Tolkien on the importance of fantasy and science fiction

People sometimes look at fantasy – not the award-winning metaphorical magical realism type, but the kind of fantasy that contains swords, sorcery, and dragons. It is generally accepted that children can enjoy artificial worlds, magical monsters, and princes of darkness. But as we become adults, it seems we must turn to the “correct” literature – mature, respectful, written in ornate prose. It is as if the books we read are status symbols, and those who read serious books, about serious things, must be serious people. But this misses the point of what fiction is all about, and the totemic father of the genre, JRR Tolkien, has a lot to say about it.


The arrogance of those who view fiction lightly has a long history—so much so that in 1947, J.R.R. Tolkien felt the need to defend the genre in his work, On Fairy-Stories. For Tolkien, fairy tales and fairy tales are not just stories about fairies. These are stories that happen in the land from fairies. They are in their own created land, where any number of wondrous things can happen, but they are always taken very seriously by the reader. to enter Faerie Not entering into a world of simple imagination; Instead, we do the “sub-creation”, where we form a world inside Our wider “reality”.

This imaginary world that we always create will go beyond the words given to describe it. The world of imagination “cannot be suspended in a web of words; Because it is indescribable.” Words alone will never be able to conjure up a fully realized magical land. For this, we need the ability to sub-create. When we make a sub-world, we “make a sub-world that the mind can enter.” This world has its own inner logic, laws, and regulations We see, feel and live in this world in a way that far exceeds the words on the page that alone can provide. We color the details of the background and add sights, smells, and wonders that go beyond the narrow confines of the words in the book. This is why the movie adaptations can sometimes seem so empty .

If you have read Lord of the rings, you can understand what Tolkien gets. Middle Earth is built with such depth and detail, while sub build means time and effort, you feel as if you are. at this world. It’s hard to describe. It’s not just inventing mental images but sub-creation Complete world and live side by side with characters. I mean watching the drama but from the inside.

shine on Beowulf

Sub-creation is a wonderful philosophical examination of what the mind does when we read about other worlds, but it doesn’t bring us any closer to the value found in the process. For this, we must turn to Tolkien’s article about Beowulf.

Beowulf Not about a great siege, nor a story about a court conspiracy. It’s a poem about just a man. This is, for Tolkien, the point. Story of the Beowulf It is of one man’s struggle against the great tide of adversity. Beowulf is smaller and shorter than flickering candles in a large area of ​​darkness. This is what it means to be a hero.

Beowulf It is a great poem because it speaks of the duality in all human life – youth and age, about success and failure, about glory and doom. Everyone will enjoy warm, cheerful summer days as much as hopelessly cold winter nights. In a day, a year, or a lifetime, everything oscillates between light and darkness. We will eat, drink and be happy, but tomorrow we will die.

shine in Beowulfand, and in fiction in general, in the monsters or villains they present – in goblins, or dragons, or cruel beasts or emperors. Because these enemies are from the imagination, they function as empty vessels into which we pour each of us our enemies. As Tolkien writes, Beowulf “The Cosmic insinuates and moves the thought of all human beings regarding the fate of human life and efforts; it stands amid but above … the dates and limits of historical periods, however important they may be.”

There’s just something about a great imagination that encourages the spirit and fires up the fight. It is not only found in the words and the plot but in its time. It tells us that there is something universal to the human condition to celebrate. It’s just as true for the Anglo-Saxons in their snow-covered halls as it is for the drones in the offices that change their login passwords.

She says that no matter what monsters we encounter, we will beat them and live on them. We will not be defeated.

Why do I love Tolkien’s imagination?

Books of all kinds are an escape from reality. Fictional novels and artificial characters define the novel. However, no literary genres escape from reality quite like science fiction or fantasy. In it, lies its value. When we imagine a school of wizards, dragon knights, or humble villagers becoming heroes, we leave the world behind. We enter a world that has enough connection to that world to understand, while being weird enough to be exciting, lively, and highly readable.

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As Tolkien said, “I have claimed that escape is one of the chief functions of fairy tales, and since I do not agree with it, I obviously do not accept the tone of disdain or pity with which ‘escape’ is so often used now. Why is a man despised if he tries to go out and go home? Having found himself in prison? Or, if he cannot do so, does he think and talk about subjects other than the warders and the prison walls?”

The ability to read books, imagine worlds, and play pretend is one of the greatest painkillers we have. Fiction takes us on an amazing journey, but it gives us all the heroes and villains we need to understand the world.

Johnny Thompson runs a popular Instagram account called Mini Philosophy (@philosophy). His first book is Small Philosophy: A Little Book of Big Ideas

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