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This is an enormously helpful feature I wish more editors would espouse.I feel I need hardly comment in this review on the essay itself-many others have done so before me, and the issue at hand is the trappings of this expanded edition-and so, in Tolkien’s words, “I shall therefore pass lightly over [it]” (40) and move on.
For the essay proper, the editors have opted for the text as published in (Hammond 243-4).
The only change Flieger and Anderson have made to the present text is the addition of paragraph numbers for ease of reference in the subsequent commentary.
Second, I find the two bibliographies and the index to be a bit idiosyncratic.
The editors quote from Tolkien’s translations of , but that is not in their bibliography either.) He also mentions Charles Kingsley, but the editors have not placed him in Tolkien’s bibliography. The index, while it may have license for more selectivity, is also missing some entries.
And that seems to me a perfectly reasonable use of the raw material Flieger and Anderson have painstakingly provided.
For a book of its length and a topic of its complexity, the defects of are few and small, but it does have some.Though usually the opposite, Tolkien’s wording sometimes went from clearer and more emphatic to subtler and more complex. A the powerful declaration that “[m]ythology is language and language is mythology” (181). By this point in the book, it requires considerable fortitude to face yet another version of the essay.Most often, however, we see Tolkien’s ideas become clearer and more focused over the course of the essay’s evolution. A, we find Tolkien much more wishy-washy about his reasons for excluding beast fables, travel tales, and so forth, from the genre of true ‘fairy story’; he seems more interested in simply keeping the number and kinds of tales to a manageable number, no doubt in the interests of a shorter lecture time, and dismissing the others with the cavalier remark, “[a]t least they do not come in my department” (178). But a dedicated reviewer must not quail (even if many readers will), but press on with each and every word. B is actually longer than the published essay, with many associated “miscellaneous pages,” as well as extended passages struck out by Tolkien but available for study here.Moreover, the editors show how the lecture was a critical bridge between , the latter being “the practical application and demonstration of the principles set forth” (15) in it.Further, they point out that Tolkien “established positive criteria by which fairy-stories [...] could be evaluated.I do this with high hopes that Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A.Anderson’s will find a larger audience than I have reason to expect, because the book is a treasure trove, and one not to be hoarded, but shared.It is almost possible to peer over Tolkien’s shoulder as he works through the presentation of complex ideas and metaphors, as well as reintegrates much of the careful research he had been forced to cut from the lecture at St. Readers will observe that most of the key elements (including sub-creation, the failings of the , the indictment of Max Müller, the excerpt from Tolkien’s poem, “Mythopoeia”, and so on) were there from the beginning, but ever more refined through the mortar and pestle of revision.Other elements (e.g., the Tree of Tales, the Cauldron of Story) emerged later. We might therefore expect a variorum edition, with detailed discussion of the textual history of the essay, copious notes and commentary, contemporary reports, and two bibliographies to be read even so by everybody else. Tolkien, it should go without saying that “On Fairy-Stories” is one of his most important works, yet one of the least read outside of scholarly circles.