On Fairy Stories – An Essay by Tolkien

 JRR Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories” in The Tolkien Reader (NY: Del Rey, 1966), 38.

Tolkien which discusses the fairy-story as a literary form

One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie(Tolkien)." Master of storytelling J.R.R.

Tolkien’s childhood and studies had a large impact on his later life....

On Fairy-Stories - Tolkien Gateway

J.R.R. Tolkien has emerged as one of the most important and enduring literary figures of the twentieth century. His masterwork, The Lord of the Rings, possesses an intriguing quality of "depth" and veracity that has evoked a sense of wonder in generations of readers. Those qualities have made it one of the most-printed and most-read books in history.

Around this time, I also began teaching The Hobbit on a regular basis, which returned me to the old questions.

For most of them (together with their scattered relations in the hills and mountains) were descended from the ancient tribes that never went to Faerie in the West.”
(Tolkien, the Hobbit, “Flies and Spiders)
Two questions occurred to me, even then.

This lecture, later published as “On Faerie Stories,” is the basis for Tolkien’s understanding of Faerie and fantasy.


Tolkien's main assertions in his treatise On Fairy-Stories

Publication in 1937 of a little volume written casually for his children, The Hobbit, brought Tolkien first public recognition. After the success of The Hobbit, his publisher was eager for more tales of Hobbits, but apparently uninterested in the vast corpus of creation already stacked in his study – it was simply too strange, too arcane.

Santini Christmas - Tolkiens Essay On Fairy Stories

At this critical juncture in his creative life – stuck with a Hobbit company at the Prancing Pony in Bree, and struggling to see the direction his new literary journey would take – Tolkien delivered his celebrated lecture “On Fairy Stories” at St. Andrews University.

Stories essays fairy on tolkien

“The Land of Fairy Story is wide and deep and high.... In that land a man may (perhaps) count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very mystery and wealth make dumb the traveler who would report.... The fairy gold (too often) turns to withered leaves when it is brought away.

All that I can ask is that you, knowing all these things,
will receive my withered leaves, as a token at least that my hand once held a little of the gold.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien (draft manuscript of “On Fairy Stories”)

In his classic essay, “On Fairy Stories,” Tolkien teaches ..

Late in life as he contemplated his years of work and journey in the land of Faerie, a revealing and very personal myth came to Tolkien: Smith of Wootton Major. The short story is a thinly veiled testament to the gift Tolkien had received, and the treasure he now passed on to others.

The Hobbit as an Archetypical Story Essay -- Literary …

Consolation. Fairy-stories offer glimpses of joy through the happy ending. Tolkien compares the tragedy of drama to the happy ending of fairy-stories by speaking of two different kinds of catastrophe. Eucatastrophe is a “sudden joyous turn” out of catastrophic events. These catastrophes occur in fairy-stories and offer readers glimpses of grace and joy. Frodo and Sam’s final moments on Mount Doom capture a quintessential eucatastrophe and the Incarnation as the greatest. Dyscatastrophe, captured brilliantly in the great tragedies of dramatic fiction, stand as eucatastrophe’s opposite. Tolkien recognizes that fairy-stories might contain dyscatastrophe, but they do not have the final say: