Revisiting a Favorite
I read The Archives of Anthropos for the first time when I was in the sixth grade. I have fond memories of reading the series, while lying on the lawn at the local water park, during our class field trip.
I finished my re(re)read of book one today. Ahhh, so delightful. For fans of allegory, this is one of my go-to recommendations (though I have to admit, I have yet to meet a Christian allegory series that I don’t like).
- Author: John White
- Publisher: InterVarsity Press
- Originally Published: May 19, 1986
- Series: Archives of Anthropos
- Audience: Written for children; powerful for adults, too!
- See also: Interview with John White (not by me)
About the Series
Readers have commented on how similar the series is to Narnia. And it is. In fairness to the author, that was intentional on his part. His children told him to write children’s books “like Narnia.”
While the “world-traveling allegory” is based on the same premise as Narnia, there are a lot of differences between the two. From what I recall, there is a lot more cohesion throughout the series, in terms of an overarching storyline. Narnia feels more to me like episodes placed in the same setting, Anthropos includes the same villain, throughout. Anthropos also features both God the Father and Jesus as characters. Anthropos books are also a lot longer, although there are six, rather than seven.
The Sword Bearer Synopsis
Chronologically first, The Sword Bearer was originally published in the 1980s, after the third (chronological) book was published in the 1970s. It is set in the late 1920s, beginning in England.
After a traumatic thirteenth birthday, John Wilson is drawn to the world of Anthropos. In the company of animals, dwarves, and a seer named Mab, John learns that he is the Sword Bearer, come to fulfill the Changer’s prophecy.
Why I Recommend It
- The allegory is evident! While some readers feel that this is “over the top,” I really, really like the strong allegory.
- For me, allegory REALLY brings to light the truth of what I read in Scripture. I so appreciate the opportunity to meet Jesus in story!
- “[The Archives] stirred the most deeply in people. And I have a feeling that the stories in the historical records in scripture are far more important than the doctrines and prophetic utterances based on them. That we read to read the stories first. We need to focus on the stories because I’ve learned from my own experience that the stories are more powerful.” -John White
- Specifically, I really like the scenes with the “wine of free pardon,” so full of truth and redemption!
- Likewise, God’s interactions with the main character are beautiful, and I really like the names/ descriptions of the God character.
- There is a very strong emphasis on God’s power, also. It is very clear that the good supernatural things are from God, and that ALL power comes from Him.
- Overall, the book is delightfully heartwarming, as well as moving!
Collecting the Series
In the past year, the Lord encouraged me to collect the allegories I read in childhood, which He used to speak to me. I recently purchased a used copy of The Sword Bearer on eBay. I’m particularly excited to have this series, because it’s one that I have trouble finding in libraries.
What are your favorite Christian allegories for children?
In addition to the Archives, I am also collecting and rereading various other childhood favorites: The Seven Sleepers (Gilbert Morris), Landon Snow (R.K. Mortenson) and The Imager Chronicles (also known as Journeys to Fayrah, Bill Myers). Children’s allegory (or maybe allegory, in general) is my very favorite genre!