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“There Would Always Be a Fairy-Tale”

Essays on Tolkien’s Middle-earth

Literature & Literary Criticism

DescriptionA mosaic of essays on myth, truth, manners, and morals in Tolkien’s Middle-earth 

Devoted to Tolkien, the teller of tales and cocreator of the myths they brush against, these essays focus on his lifelong interest in and engagement with fairy stories, the special world that he called faërie, a world they both create and inhabit, and with the elements that make that world the special place it is. They cover a range of subjects, from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings and their place within the legendarium he called the Silmarillion to shorter works like “The Story of Kullervo” and “Smith of Wootton Major.”

From the pen of eminent Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger, the individual essays in this collection were written over a span of twenty years, each written to fit the parameters of a conference, an anthology, or both. They are revised slightly from their original versions to eliminate repetition and bring them up to date. Grouped loosely by theme, they present an unpatterned mosaic, depicting topics from myth to truth, from social manners to moral behavior, from textual history to the microparticles of Middle-earth.

Together these essays present a complete picture of a man as complicated as the books that bear his name—an independent and unorthodox thinker who was both a believer and a doubter able to maintain conflicting ideas in tension, a teller of tales both romantic and bitter, hopeful and pessimistic, in equal parts tragic and comedic. A man whose work does not seek for right or wrong answers so much as a way to accommodate both; a man of antitheses.

Scholars of fantasy literature generally and of Tolkien particularly will find much of value in this insightful collection by a seasoned explorer of Tolkien’s world of faërie.

AuthorVerlyn Flieger’s books on Tolkien include Splintered Light, A Question of Time, Interrupted Music, and Green Suns and Faërie (all published by The Kent State University Press); an edition of his short story Smith of Wootton Major; and most recently his earliest short story, The Story of Kullervo. With Carl Hostetter she edited Tolkien’s Legendarium and with Douglas A. Anderson Tolkien’s essay On Fairy-stories. With David Bratman and Michael D. C. Drout she edits the yearly journal Tolkien Studies. Her edition of Tolkien’s poem The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun is forthcoming in November 2016. She has published two fantasy novels, Pig Tale and The Inn at Corbies’ Caww; an Arthurian novella, “Avilion,” in The Doom of Camelot; and two short stories, “Green Hill Country,” in Seekers of Dreams, and “Igraine at Tintagel,” in Amazing Graces.

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