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Tolkien and Fantasy

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					Tolkien and Fantasy
„There is no market for
       fantasy.‟
          -- U.S Publisher to an aspiring author in
                         the 1950‟s
              The Romance
    Presents life as we would have it be–more
picturesque, fantastic, adventurous, or heroic than
                     actuality.
                   Realism
“Realistic fiction is written to give the effect that
    it represents life and the social world as it
    seems to the common reader, evoking the
 sense that its characters might in fact exist, and
        that such things might well happen.”
                  Realism

 The subject matter of Realism must be fairly
 limited. It tends to prefer commonplace, and
everyday material, represented in minute detail.
“His work is so outstanding and his influence
  so conspicuous that his name stands first:
 Tolkien and twentieth-century fantasy, like
    Shakespeare and Elizabethan drama.”

                       (Deborah Webster Rogers)
                Fantasy

Any narrative that is disengaged from reality.
   Often such [stories] are set in nonexistent
worlds, such as under the earth, in a fairyland,
  on the moon. The characters in fantasy are
 often something other than human or include
            non-human characters.
    Some Characteristics of
          Fantasy
•   Is often set in the past before recorded
    history begins or at some time that cannot be
    put into a definite relationship with real time
    but resembles past eras of history; or

•   contains persons or other creatures that have
    been the subject of myths or legends; or
         Some Characteristics of
               Fantasy
• involves marvellous events of which no
  scientific explanation is given or perhaps
  seems possible; or

• involves magic.

(Richard L. Purtill J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality and Religion 33).
   Fantasy & Science Fiction
Fantasy can be distinguished from science fiction
  in that the latter, though it may have a strange
    world similar, or vastly different from our
    own, its laws are explained by science and
      technology (whether real or imagined).
    Fantasy & Science Fiction

“Fantasy deals with things that are not and cannot
 be. Science fiction deals with things that can be,
             that some day may be.”
                                    (M. H. Abrams)
       Tolkien on Fantasy

Fantasy is “the making or glimpsing of Other
 worlds” (i.e., worlds made up by the author)
              (“On Fairy Stories”).
          Tolkien on Fantasy

            The fantasy writer creates
a Secondary World which the reader‟s mind can
    enter. “Inside it, what he relates is „true‟: it
  accords with the laws of that world”. Thus the
          writer creates Secondary Belief.
       Tolkien on Fantasy:

Fantasy, when well achieved, should have “a
   quality of strangeness and wonder in the
Expression”, yet an author must be able to give
     to his or her “ideal creation the inner
             consistency of reality”.
                             (“On Fairy Stories”)
      Tolkien on Fantasy
Faërie (the “perilous and “magical” realm of
 fantasy) “contains many things besides elves
 and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls,
 giants, or dragons: it holds the seas, the sun,
the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things
  that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone,
         wine and bread, and ourselves,
                   mortal men.”
                              (“On Fairy Stories”)
    Tolkien on Magic in Fantasy

 His fantasy‟s magic, “is a magic of a peculiar
 mood and power, at the furthest pole from the
   vulgar devices of the laborious, scientific
magician. . [whose] desire is power in this world,
       domination of things and wills”.

      It is more the magic of enchantment.
              Sub-creation

“We make still by the law in which we‟re made.”

                              (“On Fairy Stories”)
            Sub-creation


“The making of things is in my heart from my
           own making by Thee”
                        (Aule in The Ainulindale).
Recovery, Escape and
    Consolation
      Recovery, Escape and
          Consolation

Tolkien believed that fairy-stories are valuable
 because they help us overcome an imaginative
   poverty he saw behind his contemporaries‟
 failure to respond to the mythological vision of
                works like Beowulf.
              Recovery

 Too much of our life and our art, Tolkien
complains, is like “play under a glass roof by
  the side of a municipal swimming-bath,
      forgetful of heaven and the sea.”
                          (“On Fairy Stories”)
              Recovery

 “We need to clean our windows; so that the
things seen clearly may be freed from the drab
        blur of triteness or familiarity”.
                             (“On Fairy Stories”)
               Recovery
Tolkien believed “Fairy stories let us see or
   discover the world as we originally were
meant to see it. We are left to imagine that the
stupidity, barbarity, squalor, and horror of the
   war drove a sensitive young imagination
 toward the conviction that he was seeing the
   very opposite of life as it was meant to be
              seen” (Roger Sale).
               Escape
“Why should a man be scorned, if, finding
 himself in prison, he tries to get out and go
home? Of if, when he cannot do so, he thinks
 and talks about other topics than jailers and
        prison-walls?” (“On Fairy Stories”)
                  Escape
  “The world outside has not become less real
            because the prisoner cannot
                     see it…
“The critics who accuse fantasy of being escapist
    have chosen the wrong word, and, . . . are
   confusing „The Escape of the Prisoner‟ with
          „The Flight of the Deserter‟….”
                               (“On Fairy Stories”)
               Consolation
“Fairy tales offer consolation from this world‟s
 suffering through tapping into desires we have,
  such as the desire to visit far off places, . . .to
  survey the depths of space and time. Another
  is … to hold communion with living things.”

                                  (“On Fairy Stories”)
               Consolation
The main consolation is seen in all fairy tales: It
             is the happy ending.

   Tolkien calls this the “Eucatastrophe”.
When we experience a Eucatastrophe, we feel a
 deep, piercing joy with a turn from sorrow to
                   happiness.
              Consolation
“„Eucatastrophe‟ : the sudden happy turn in a
 story which pierces you with a joy that brings
 tears (which I argued it is the highest function
  of fairy-stories to produce). . . . it is a sudden
glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in
  material cause and effect, the chain of death,
  feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of
   joint had suddenly snapped back.” (Tolkien,
                      Letters)
              Consolation
The gospels, according to Tolkien, are like a
fairy story, artistic, yet true, not fictitious. The
     incarnation and resurrection are both
                 Eucatastrophes.
“The poetry of the mythic imagination makes the
   ability to perceive truth possible, putting
 imaginatively starved modern man back once
  again into awed and reverent contact with a
       living universe” (Randel Helms).