Table of Contents
Before Reading a Single Word
Even before looking at Tolkien’s essay, read this under-file to learn:
- where (chronologically) the essay fits into T’s creative career;
- the various versions of “On Fairy-Stories” and which you can/should use;
- typos in the Tolkien Reader version;
- how we will refer to it;
- what other texts by JRRT (if any) to read in conjunction with it.
Read through the essay once (if you have never done so), then go through this under-file, which deals with, among other things, how to transform yourself into the kind of audience Tolkien had in mind.
What Fairy Stories Are
In this under-file What Is a Fairy-Story? we not only look at the part of the essay focussing on this question (§§4-22), but also examine notable examples of the genre. In addition, we sound the meaning of “fairy” (countable noun, plural “fairies”) and “Fairy” (non-countable noun, also spelled “Faerie,” “Faërie,” etc.).
In addition to examining the content of §§23-41, we say a little about the history of fairy stories and consider the issue of “literary” versus non-literary fairy stories.
Paragraphs 42-101 of the essay ostensibly deal with the uses of fairy stories; in fact, only the third and last part (Recovery, Escape, Consolation) examines uses as such.
This part (§§42-64) deals, not with what fairy stories are good for, but who they are good for.
Similarly, this part (§§65-80) deals, not with a use of fairy stories, but with the human faculty that makes them possible.
Recovery, Escape, Consolation
At last (§§81-101), we get to the uses of fairy stories. Interestingly, the ones Tolkien has in mind turn out to be temporally bound.