Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Tolkien Reader Discussion Questions: On Fairy-Stories

Our discussion of The Tolkien Reader continues today with Tolkien’s manifesto, On Fairy-Stories. I also have a couple of questions on the follow-up story, Leaf By Niggle. Next Friday I will offer up questions on Farmer Giles of Ham.

1) Tolkien seems to represent a sort of Old School Revival in reaction against a pernicious New School phenomenon. What examples of literature best represent each approach to fairy-stories?

2) How is the origin of fairy-stories related to the origin of language?

3) How is the modern assumption that fairy-stories are for children related to similar attitudes that comic books and board games are “just for kids”? What is the consequence of this banishment to the nursery?

4) Why is it that a need for fantasy actually increases as we age?

5) What historical event served to awaken Tolkien’s desire for fantasy?

6) Why is drama inimical to fantasy? Do the technologies underlying modern cinema address this deficiency? Why or why not?

7) What assumptions underly Tolkien’s concept of “sub-creation” and how is it significant to the development of The Lord of the Rings?

8) What is “Real Life” as Tolkien’s opponents might define it? How could one legitimately desire to escape from it? How is this illustrated in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?

9) According to Tolkien, what historical event explains the recurring themes of arbitrary prohibitions and fellowship with animals in fairy-stories?

10) What is “eucatastrophe” and how does it emerge in fairy-stories? According to Tolkien, how does this literary device correspond to reality?

11) How does Leaf By Niggle correspond to Tolkiens beliefs, aspirations, and his life? Would you say the story is metaphorical, allegorical, or something else?

12) Leaf By Niggle was written when Tolkien was not even halfway through writing what is now called The Fellowship of the Ring and Tolkien seems to have despaired of ever completing the work. If Leaf By Niggle is any indication, how did Tolkien expect his life’s work to be regarded after his death? Contrast this to how he is actually viewed today.

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