Tolkien’s “On Fairy-Stories”

One of the most quoted and celebrated critical pieces of Tolkien’s is his apologia for the fantastical fiction, “On Fairy-Stories.” Here, Tolkien clarifies what it is about Marchen that draws the reader out of their normal reality to “recover” more their own reality than they would have ever dreamed. He explains several of his most important compositional tools – such as eucatastrophe and mythopoiesis – and brings critical scholarly work and discussions of trolls together in a way that can hold the attention of even this reader.

Originally a contribution to a fetschrift for a colleague (which was edited by C.S. Lewis), the article appeared in various formats, including The Tolkien Reader (1966). It is now republished in a (critical) edition by Flieger and Anderson.

On a not wholly related note, but nevertheless still within the Faerie!, is the intriguing article by Jeffrey Mallinson in the Journal Of Religion and Popular Culture: “A Potion too Strong?: Challenges in Translating the Religious Significance of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to Film.” Now that we are somewhat sufficiently chronologically removed from the films, I’ve enjoyed looking back at some of Mallinson’s arguments. You can read his article here.

On Fairy-Stories

I propose to speak about fairy-stories, though I am aware that this is a rash adventure. Continue reading

Deconstructing Middle Earth?

I’ve always been a Tolkien fan, having been exposed to The Hobbit when I was young and then reading The Lord of the Rings as a jr. higher. No, thank you for asking, I wasn’t a nerd.

But I did fall head over heals for Arda and Tolkien’s mythos so much so that I didn’t go on a date until I was 25 memorized Elvish language and devoured The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. So imagine my cautioned interest when I heard that Russian paleontologist Kirill Yeskov penned “The Last Ringbearer,” a re-imagining of Tolkien’s trilogy. Translated by Yisroel Markov, Yeskov’s vision of Middle Earth does away with what he perceives to be a romanticized and naive morality in Tolkien’s yarn, and instead speculates from a Mordor-centric understanding. Here, Gandalf is a war-monger who is trying to hold back the civilizing and modernizing effects of Mordor’s innovation.

All this makes me as equally intrigued as suspicious. What do you think? Is such fiction harmless and good for the franchise? Or can such a retelling with such a strong anti-Tolkien lens bear any fruit? – “Middle Earth According to Mordor” Lauren Miller analyzes whether Yeskov’s work is “fan fic” or a parody that hits closer to home.
“The Last Ringbearer” – translated and download