On Fairy-Stories
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On Fairy-Stories

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  858 ratings  ·  36 reviews
A new expanded 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. Accompanied by a critical study of the history and writing of the text.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published 2008 by HarperCollins (first published 1938)
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The Road to Middle-Earth by Tom ShippeyOn Fairy-Stories by J.R.R. TolkienThe Tolkien Reader by J.R.R. TolkienOn Stories by C.S. LewisJ.R.R. Tolkien by Tom Shippey
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Community Reviews

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Caroline
A must read for anyone who loves fairy stories or tales of enchantment. An essay on the craftsmanship, delights and misapprehensions we have about tales in this genre. I particularly liked his evocation and description of 'eucatastrophe'.

But the “consolation” of fairy-tales has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I wou...more
Gwen Burrow
Here is the quintessential defense of fantasy as a higher form of Art, “a natural human activity,” worthy of adults and children alike. “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.” Tolkien also lays forth now-famous ideas such as man as Sub-creator, the Consolation of the Happy Ending, Eucatastrophe, and the fairy-story quality of the gospel. A profound and thrilling essa...more
L.G. Estrella
A good read for anyone with an interest in fairy stories. Tolkien provides a simple to understand explanation of what he views as fairy stories along with analyses related to their structure, meaning, and purpose. What makes this book particularly nice is that one does not need to have any academic background at all in fairy stories. Tolkien treats the subject from the perspective of one who has come to appreciate fairy stories during the course of his writing, as opposed to someone whose career...more
Ann-lee
I really really really loved to read it.
And that is the best I can do without trying to write an essay myself.




(And I actually read it from the end of "Tales from the Perilous Realm", not this extended edition...)
Steven
I only read Tolkien's essay, found online, and did not read any critiques or analysis of the essay.

Read the Essay here: http://public.callutheran.edu/~brint/...

The language is a bit convoluted, awash in interjections and awkward phrasing, but his point - when he gets to it - is simple: Fantasy literature is a legitimate form of writing and can carry just as much depth as anything else written.

Tolkien goes on to decry why Fantasy works as "Literature" yet fails as "Drama" and that too often crit...more
Renada Thompson
I had read bits and pieces of this in various forms over the years. Some probably from Tolkien biographies, some in Christian books, maybe it's even quoted in the Lord of the Rings DVD special features. But it's certainly worth reading in its entirety, and in the end, explains for me why Tolkien's trilogy is unmatched in its ability to move me to both deep joy and deep grief while pointing to the Evangelium.
Christina
Tolkien expresses so many wonderful ideas in this about the function, value, and attributes of "Fairy-Stories." It almost feels like the exposition of a Christian literary aesthetic. My very favorite part is the discussion of what he calls, "eucatastrophe," a sudden, joyous, climactic turn of events, and how that reflects euangelion/gospel.
Sebina~☆~ClassicMaiden
On Fairy-stories was a lecture given by Tolkien on 8 March 1939 in honour of the famous Fairy Tales collector Andrew Lang. It was then later expanded into an essay with the help of Tolkien's great friend C.S. Lewis for publication in 1945 (in a memorial volume for Charles Williams). The essay gives great insight into his thoughts on the kinds of stories he himself wrote and insight into his knowledge of the land of Fairie. Certainly one of the seminal essays on the matter. Highly recommend readi...more
Aaron
A great essay on why those who think fairy-stories are for children are highly mistaken.
Eustacia Tan
I first heard of this book from Pages Unbound when they reviewed it. It sounded so fantastic I decided to hunt down a copy and read it for myself. And, it's truly a really good (although fairly-short) read. After all, I grew up on a diet of Disney movies (why don't they show the classics anymore?) and I thought I knew quite a lot about fairy-tales.

This short book (or if you have another viewpoint, long essay) is 27 pages long, but does a good job of introducing and discussing the genre of fairy...more
Mary Catelli
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...more
Peter Mongeau, Tuscany Press
The essay is significant because it contains Tolkien’s explanation of his philosophy on fantasy and thoughts on mythopoiesis (where authors integrate traditional mythological themes and archetypes into fiction). Moreover, the essay is an early analysis of speculative fiction by one of the most important authors in the genre.

“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 th...more
Clorush
"Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faërie."

I don't have any background on English literature (and any other literatures) so please forgive me when I said the language in this book is a bit confusing. But yeah, overall I understand what Tolkien is trying to say:

That the land of Faerie is mystical not in the RPG-game-world-sense.

That fantasy is a natural human taste, since we imagine things, like seeing a face on a tree, or cursing the heaven for seve...more
Elizabetha Souvré
Si estudias a Tolkien y los Cuentos de Hadas este ensayo es IMPRESCINDIBLE.
Maravilloso.
Realmente la prosa de Tolkien es una de la mejores que he leído.

*****
Comentario útil que hice por acá:

"I have heard the podcasts of Seattle Pacific University about Tolkien and Lewis. They Are amazing!And i have heard some of the recordings of The Tolkien Professor. I´m Writing an Essay about Tolkien and his book "The Children's of Hurin" for a congress and this recordings are too useful.I´m working, too, in...more
Jessica
I want to make clear, that I read only the essay and not the full book, which is "almost twice as long as the essay and has lots of additional commentary, history detailing the evolution of the essay, commentaries by the editors Verlyn Flieger & Douglas A. Anderson and a bibliography of works cited or consulted by Tolkien during his work on the essay." I have this on the authority of a knowledgable dealer and collector of books by Tolkien and other notable British authors.

The book is nearly...more
Una
Jan 02, 2014 Una rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tolkīna, brīnumpasaku un elfu cienītājiem
(Lasīju tikai eseju.) Fantāzijas žanra manifests, kura autors neizslēdz elfu pastāvēšanu reālajā dzīvē. Ļoti baudāms filoloģiskas erudīcijas fons, tēlainība, emocionālais lādiņš. Laikam tīri laba argumentācija par žanru, bet grūti tai pievērst uzmanību, kad ik pa brīdim gadās kaut kas šāds:
"Fairy-stories are made by men not by fairies. The Human-stories of the elves are doubtless full of the Escape from deathlessness."
Nora
This essay consists of 20% good stuff and 80% Tolkienesque ramblings. Worth the read, but requires patience.
Jaimie
I just finished one of the most beautiful thing I've ever read. Tolkien, I wish I could lay _colors_ themselves at your grave! I started "On Fairy-Stories" thinking it would be an essay, but it's the Writer-Artist's manifesto, a celebration of Sub-creation, and of the way it pierces through this world into something so much more glorious. Readers, writers, and lovers of fantasy, READ THIS!!!
Stacey
I read only the essay by Tolkien which was beautifully constructed and a valuable insight into his world of fairy-story telling. His analogies on life are thought-provoking and sensitive and would be possibly enough to convert even cynics of fairy-stories. I enjoyed this essay so much when I got to the end I turned back and read the whole composition all over again.
Andrew
A great essay/seminar on Fantasy/Fairy-Stories. I don't know if I agree with everything he says. That would require a lot more dissecting. But some of the ideas posed were quite interesting. Tolkien also creates the word eucatastrophe for this seminar. Worth a read for those interested in such things. Not long but good luck tracking down a copy.
Janelle
An amazing piece of writing. Fascinating as a scholarly analysis of fairy stories, but absolutely breathtaking as a reflection on human desires. Tolkien puts into words everything that I love about fantasy (most of which I had never consciously considered). There is so much Truth in this essay. It's undeniably God-inspired.
Dimitris
Fascinating analysis on the fantastic and on different types of imaginary storytelling. Often philisophical, autobiographically nostalgic at times but hardly difficult to follow, Tolkien's essay on a timeless subject has aged extremely well. Great sunday morning read.
Sam Sigelakis-Minski
I had to read this for my high fantasy class... I love the prose, and the theory is solid but the subject bores me. Literary essays and criticism never really excited me; I'd much rather read the books than read about their psychological and cultural impacts.
Deanna
There's a great metaphor concerning the relation of fairy stories to children and used furniture to children I'm not going to tell you how it works but you should definitely find out for yourself because it's a good'un.
EJ
Prof. Tolkien's grand lecture on the "fairy story" is must read for all Tolkien enthusiasts, and any one interested in the imaginative fiction genre. Highly recommend!
Kathee
Tolkein's thinking about the fantasy genre and myths. Written between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, this also provides insight into his development as a writer.
Bill Tillman
This essay defined Tolkien's view of the Faërie Story. This is available on the net as a PDF download, if you want a true view of faëry tales it is a must read.
Jacob Meiser
Great description of Faerie or fantasy, and the epilogue is an absolutely beautiful exultation in the great story of God.
John Hattan
Bit of a tough read as the author rambles a bit but definitely worth the time spent. Professor Corey Olsen's lecture helps.
Mona
I think I read this in college for a class on fantasy fiction, but I cannot be sure and it sounds intriguing.
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Mythic Scribes: The Perilous and Wondrous Realm of Faërie 1 8 Jun 07, 2013 10:27AM  
  • Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World
  • Christian Mythmakers: C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Williams, Dante Alighieri, John Bunyan, Walter Wangerin, Robert Siegel, and Hannah Hurnard
  • The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created A New Mythology
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
  • Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
  • The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings
  • Tolkien's Ring
  • The History Of Middle Earth Index
  • Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
  • Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories
  • Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship
  • The Maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth
  • Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life
  • Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues : Exploring the Spiritual Themes of the Lord of the Rings
  • King Arthur: Dark Age Warrior and Mythic Hero
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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, was an English writer, poet,WWI veteran (British Army), philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English language and literature from 1945 to 1959. He was a cl...more
More about J.R.R. Tolkien...
The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe) The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3) The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

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“Faërie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons; it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.” 150 likes
“The consolation of fairy stories, the joy of the happy ending; or more correctly, the good catastrophe, the sudden, joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to a fairy tale); this joy, which is one of the things that fairy stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially escapist or fugitive. In it's fairy tale or other world setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace, never to be counted on to reoccur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, or sorrow and failure, the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance. It denies, (in the face of much evidence if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” 95 likes
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