On Fairy Stories – An Essay by Tolkien


Is Legolas a fairy? (I'm not touching that one, read Tolkien's essay!)

Okay, who’s up for some light weekend reading? By which I mean dozens of pages written by JRR Tolkien about fairy stories.

On Fairy Stories (full text in PDF) is a lengthy essay in which The Man Himself he defends “Fairy Stories” as being worth reading. You can read this piece as a lengthy defense of fantasy literature itself. I did, so I suppose it must be true in some way.

Stories essentially is Tolkien getting at the answers to  at least two questions:

1. What is a fairy story?

The answers matters to students of his work, because they provide a useful look at how Tolkien viewed his work, and why fantasy literature had value to anyone, not just those who Edmund Wilson would say love “juvenile trash.”

It also provides  a framework for talking about the elves.

2. What are the origins of fairy stories?

Well, for that, you’re going to have to read the essay.

I’m putting this out here today because when we start talking about critics who absolutely hated Tolkien’s work, On Fairy Stories can be used to demonstrate that many of their claims aren’t as airtight as they might think.

Or, you could just do something fun with your Saturday.