In J.R.R Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories” he argues that it is not necessary to be a child to enjoy and read fairy-tales, he states (while making a reference to the races found in H.G Wells novel, The Time Machine), “Let us not divide the human race into Eloi and Morlocks: pretty children—“elves” as the eighteenth century often idiotically called them—with their fairytales (carefully pruned), and dark Morlocks tending their machines.

If fairy-story as a kind is worth reading at all it is worthy to be written for and read by adults”. However, it should not be seen in such an extreme manner and that by their very nature, fairy-tales are primarily for children and that it loses its power of escape, recovery, or even fantasy when read by an adult.

Children are naïve and prone to believing whatever they are told, thus their imagination is much better than an adult’s, and is capable of seeing things that others would not see when presented with a fairy-tale.

As adults, we read fantasy and write creative literature to recapture some of that magic lost when we grew up, and the magic and stories contained in fairy-tales are not for us. When reading these stories we must ignore reality and places ourselves in the “Secondary World” created by the story.

Adults are in capable of fully immersing themselves, they are preoccupied with the ideas and knowledge they have learned as they’ve grown up, with life experiences and responsibilities.

Only children have the true power to immerse themselves in these tales and therefore understand the mystical world presented to them. While adults have the intelligence and the vocabulary to tell these fairy-tales, only children have the ability to fully imagine and understand them.

“I do not deny that there is a truth in Andrew Lang’s words (sentimental though they may sound): “He who would enter into the Kingdom of Faerie should have the heart of a little child.” For that possession is necessary to all high adventure, into kingdoms both less and far greater than Faerie.”

While Tolkein states that Lang’s words are sentimental, they should be seen as fact. Fairy-tales, while a form of literature, should not be dissected and looked at critically like with novels or essays. He says that adults “…of course, put more in and get more out than children can.” It should not be seen in this fashion.

You do not “put more into” a fairy-tale; you can only get a story and a sense of wonder out of it. It should not be said that adults are too close-minded for this, but that they have seen the world and learned about and so the sense of wonder is gone which is required for a fairy-tale.

Works Cited

Tolkein, J.R.R. “On Fairy Stories.” WebCT. University of Western Ontario, 23 Jan. 2011. Web

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

1 Comment

  1. Tolkien argues, on the contrary, that Fairy-stories are not specially directed to children and that adults are the ones who can and should take the most advantage of Fantasy, Recovery and Escape. Also, the Primary world is not the “real” world in this sense, or anymore “real” than the secondary world.

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