGHTERS

The Archetypal Quest

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

May 15, 2010: "Lightbringers and Lamplighters" is the story of a quest. The writer, Steven List, has carefully constructed it as an allegory, which means to you and me that it reads like an old fairy tale in the classic style. You can picture a narrator recounting the story around a fire, or in a fair. It’s a universal story told in a specific time and place, meant to reach any reader with it’s essential message.

What this means to me, as a modern reader, is that the story is told more than it’s shown. In most cases, this is a detriment to stories. However, it perfectly suits fairy tales and allegories, as that was the traditional style. Given that the author is intentionally writing an allegory, I have to give him credit for following the format and the tradition.

The quest story is archetypal and runs through our world’s mythologies and fictions. Joseph Campbell’s "Hero of a Thousand Faces" examines the plot structure and gives it a sociological and pyschological basis—it’s an ordinary life against an extraordinary backdrop. Allegories are a crystallization of ideas down to their basic story forms. Steven List is examining how ideas change lives, and quests change people. It’s a story about illumination and the way it enriches.

As a reader, I know I like my details shown more, my settings and events richer, but I do admire his knowledge of literature and the way he’s telling his story. It’s classically done, and sometimes it’s nice to return to the classics. A little sparse for my personal taste, but definitely worth checking out.

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