There Would Always Be A Fairy Tale: More Essays on Tolkien by Verlyn Flieger

My library doesn’t have Flieger’s earlier collection, Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien, so I read this instead. I’m not really sure how to review this, so I’ll start by linking to Megan Fontentot’s review:

These were interesting to read, but I’m finding it difficult to say much about them. I’ll probably come back to some of these later.

“How Trees Behave, Or Do They?” is one of my favorites, a fantastic essay on the nature of trees in LotR. It’s also available online, so you can read it here:

“Eucatastrophe and the Dark” is not really a scholarly essay, but a reflection on Flieger’s experiences teaching Tolkien’s work. She writes about teaching The Lord of the Rings along with two Tolkien essays, “On Fairy Stories” and “Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics.” As she says, the two essays deal with the opposite poles of Tolkien’s imagination: the fairytale and the tragic epic. I have to admit that when she describes some of her students resisting the bittersweet aspect of LotR, I am completely baffled, because I just don’t share that reaction at all. I do agree with her that the ending of LotR is bittersweet rather than happy. I wonder, though, what teaching The Silmarillion must be like, because I think most people who have read it would say that while LotR is pretty balanced between joy and sorrow, The Silmarillion comes close to crashing the scales on the tragic side. (I love it, but still.)

My introduction to Flieger’s work was her excellent study of The Silmarillion, Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World. (I reviewed it here.) I have Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien and A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie on my reading list, but first I want to reread John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth, and I’m not sure when I’ll get to it.

Published by Beth @ Beth's Bookish Thoughts

This blog is for my thoughts on reading. A couple of my friends on GoodReads have blogs, so eventually I decided to start one myself. I hope to get involved in the book blogging community and become a better reader and writer! I am not accepting copies of new books for review, but I would be interested in new editions or new translations of classic authors. Find me on Upwork (as an editor) in the profile link. From September 2018 to October 2020 I blogged at Blogger.

3 thoughts on “There Would Always Be A Fairy Tale: More Essays on Tolkien by Verlyn Flieger

  1. I’ve only read the title essay, from when it was published in Mythlore (and reread it recently for a post on colour in LOTR). Otherwise I’ve only read her notes for her edition of Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo; but what you have to say here is whetting my appetite! Tolkien scholars are definitely a breed apart—I’m in awe of their intimate knowledge of virtually everything the man wrote—but the only one I follow on social media is Dimitra Fimi as she’s also so enthusiastic!


      1. An Alan Garner piece? Very likely: she let me have a look at a pdf of her Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy: Idealization, Identity, Ideology and there’s a section on Garner there.


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