Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tower of Geburah

"Maybe they shouldn’t have been there at all..." 

So begins The Tower of Geburah by John White, a magnificent children's fantasy that tells the story of three children from our world, who find themselves transported to the magical land of Anthropos where their help is needed to free a king and defeat the powers of evil.

I have been reading a chapter a night aloud to Jemilla and Keegan before bed. Sometimes I have been concerned that the intense imagery might lead to nightmares; they are only eight and six years old, respectively. However, all that has eventuated are meaningful discussions on its Biblical truths and pleas for "just one more chapter". Needless to say, my children have enjoyed many nights past their bed time as a result!

John White, the author, clearly stated in a 1978 interview that he when he penned this book, he began, at his kids' request, to make a story like the Chronicles of Narnia. "My own children ganged up on me,” he said, “and came with the request that since I wrote books for adults, I could write them for children too. Of course their assumption was incorrect! ‘We won't bug you anymore,’ they said, ‘if only you'll write a book for us. But it has to be just like Narnia!’ So, intrigued, I decided I'd have a crack at it ... I wrote, and then read them my opening chapter of what eventually turned into The Tower of Geburah."

Responding to the criticism that he was merely copying Lewis' work, White wrote, "People said (quite accurately), 'He's just trying to copy Lewis.' I was. This was what my children wanted. That is, I was trying to copy Lewis at first, but I soon ceased to. Copying gets you nowhere. You have to make any genre your own for it to work."

As an adult I have been intrigued by White's use of biblical languages to create the names of people, places, and things. It has deepened my appreciation for this book. I looked up a few words using online lexicons and found the following rough meanings:
  • Anthropos is Greek for man
  • Chocma means wisdom in Aramaic
  • Ebed Ruach means slave of the spirit in Hebrew
  • Geburah is strength in Hebrew
  • Kardia is Greek for heart
  • Mashal is the Hebrew word for proverb or parable.
  • Nephesh is the Hebrew word for life or soul
  • proseo comai is Greek for pray.
  • Suneidesis means conscience in Greek
The Tower of Geburah is a wonderful example of how fantasy can be used to convey an important Christian message. I found myself choking up reading Chapter 14 in particular, as the Christ-type allegory is beautifully done. One reader in her online review explained it this way: "You absolutely fall in love with the characters, and Gaal the Shepherd especially. You want to run into his arms and make him carry you away from everything, which is something you can't really do with Tolkein's Frodo (too short) or Lewis's Aslan (lion, hello!). But with Gaal you can just picture him and how warm and loving he must be."

I love The Tower of Geburah as much for my nostalgic recollections of childhood as the Christian symbolism. My father read the exact copy aloud to my sisters and me when I was seven years old and home from boarding school for the Christmas holidays. The book's pages are now browned with age and riddled with interesting worm holes.

The Tower of Geburah is one of six books in The Archives of Anthropos and costs approximately AUD $14.00 from The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery, or around the same price from Koorong. I urge you to buy a copy and read it aloud to your own children. Then, let me know if you have enjoyed it as much as we have!


  1. I loved that book! Isn't it the first in a series?

  2. Thanks for the tip, I'm checking it out on www.booko.com.au right now ...