If the Mormon Review ever gets around to publishing my essay on The Great Divorce, you’ll find that Overstreet’s definition of what’s important about fantasy is what I was trying to get at.
In short, I think there are powers and mysteries at work in the world that can only be expressed through fairy tales. Fairy tales allow us to cast nets into mystery and catch things that are otherwise inexpressible. Tolkien said that fairy tales can give us a glimpse of our eventual redemption in a way no other story can.
At its best, fantasy provides us with an escape from the narrow, restrictive perspectives of modernism. And with its emphasis on the primal, it returns us to engagement with the elements, with the stuff of rocks and trees and fire and rivers and mountains. Since those elements of creation “pour forth speech,” according to the Psalmist, we’re able to hear some things more clearly when we meditate there.