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"On Fairy Stories" quote - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
"On Fairy Stories" quote
I haven't done an "On Fairy Stories" post for awhile, and I just re-read it to look for a quote for a trivia game, and I just love this quote:

From "On Fairy-Stories," by J.R.R. Tolkien
Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they ever get into that state (it would not seem at all impossible), Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion.

For creative Fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun; on a recognition of fact, but not a slavery to it. So upon logic was founded the nonsense that displays itself in the tales and rhymes of Lewis Carroll. If men really could not distinguish between frogs and men, fairy-stories about frog-kings would not have arisen.

Fantasy can, of course, be carried to excess. It can be ill done. It can be put to evil uses. It may even delude the minds out of which it came. But of what human thing in this fallen world is that not true? Men have conceived not only of elves, but they have imagined gods, and worshipped them, even worshipped those most deformed by their authors' own evil. But they have made false gods out of other materials: their notions, their banners, their monies; even their sciences and their social and economic theories have demanded human sacrifice. Abusus non tollit usum. Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.
11 comments or Leave a comment
gehayi From: gehayi Date: May 27th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Who said that?
starbrow From: starbrow Date: May 27th, 2006 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 27th, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yeah... I didn't put his name on it!!!

Sorry. Will edit.
harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: May 27th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, I keep meaning to read that, and I always forget! I think I have it in some book or another. It is a lovely quote--I wish I could get my brother to understand, but even if he read that essay, I think he would just scoff. He doesn't understand how I can be so interested in things that aren't "real."
matril From: matril Date: May 27th, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I adore it. I quote and/or paraphrase that essay constantly when arguing that fantasy is totally and absolutely valid. If men really could not distinguish between frogs and men, fairy-stories about frog-kings would not have arisen. So wonderfully, eloquently put.

(I especially make use of that quote to explain why fantasy is in no way, shape or form "just for kids." Make-believe is a skill that ought to be developed as you mature, not something to be lost as childhood is left behind.)
sophonax From: sophonax Date: May 28th, 2006 01:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Make-believe is a skill that ought to be developed as you mature, not something to be lost as childhood is left behind.

What an awesome way of putting it.
matril From: matril Date: May 28th, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! The way I see it, most adults participate in make-believe in one form or another, from the more passive sorts like watching a movie, to the more daringly active forms found in creating art and stories, or acting. We need make-believe; why else is the entertainment industry so huge? I just wish people would realize that they're participating in a form of it while watching movies or reading, and stop trying to stifle its importance and value by categorizing it as childish.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: May 28th, 2006 05:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, yes. The essay which defined for me why I felt so at home with fantasy, and why storytelling seemed to me to be the pinnicle of human expression.

I love Tolkien.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, Tolkien's a Catholic, not a Jew, so he's allowed to use his theological reference points instead of ours. ;) Mentally switch it with non-paradisical or pre-Messianic if you'd like.
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: May 28th, 2006 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love, love, love that essay. Love. I've always enjoyed that bit about reason making fantasy better. The logic may not be the logic of reality, but it does exist, and that's what gives fantasy its depth, what makes it work.
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