How to Read Tolkien and Why

Reading:On Fairy-Stories

In this lecture, the Tolkien Professor discusses Tolkien’s own thoughts about how stories should be read and why they are important. Corey Olsen points out some of the errors that people tend to make when they first approach Tolkien’s stories, and he explains some of the terms that Tolkien uses when he discusses the nature of story-telling. Understanding these concepts is very helpful as you read Tolkien’s work, and Olsen refers back to these ideas throughout his lecture series.

Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” was originally published, along with his story “Leaf by Niggle,” in a little book called Tree and Leaf. Although that book is now out of print, you can find the essay reprinted in The Monsters and the Critics. A critical edition of the essay, edited by Verlyn Flieger with commentary and early drafts, is also available.

Want More Tolkien?

If you’re interested in reading Tolkien’s works deeply, check out the Mythgard Academy’s free seminars on Tolkien’s works, including The Lord of the Rings, Unfinished Tales and the History of Middle-earth series.