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.