Thursday, June 16, 2016

Three Men Who Stole My Heart and What They Taught Me

This article was originally published on March 12, 2014. 

Homeschoolers love to joke about their fictional crushes, but that's because we actually do get pretty serious about our fictional crushes. We pine after characters, typically characters in classic literature, while bemoaning the fact that people like this are next to nonexistent in real life. Fictional characters have about as much impact on our lives as normal people, if not more. But even my fictional-character-crushes were few and far between throughout my teenage years. I didn't read as much as other girls and the books I did enjoy ran more along the lines of Redwall as opposed to Anne of Green Gables and Elsie Dinsmore (I did read both eventually though neither of these have ever been favorites of mine). I enjoyed the Little House on the Prairie series, but I lost interest right about the time Almonzo began courting Laura.

Nevertheless, there was one man who succeeded in capturing my young and impatient heart.
That man was Jim Craig.

My grandmother first introduced me to The Man From Snowy River and Jim Craig when I was twelve years old. Between Jim's blond hair, his piercing blue eyes, his uncanny way with horses, his intense work ethic, his genteel manner, and his boyish kind nature, I was pretty much swept off my feet in an instant. Oh, and did I mention that he plays piano? Yes, it was love at first sight for me.

There, in my grandmother's little farmhouse, tucked away in the wide open Illinois farm country, I discovered my inner cowgirl. That's right. From the moment I met Jim, I decided that I was going to be a stellar trick rider, sharp shooter, and barrel racer--the future rodeo queen of Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show. In short, I was going to be the next Annie Oakley (Fun Fact: I acquired the nickname "Dani Oakley" right about that time and prided myself in the fact that even though I didn't own a BB gun of my own, I was still a better shot than my brothers). My grandmother proceeded to sew me cowgirl outfits. For several consecutive birthdays I received cowboy hats, guns and holsters (toy ones), and cowgirl boots as gifts. My dad also took me to rodeos and wild west shows several years in a row for my birthday.

But within a couple of years, I got distracted with choir, dance and playing the piano. I never received the coveted horse riding lessons or BB gun rifle. I grew out of my crazy tomboy phase and my parents breathed a sigh of relief. Right about that time I started to realize that Jim wasn't as much of the man I had originally perceived him to be. He was actually still very much a boy, a boy on the verge of manhood, a boy wise enough to know that he still had a long way to go, but a boy nonetheless.

A few years later after my introduction to Jim Craig, when I was about fifteen years old and coming out of my tomboy phase, I met the next love of my a land of myth and a time of magic.

His name…Merlin.


You might be vaguely disappointed right now. I mean, I could have at least gone for the gallant sword-wielding dragon-slaying King Arthur. I have recently been studying the Gospel of John (I promise this is going somewhere, it's not just a random bunny trail). In John chapter 3, John the Baptist's disciples realize that Jesus is starting to baptize people and the crowd that once followed John the Baptist is now starting to follow after Jesus. Jealous and frustrated, they turn to John the Baptist and complain about how Jesus is usurping John the Baptist's work. John replies by saying, "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:29-30) Basically what John the Baptist is saying is that he doesn't care that he is being usurped by Jesus, because ultimately his job was to prepare the way for Jesus and so he finds great joy in Christ coming to claim His bride at long last, even if this joy is seemingly second-hand. 

While I know that the BBC show Merlin is not a Christian show in any way at all, I do believe that the way Merlin serves and protects Arthur every single day, often receiving little to no thanks, is very Christ-like. Merlin's destiny is essentially to prepare Arthur's kingdom for him and then stand back and let Arthur get all the glory. His job description includes mucking out Arthur's stable as well as frequently risking his life for the sake of Arthur. But like John the Baptist, Merlin finds great joy in standing back and watching Arthur succeed and get all the glory while his own significant and vital role remains overlooked and unnoticed. Often Merlin's enemies entice him to betray Arthur, tempting him with the fame and renown he deserves, but Merlin always stands firm. He knows his place. He is fast in his loyalties and friendships.

Merlin is far from perfect, but his genuine sacrificial attitude captured my heart.

That is, until I met Mr. Knightley.

We know this name to have many faces. I fell for this face in particular.

Mr. Knightley, as depicted by Jonny Lee Miller in the 2009 BBC miniseries adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, is, in a word, perfect. All my previous crushes, fictional or no, fleeting or lasting, simply evaporated when I met Mr. Knightley. Everyone falls short in comparison (I'm sorry Jim Craig, but it's true). I don't even know where to begin.

Perhaps you were expecting a step up from the magic-wielding spell-casting warlock. And instead, here we have a bookish, quiet, humble, country man. Somewhat disappointing. But see, if you're me, that's actually one of the attributes that makes him so impressive. He's homey, down-to-earth, and principled. He's content in his quiet life and small circle of friends and family. He is also eloquent and witty. He has a great sense of humor. He is uninhibitedly kind and generous toward everyone. Oh, and he dances.

However, the one surpassing quality that Knightley possesses is that he understands love. If you have ever read or seen Emma, you know that Knightley and Emma's relationship has more of a sibling dynamic than anything else. By "sibling dynamic", I mean that they squabble and quarrel with one another. But ultimately they are honest and up front with each other. Knightley's love for Emma goes beyond admiration. He deeply cares for not just her physical wellbeing, but her spiritual wellbeing. More than anything, Knightley wants to see Emma do the right thing and grow in character. And what's even better is that Emma understands this. She knows that when Knightley scolds her and lectures her, it is only because he truly and genuinely cares for her happiness.

While dashing mountain men and mysterious magicians are phenomenal in their own way, I have grown up to realize that the most impressive men are the men who exemplify Christ, understanding and exercising genuine kindness, love, and humility toward others.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? What are some attributes you admire in certain fictional characters and why?

Also see The Adventures of a Lucky BugWhat He Must BeWhat's the Issue Dear? (Why I'm Single).


  1. Very well written!

    BTW Merlin had me at episode one as well, although I never thought if it like that. :P

  2. I'm currently reading 'Emma' for the first time, Dani, and was checking out the 2009 version again online the other day. Oh yes, Mr. Knightley is a wonderful hero - one of my favourite fictional figures of the 'classics'. To be honest, my admiration of his character in a fictional novel would have to ought-weigh Mr. Darcy by a long-shot ;). I love this post, - it is fun and sweet :).

    "While dashing mountain men and mysterious magicians are phenomenal in their own way, I have grown up to realize that the most impressive men are the men who exemplify Christ, understanding and exercising genuine kindness, love, and humility toward others."

    Hear, hear!

    1. I have recently grown to appreciate Mr. Knightley a lot more than Mr. Darcy. Darcy seems to be the character all the girls fawn over, but I realized recently that Darcy's character has a fundamental flaw. He chooses to harbor pride and remain aloof toward people he deems beneath him or not worth his time. If there isn't a direct (and might I add, somewhat selfish) reason to bestow kindness toward someone, he's not going to. So while his behavior toward Lizzie inherently transforms, his behavior toward everyone else remains the same. Maybe there's nothing wrong with Darcy's behavior, maybe it's just his personality, but I've grown to prefer Knightley's character and the way he is decidedly not exclusive in showing kindness toward others. :)

  3. I followed you over from Story Monger blog...and had to comment. If anyone is worth having a crush on, Mr. Knightly is. Oh, is he ever. For ALL the reasons you mentioned.
    Thanks for writing!

    1. I know, right? I forgot to mention that he has an impeccable sense of style as well, but I tend to think that about all Austen characters. Maybe it's just the style of that era. ;)

      I'm glad you found your way to my blog! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  4. I don't usually have crushes on fictional characters. I usually just admire and want to be like them. One of my favorite fictional characters is Kaladin from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. He's extremely epic. Great book too! Though I actually like the second one, Words of Radiance, better. So good!! Definitely one of my favorites.

    1. That's another reason why fictional characters are so inspirational! I have yet to read Brandon Sanderson but so many people have recommended his fiction to me. I guess it's time for me to finally read his books, eh?

      Dani xoxo

  5. I love Merlin. He's so precious and one of my favorite characters. The strongest fictional crushes I've had are for Aragorn and Thor. XD

    1. I imagine Aragorn is on a lot of young ladies' list! ;) I personally always fell for Eomer, from the book and movie, though he's a little more present in the book.

      Dani xoxo

  6. So I had never seen the Emma 2009 BBC series before, but your post got me interested to know who this Mr. Knightly is. So I convinced my roommate to join me in watching it (which wasn't hard since she already likes it) and we just finished the second episode yesterday. Both of said last night that we needed to find a husband like Mr. Knightly. ;) One of my favorite things about him is how patient he is with Emma.

    Thanks for introducing me to this new wonder. ;) Now I am hooked!


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