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Tolkien Discussion Board - Module 2 1.What is the value of "fairy-stories" and fantasy, according to Tolkien in "On Fairy-stories"? Name and define at least two terms that Tolkien uses to outline the value of "fairy-stories." Include a few quotes & paraphrases from "On Fairy-stories," with page numbers, as evidence to support your statements. In his essay “On Fairy-Stories,” Tolkien argues that fantasy and fairy-stories provide plenty of value outside of even their value as art and literature. Namely, “fairy stories offer…these things: Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, [and] Consolation,” (15). Of these, I felt that the values of recovery, escape, and consolation were the most interesting. Tolkien defines recovery as “re-gaining—regaining of a clear view,” and stipulates that it includes “return and renewal of health,” (19). As humans, our primary world grows drab and trite as it becomes more familiar. We are attracted to an object or feeling due to some wonderful quality it has, but as we possess it, appropriate it, and decide that we know it, those qualities wear off in wonder, and we see them in a tinted light—Tolkien likens this phenomenon to us needing to “clean our windows” and once again see things in a positive light: “We should look at green again, and be startled anew (but not blinded) by blue and yellow and red. We should meet the centaur and the dragon, and then perhaps suddenly behold, like the ancient shepherds, sheep, and dogs, and horses— and wolves. This recovery fairy-stories help us to make.” (19). In essence, fairy-stories help us to feel like children again, and help recover (and regain) our clear view of the positive and marvelous aspects of objects, feelings, and being alive. As for escape, Tolkien talks about several ways that fairy-stories can be valuable in this respect. Ever present problems—“hunger, thirst, poverty, pain, sorrow, injustice, death”—are main fodder for fairy-stories to help us escape. However, even when these problems are not persistent among humans, fairy-stories can help us escape into “profounder wishes: such as the desire to converse with other living things,” (22). This, of course, we see in The Lord of the Rings, where not only are their other species like Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits for humans to interact with, but the trees speak, the birds and beasts are friend and foe, and seemingly everything in nature is given a voice: the precise way the moon and stars shine, the breath of wind through grass, and the way a
hill rolls all mean something in Tolkien’s world. In this way, we also see the final (and, sadly, unintentional) way that fairy-stories provide value through escapism, “not indeed from life, but from our present time and self-made misery— that we are acutely conscious both of the ugliness of our works, and of their evil,” (21). In fairy-stories, homely places are beautiful and good, and those who produce them are proud of their efforts. Now, in our modern world, we create evil and ugly things (as I will discuss more in depth in question two), and fairy-stories offer us an escape back to beauty.