Tag Archives: fairy-stories

A Thought from JRR Tolkien – Outside the Prison Walls of Reality

I thought I’d run out of quotes, until it occurred to me to look up authors I like and see what they say about writing. So – voila! – here is Tolkien, nicely following up on Oscar Wilde’s thoughts on real life in literature:

I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. In real life it is difficult to blame it, unless it fails; in criticism it would seem to be the worse the better it succeeds… Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?

– JRR Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories

 I would never say escape is always good. Sometimes you have to sit up and face reality. All the same, when I read a book, I very rarely want to know about how miserable life is. I’ve figured that out already, thanks. I want a story about something better.

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