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On Fairy-stories by J. R. R. Tolkien
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On Fairy-stories (1947)

by J. R. R. Tolkien (Author), Douglas A. Anderson (Editor), Verlyn Flieger (Editor)

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I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” in preparation for teaching a class on Tolkien. Originally written as a lecture in 1939 and first published in 1945, this essay gives a sense for why Tolkien valued fantasy, fairy-story, myth and legend. So, if you’ve ever wondered what was behind Tolkien’s fantasy fiction, this is the book for you! In it Tolkien argues that fairy-stories and fantasy are not just for children--in fact, adults need them more, and get more out of them. He also objects to the notion that fairy-stories are at the bottom rung of evolution from myth to heroic legend to fairy-story. For him, the world of myth and legend and fantasy is a “cauldron” that has been bubbling for centuries, with bits added into the stew over time. He himself draws from this cauldron--and adds to it--in his own fantasy-writing. What does this type of fantasy literature have to offer? His answer is: escape from some of the ugliness and violence of this world; consolation for some of our profoundest desires, such as the desire to communicate with other living creatures, or the desire to escape death; the experience of “eucatastrophe” (“the good catastrophe”)--or “the sudden joyous ‘turn’” of events; and the resultant feelings of joy. And indeed, as I reread The Lord of the Rings, I find myself experiencing some of these very feelings. It is a great wonder to talk with trees and elves. There is a great sadness to mortality--and loss of things past. And, in the face of great threat, there is a sense of the joy of deliverance. Remember, Tolkien lived and wrote through two World Wars, and had a rightful horror of “the ugliness of our works, and of their evil” (On Fairy-Stories). His fiction is steeped in the sense of cosmic battle between forces of good and evil, forces of life and forces of destruction. His works, fantasy though they are, confront some of the most profound questions of his generation--and continue to speak to ours. ( )
  Lori_Eshleman | Jun 20, 2015 |
Cory Olsen (The Tolkien Professor: http://www.tolkienprofessor.com/wp/) teaches an English class at Washington State University on the writings of JRR Tolkien (English 494).

Portions of this class are offered on iTunes...and I am following along with the lectures and the readings as much as possible. This essay On Fairy Stories is the first of the works that will be dissected and discussed.

As you can see...I have earned my nerd/geek tag honestly and I wear it with PRIDE. ;-)
  MrsJoseph | Mar 30, 2013 |
Tolkien's reflections on fairy-stories are pure brilliance. ( )
  chriskrycho | Mar 28, 2013 |
Cory Olsen (The Tolkien Professor: http://www.tolkienprofessor.com/wp/) teaches an English class at Washington State University on the writings of JRR Tolkien (English 494).

Portions of this class are offered on iTunes...and I am following along with the lectures and the readings as much as possible. This essay On Fairy Stories is the first of the works that will be dissected and discussed.

As you can see...I have earned my nerd/geek tag honestly and I wear it with PRIDE. ;-)
  MrsJoseph | Mar 28, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolkien, J. R. R.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, Douglas A.Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Flieger, VerlynEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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I propose to speak on fairy stories, although I know that this is a rash adventure.
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Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold . . . The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost.
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The English title of this work is "On Fairy-stories". It is a classic essay by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited in some editions by Anderson and Fleiger. It is sometimes mistitled "Tolkien on Fairy Stories" (probably copied from Amazo.com's listing), apparently because of the placement of the author's last name just above the title on the cover of some editions.
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A new edition of Tolkien's most famous, and most important essay, which defined his conception of fantasy as a literary form, and which led to the writing of 'The Lord of the Rings'.

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