The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons

Buddhist Themes in Modern Fantasy

Foreword by Jane Hirshfield
LIST PRICE $14.95

About The Book

In order to live, we need air, water, food, shelter…and stories. This book is about Buddhist stories: not about stories to be found in Buddhism, but about the “Buddhism” to be found in some of the classics of contemporary fantasy including the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, Hayao Miyazaki, Michael Ende, Philip Pullman, and Ursula K. LeGuin.

Many books are called groundbreaking, but this one is truly unique and sure to appeal to anyone with an interest in fantasy literature. It employs a Buddhist perspective to appreciate some of the major works of modern fantasy--and uses modern fantasy fiction to elucidate Buddhist teachings. In the tradition of David Loy's cutting-edge presentation of a Buddhist social theory in The Great Awakening, this pioneering work of Buddhist literary analysis, renown scholar David Loy and Linda Goodhew offer ways of reading modern fantasy-genre fiction that illuminate both the stories themselves, and the universal qualities of Buddhist teachings. Authors examined include J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip Pullman (of The Amber Spyglass trilogy, from whose works the word "daemon" is borrowed in the title), Ursula K. LeGuin, and the anime movie Princess Mononoke.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (February 1, 2000)
  • Length: 128 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780861714766

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

"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

"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 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

"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

"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

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: David R. Loy