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On Fairy-Stories is an essay written by Tolkien about the reader who enters a realm full of fairy tales. An excerpt is shown below.
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 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 the traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gate should be shut and the keys be lost.
—J.R.R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories," in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays
The essay was first delivered as a lecture in 1939 and was first published in Essays Presented to Charles Williams. It was subsequently published in a revised form in Tree and Leaf and The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983). In 2008, editors Verlyn Flieger & Douglas A. Anderson published an expanded edition with commentaries: Tolkien On Fairy-stories.
Categories: Articles needing expansion | Lectures by J.R.R. Tolkien | Published articles by J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien On Fairy-stories
Tolkien On Fairy-stories, is an expanded edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's essay On Fairy-stories. This edition includes:
- The final published version of the essay.
- Two manuscript versions of the essay.
- Commentaries by the editors Verlyn Flieger & Douglas A. Anderson.
- A history detailing the evolution of the essay.
- Newspaper reports of the 1939 lecture.
- A bibliography of works cited or consulted by Tolkien during his work on the essay.
- Cover illustration by Tolkien
 From the publisher
A new expanded edition of Tolkien's most famous, and most important essay, which defined his conception of fantasy as a literary form, and which led to the writing of The Lord of the Rings. Accompanied by a critical study of the history and writing of the text. J.R.R. Tolkien's "On Fairy-stories" is his most-studied and most-quoted essay, an exemplary personal statement of his views on the role of imagination in literature, and an intellectual tour de force vital for understanding Tolkien's achievement in the writing of The Lord of the Rings.
"On Fairy-stories" comprises about 18,000 words. What is little-known is that when Tolkien expanded the essay in 1943, he wrote many more pages of his views that were originally condensed into or cut from the published version. An estimate is difficult, but these unpublished passages perhaps amount to half again as much writing as the essay itself. These passages contain important elaborations of his views on other writers, and their publication represents a significant addition to Tolkien studies. Included in this new critical study of the work are:
- An introductory essay setting the stage for Tolkien's 1939 lecture (the origin of the essay) and placing it within a historical context.
- A history of the writing of 'On Fairy-stories', beginning with coverage of the original lecture as delivered, and continuing through to first publication in 1947.
- The essay proper as published in corrected form in Tree and Leaf (1964).
- Commentary on the allusions in the text, and notes about the revisions Tolkien made to the text as published in Tree and Leaf.
- Important material not included in the essay as published, with commentary by the editors.
Contained within "On Fairy-stories" are the roots of the tree of tales that bore such glittering fruit in Tolkien's published and unpublished work. Here, at last, Flieger and Anderson reveal through literary archaeology the extraordinary genesis of this seminal work and discuss, in their engaging commentary, how what Tolkien discovered during the writing of the essay would shape his writing for the rest of his life.
Categories: Scholarly books | Books by J.R.R. Tolkien | Books by Douglas A. Anderson | Books by Verlyn Flieger | Publications by title