Reblog: Jonathan McIntosh on the Redemption of Faërie

In his famous essay “On Fairy-Stories,” J.R.R. Tolkien defines fairy stories as being not about fairies so much as they are about the land of Faërie, that is, the “perilous realm” (which may or may not be inhabited by actual fairies) into which men will some­times wander and where they find danger, adven­ture, and above all enchant­ment. In his epilogue to his essay, however, Tolkien turns the tables somewhat to imply that, if the role of Faërie and of fairy stories is to enchant and in that sense “redeem” those who ven­ture into them, there is another sense in which both Faërie and fairy stories are them­selves in need of being saved. Thus, he ex­plains how in the Gospel tales of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection, God has not only turned human his­tory and reality into a fairy story, but just as interest­ingly, he has also made our fairy stories in particular and our sub-creations in general to be some­thing entirely and eminently real. Apart from such fulfillment, Tolkien leads us to believe, our fairy stories, however beauti­ful and enchanting they may be in their own right, would ultimately differ little from mere “Dreams,” stories, that is, in which (like fairy stories) “strange powers of the mind may be unlocked,” but which in the end “cheat deliberately the primal desire at the heart of Faërie: the realization, independent of the conceiving mind, of imagined wonder.” In the Christian evangelium, accordingly, the realm of Faërie itself gets treated to its own enchanting eucatastrophe, a fact that better enables it to enchant us in our turn.

(Read entire article: “Enchanting the Elves“)

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