JOHN GARTH olkien On Fairy-stories, edited by Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson, includes among its extensive materials from the manuscripts of "On Fairy-stories" a striking anecdote in which that great proponent of Faërie, the author, recalls being put in his place by a small, thoroughly scientifically-minded boy. It is an entertaining little nugget, but I would suggest that it is more than that: it identifies a moment in the author's life which encapsulated for him, even some thirty years later, the defining idea behind his legendarium: that fairy-stories are not solely or primarily for children. Here I not only reveal the identity of the boy, but also provide photographs of both child and garden, while offering some thoughts on the date of the incident. The anecdote appears among the pages written by J.R.R. Tolkien when he was revising and enlarging his original 1939 Andrew Lang lecture for publication in Essays Presented to Charles Williams, published in 1947. However, the passage itself was excised by the author and leaves no direct trace in "On Fairy-stories." He introduces the incident to illustrate why the fairy-story should not be specially tailored for children in either tone or content. "Do not
Tolkien Studies – West Virginia University Press
Published: Aug 25, 2010
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