Saturday, June 8, 2024

Tolkien: Faery is Necessary for Your Health


"Smith became acquainted with Faery, and some regions of it he knew as well as any mortal can." Through the adventures of Smith (a village smith, as his name suggests, but with a fairy star on his brow) we visit what Tolkien called the "perilous realm" of Faerie. The story Smith of Wooton Major (1967) is the last thing Tolkien published in his lifetime. The shadows hang less heavy than in Tolkien's major work, but we feel terror as well as beauty, as when a fierce angry wind tries to kill Smith but he is preserved by a young birch that stands firm at a terrible price. We feel the pain and longing of the loss of Faery, when the doors are closed to one who has often gone between the worlds. 

In an unpublished essay about Smith of Wooton Major, Tolkien wrote "Faery represents at its weakest a breaking out (at least in mind) from the iron ring of the familiar, still more from the adamantine ring of belief...a constant awareness of the world beyond these rings. More strongly it represents love that is a love and respect for all things, 'inanimate' and 'animate', an unpossessive love of them as 'other'....Things seen in its light will be respected and they will also appear delightful, beautiful, wonderful even glorious. 

"Faery might indeed be said to represent Imagination...This compound of awareness of a limitless world outside our domestic parish, a love (in truth and imagination) for the things in it and a desire for wonder, marvels both perceived and conceived - this Faery is as necessary for the health and complete functioning of the human as is sunlight for physical life."

Source: There is a long excerpt from Tolkien's essay on Smith of Wooton Major in Verlyn Flieger, A Question of Time: J.R.R.Tolkien's Road to Faerie. Kent OH: Kent State University Press, 2001.

Art: "The Shores of Faery" by J.R.TR. Tolkien

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