Michael Tolkien

APPENDIX 1.  The integrity of FANTASY


Of the Gospels T. says ( Epil. to OFS, p.65 §1)' <the account>has pre-eminently the 'inner consistency of reality'. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.' On the other hand we should bear in mind that T. also said (OFS pp 49-50) that mere  'Magic  ...produces or pretends to produce an alteration in the Primary World...it is not an art but a technique, its desire is power in this world, domination of things and wills.' Once he had reached this standpoint it was feasible for him to point out the close alliance between fantasy and life as we live it and observe it. A digest of what he says helps to show what must be understood about the nature and content of his secondary world or Middle Earth, which is the foundation of his fantasies:

'To many Fantasy...plays strange tricks with the world...has seemed suspect... To some is has seemed at least a childish folly...Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason...the keener and the clearer is the reason the better Fantasy it will make...creative fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun; on a recognition of fact but not a slavery to it...If men...could not distinguish between frogs and men, fairy stories about frog kings would not have arisen.'(OFS pp 50-1) And in writing about the capacity of fantasy to 'recover' what many of us have lost

(OFS pp 53-4), he says that it is a medium which may help us to look again at what has been represented so often(particularly the primary world in all its visible and tangible splendour)which have become too familiar like things acquired that we can no longer really look at. Not surprisingly, too, Tolkien suspected art which overreacts to our cultural inheritance by an 'anxiety to be original' (OFS p.53 §1) distorting the primary world and perpetually experimenting for the sake of it. Once again this produces Magical trickery rather than Enchantment.