There are times when I wish that fatherhood classes would have included some training as a referee. When my kids are playing imagination games together, we regularly find me grabbing for the whistle around my neck like the lady that had fallen but couldn't get up.
It works out great when they all are imagining the same game, like when my four year old declared “Ok, now I am the slimy turtle monster disguised in the skin of the dead seal that I found at the beach.” (we had recently helped in a failed attempt at a sea lion rescue on the beach near our house, at least I hope that is why he was imagining wearing dead seal skin as a disguise), but my 7 year old, just screamed, yelled, 'you'll never catch me' and took off running with the turtle monster in a seal suit giggling with delight hot on her trail.
Problems arise, however, when there are more than one game being imagined while they are trying to play together. While my girls were recently playing with the newly acquired 'farm animal hospital' that Grandma bought for the birthday of my well adjusted middle daughter, my son, who had shed both the seal skin and the slimy turtle act, arrived on the scene, watched just long enough to see the pig go in for his medicine, and declared himself to be their giant pet dog who was too wild, jumped into the miniature hospital and squished all of the animals in the waiting room, along with the nurse, and the waiting room itself.
While playing with others, it matters what story you are telling about your self in your own head. Dragon Hunters has four characters telling different stories about their own world.
Zoe is a little girl that believes in fairy tales. In fact, the whole world is a fairy tale to her. And she loves every minute of it. She lives with her uncle, who also believes the world is a fairy tale, but is old, embittered and blind because he resents the fairy tale ways of the world.
Gwizdo is the small, worldly, and greedy partner of Lian-Chu. They are dragon hunters who kill dangerous and destructive beasts for money. Neither of them believe that the world is at all like a fairy tale. Gwizdo is quite happy with his disbelief and lives quite contentedly as a selfish little brick-a-brack. Lian-Chu wishes that the world that he believed in as a child, the fairy tale world, were true; but has been convinced that the pessimism and self-preservationist morality of Gwizdo is in fact true to the world. His hands drag at his sides whenever he's not fighting the beasts that threaten his neighbors, because he wishes that the nobility and righteousness and indignation of the world of fairy tales were true. He wears his disbelief like a backpack full of lead bricks, but he still doesn't believe.
Before I get into the actual story and what to learn from it, there are certain things that are important for you to know. You hear movie reviewers use phrases like, “visually stunning, a treat for the eyes.” By overusing phases such as these, it leaves less verbose reviewers such as myself without the vocabulary that we need to be able to get you, the reader of this review, to know that movies such as Dragon Hunters should actually receive high praise. It is really actually a visual masterpiece, and I am not just saying that. The entire movie was, . . . Well, it was like having little nymphs of joy dancing along the cones and rods of my retina while massaging bliss balm on my pupil and iris. The animation, characterizations, and scenes are all wonderful. It was simultaneously inventive and surprising, while remaining fun and even beautiful. They often communicated as much or more visually as they did through dialogue. It was first rate. Even if you see it just to watch lian-chu chase the dragons, your soul will be made broader and deeper (unless of course your soul is emptier than one on those chicks that got "loved on" by that twilight monster (if you known what I mean), (I think its 'name' was Edward).
Now, as the story develops, we learn that all of the knights of the Lord Arnold's Kingdom have been seared, broiled, and/or devoured by the myriad of dragons that are roaming the world unchecked. The problem is, the season of the world-gobbler is upon them. This giant dragon returns every 30 seasons and decimates everything in its path. Gwizdo and Lian Chu are dragon hunters for hire. Lian Chu being the slayer and Gwizdo being the business man. When Zoe sneeks out of her uncle's castle to go find a dragon slayer (like the ones in her fairy tales), she is attacked by two dragons and promptly rescued by Gwizdo and Lian Chu, who she takes home to Lord arnold's castle to slay the world gobbler.
There is, of course, adventures and dragon slayings aplenty while they search for the World Gobbler, but we also see Gwizdo and Lian Chu learning what the world is really like and each of them is reacting to it differently. Because Lian Chu has always wished that the world was like a fairy tale, when he learns that the world is actually like a fairy tale, he becomes a heroic knight of great courage and valor. But Gwizdo, upon learning that his vision of the world is all wrong, goes insane. He rejects the truth out of bitterness and resents Zoe for being right all along. He even imagines killing her in order to prove that she can't be right. Gwizdo's attempt to reject the world the way that he finds it in favor of a world that he has imagined leads to cowardice, selfishness, and evil, while Lian Chu's full embrace of the world the way that he finds it produces heroism, self-sacrifice, righteousness, and the salvation of the entire world.
And this is the very thing that we should learn from Dragon Hunters. This is what is powerfully displayed and made beautiful by the movie. The world, in all of its fairy tale oddness, can either be embraced as a good story, or it can be resented, but the world is the way that it is. This is actually the world that Jesus was incarnate in and Jesus was raised from the dead in and that Jesus ascended to the right hand of God to rule as the King of kings and Lord of lords. We dwell in the kingdom of the great dragon slayer, under the feet of the knight of God who grabbed hold of that great serpent that was in the garden in the beginning, then he held the worm by the face and plunged into the depths of hell in order to stomp upon his head until his skull cracked wide.
Then this Jesus was given the reigns of history, and made the king of every nation, and calls his people to be like him, and to trust him, and to see that he has ordered each of our lives to conform to his death and resurrection. Faith is believing the story that God is telling about our lives. Faith is telling the same story about our lives that God is telling with our lives. God orders our lives, and he sends dragons for us to vanquish. Sometimes they are small dragons, sometimes they are large ones, but he sends them to us so that we can be saved. When we get bitter and frustrated at what God gives us, we are telling a different story about our lives than he is. When he points out Job to the dragon and says, “Have you considered my servant Job” he wasn't attacking Job, he was setting him up to be a great hero of the faith. If we are attacked, it is not so God can condemn us, it is so that he can prove the steel of the sword that he has placed in our hands, to show the strength of the armor of God, and to show forth his great salvation in the earth. We tell the story of our lives like we are being attacked at the very points where we are being saved.
When children sin right in front of their parents and the parents get annoyed, they become another attacker at the very point where their children need someone to rescue them. One of the dragons that we each deal with is the dragon that raises its head within our hearts. But a child, who is helpless against his own dragon, has been given defenders called parents. It is a blessing when your children sin in the open, it gives you a chance to train your children, teaching them the truth about what kind of world we live in, helping them wield the sword of repentance. Holding the dragon by the nose so that they can take a whack at it with the sword that they often need help lifting. If you, instead, try and tell a different story about the world, where you are so important that you can't be bothered, then you are faithlessly telling a different story about your life than God is. You are refusing to plant your seed where God says that it will produce a harvest.
It is the same with temptations. It isn't a sin to be tempted, but we tell stoicism's story of our life. Jesus was tempted, yet was without sin, but we think that we need to be holier than Jesus. We think that we have lost the battle because we are tempted and so we give in at the very point that we are called to begin the fight.
We fail in battle because we are telling a different story about our lives than the story that God is telling with our lives.
We are called to embrace the actual world, believe the story that God is telling, and then to live in that story with Joy, knowing that Jesus has slain the dragon and is now conforming us to his dragon hunting image. Knowing that we are all called to be Dragon hunters.