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Tolkien on Fairy-stories

4.34  ·  Rating Details ·  1,486 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
J.R.R. Tolkien's On Fairy-stories is his most-studied and most-quoted essay, an exemplary personal statement of his own views on the role of imagination in literature, and an intellectual tour de force vital for understanding Tolkien's achievement in writing The Lord of the Rings .

Contained within is an introduction to Tolkien's original 1939 lecture and the history of
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by HarperCollins (first published 1939)
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Tolkien first defines “Faerie” as a place, and a type of story. According to him, fairies are not required, but a belief in the other world typifies “Faerie.” This belief is not a mock-reality, of what he calls our “Primary Reality,” but a secondary reality, just as real. This is not a place to make-believe, but to truly believe, and here you find the reason children are more apt to like these stories. Children trust, and believe, without the complication of big words and deeper meanings to hid
Nov 23, 2012 Caroline rated it it was ok
Shelves: miscellaneous
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
Mateo R.

Menciones directas:
* Sir Gawain y el Caballero Verde (s. XIV), anónimo.
* Mención al vellocino de oro, de la historia de Jasón y los argonautas de la mitología griega, cuya primera mención de que se tiene constancia está en la Odisea (s. VIII a.C.) de Homero.
* Mención a Humpty-Dumpty, el huevo antropomórfico de la canción infantil inglesa.
* Posible alusión a La máquina del tiempo (1895) de H. G. Wells.
* Mención a los escritores G. K. Chesterton y Charles Dickens.


Gwen Burrow
Aug 07, 2009 Gwen Burrow rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
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
Dizzy Lizzie
Sep 26, 2015 Dizzy Lizzie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-english
Este homem é simplesmente GENIAL.

"It is the mark of a good fairy-story, (...) that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the "turn" comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears."
Alex Boyd
Jan 04, 2016 Alex Boyd rated it really liked it
This is a really dense essay, and Tolkien has a habit of following intellectual rabbit trails. If you don't mind taking a long time to read a short piece, it is definitely worth the effort. He discusses not only the history, purpose and misconceptions of fairy tales, he also discusses with great passion and importance how they relate to the nature and soul of man.
Vusal  Rasulzade
Mar 18, 2016 Vusal Rasulzade rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Yetişkinlerin kendi zevkleri için okuyabileceklerini düşündükleri peri masallarını tamamlarken, sık sık ‘’bu kitap altısından altmışına kadar olan tüm çocuklar içindir’’ şeklinde şakalar yaparlar.
Aug 07, 2012 Aaron rated it it was amazing
A great essay on why those who think fairy-stories are for children are highly mistaken.
Brona's Books
You don't need to study the meaning and purpose of fairy tales professionally to know that they have been important throughout history in telling us 'important things about reality'. The reason they resonate so strongly with us (as children and as adults) is because of the inherent truths behind the fantastic. Fairy tales speak to our deepest fears and ugliest emotions. They provide road maps for our inner lives and they give us hope for a way forward.

Just like Bilbo's and Frodo's quests, the jo
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
L.G. Estrella
Mar 31, 2014 L.G. Estrella rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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
Matt Chapman
Very interesting throughout, but the epilogue is particularly sublime as Tolkien puts forward the gospel as being the true fairy story of a larger kind than any other, that embraces all the essence of fairy stories. It's the true story that all the other stories point to and are a far off gleam and echo of.

Speaking of the Gospels, he writes:
"There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true... It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any
Nicolaus Filius Martini
May 31, 2016 Nicolaus Filius Martini rated it it was amazing
It's a brilliantly written essay on the process and implications on the creation of fantasy.
Though there is still way too many things to explore about fairy-stories, Tolkien covers and explains some of the most important aspects of the genre, like the philosophy behind it, the range of the "target audience", and more.
Recommend it to anyone who has an interest in learning more about fantasy, specially to those who aspire of becoming a writer one day.
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.
Mar 09, 2011 christina rated it it was amazing
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.
A great essay on fairy stories and fantasy. It had some excellent points on how a fairy story should be written and why they are not just for children. But sometimes he went into some detailed examples and that is where I was a bit lost as I have not read many stories that he talks about. Overall I liked it and will reread some paragraphs that I liked.
Mar 03, 2015 amazedliz rated it it was amazing
“Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

Da rileggere, perché ogni volta mi sembra di perdermi qualcosa.
Jan 28, 2014 Ann-lee rated it it was amazing
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...)
Jan 15, 2016 Meg rated it it was amazing
I love the concept that we (humans) are supernatural while fairies, which we call supernatural, are in fact more natural than us. They are of this world when we are not and are merely visitors.
Joshua Nuckols
Jul 03, 2015 Joshua Nuckols rated it really liked it
Yep, secondary reality, and eucatastrophe.
Seth Holler
Mar 17, 2016 Seth Holler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A storehouse, a treasury.
Nov 26, 2016 Loralee rated it really liked it
This is not the exact version of the essay that I read. My library had a very old edition which also contains a short story titled "Leaf by Niggle" which was also excellent. I read this essay at the same time that I have been reading a biography of Lewis and some of my favorite parts of that biography have been the moments shared between Lewis and Tolkien as pertains to Lewis' conversion to Christianity. Lewis states that it was in these very discussions about fairy-stories that he came to know ...more
Oct 11, 2016 Heila rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
I read this, and then bought a copy to be able to re-read and underline things. So I'm "currently reading" again.
Mar 06, 2014 Steven rated it liked it
Shelves: essay, 2014
I only read Tolkien's essay, found online, and did not read any critiques or analysis of the essay.

Read the Essay here:

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
Eustacia Tan
May 20, 2012 Eustacia Tan rated it it was amazing
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
Lori Eshleman
Jun 20, 2015 Lori Eshleman rated it really liked it
Shelves: british, fantasy, essay
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 essay for you! In it he 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 t ...more
I only read J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” and not the editor's commentary. Tolkien's essay is quite enjoyable and offers insight into both language and fairy tales.

What are fairy-stories? What is their origin? What is the use of them? are the questions Tolkien considers in his essay. He defines a fairy-story as “one which touches on or uses Faërie, whatever its own main purpose may be: satire, adventure, morality, fantasy. Faërie itself may perhaps most nearly be translated by Magic,
Jun 19, 2015 Esteban rated it it was ok
Empieza bastante bien, dejando claro enseguida su desprecio por la imagen preciosista y pseudoinfantil de las hadas, a la que vincula con el desencantamiento del mundo:

"The diminutive being, elf or fairy, is (I guess) in England largely a sophisticated product of literary fancy. (...) Yet I suspect that this flower-and-butterfly minuteness was also a product of “rationalization,” which transformed the glamour of Elfland into mere finesse, and invisibility into a fragility that could hide in a co
Peter Mongeau
Jun 18, 2013 Peter Mongeau rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2016 Joyce rated it really liked it
I love this essay. I read it at a time when I was completely fed up with literature class in secondary school. My Dutch literature teacher had a problem with Fantasy and wouldn't allow me to read it for my bookllist, saying it wasn't 'proper literature'. As an act of rebellion, I decided to write my secondary school thesis about Fantasy and used this essay as one of my sources. With the help of the essay, I could conclude that Fantasy was proper literature and was therefore able to prove my teac ...more
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J.R.R. Tolkien Ep...: On Fairy Stories 3 7 Apr 01, 2016 06:02PM  
Fairy Tales Eclectic: Fairy Stories by J. R. R. Tolkien 18 19 Apr 01, 2016 05:48PM  
Fairy Tales Eclectic: On Fairy Stories 10 27 Apr 01, 2016 05:46PM  
Mythic Scribes: The Perilous and Wondrous Realm of Faërie 1 11 Jun 07, 2013 07:27PM  
  • Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology
  • 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
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  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
  • On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth
  • Mere Humanity: G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition
  • The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship
  • The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth
  • Hobbits, Elves and Wizards: The Wonders and Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'
  • Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in the Lord of the Rings
  • King Arthur: Dark Age Warrior and Mythic Hero
  • Occultism, Witchcraft & Cultural Fashions: Essays in Comparative Religion
  • Tolkien's Ring
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a First Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, 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 lan
More about J.R.R. Tolkien...

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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.” 221 likes
“The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending; or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially "escapist," nor "fugitive." In its fairy-tale -- or otherworld -- setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of 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.” 137 likes
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