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“On Fairy-Stories” in The Tolkien Reader

Tolkien, J.R.R. | Ballantine, 1966


pp. 68 - 69

“[The fairy tale] does not deny the existence of . . . sorrow and failure; the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of the deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence if you will) universal final defeat . . . , giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief. It is the mark of the good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventure, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the ‘turn’ comes, a catch of the breath, a beating and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art.