J. R. R. Tolkien speaks of a subject close to his heart in his lecture and essay, “On Fairy-Stories.” He approaches this not just as an admirer or literary critic but as an author of such himself. He had a life-long interest in and love for fairy-stories, and he did not think them just for children. He entered this perilous and marvelous realm first as reader and then as scribe, and this gives him an authority to speak of the potent power of such lands that others did not have. He and other sub-creators have traveled the highways and byways of such wondrous and dangerous worlds and through them, many readers have as well.
We owe a great debt to these authors and those who introduced us to them. We enter a Secondary World, which affords us the opportunity to profoundly change the way we view ordinary things and life itself. For some, the effect on this enchantment lasts long after we reluctantly re-enter the Primary World. The world of Faerie does indeed have all the things we are used to seeing, as Tolkien notes: “the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky . . . tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted” (“Fairy-Stories,” Tolkien Reader 9). But we see these things in a new way while we travel through strange lands that at times become home to us. We do not see merely a sea but the Sea and all this means to those who live near it or travel upon it. Wine and bread mean more to us after we read about them being shared between heroes. Dipped into the Cauldron of Story, we savor the flavors that come from such a rich and heady mixture. Can we look at a horse again the same way after encountering one in the world of Faerie? Or look at the moon and not think of those we have met doing the same? If we are open to the potent power in such a kingdom, it changes us, improves our outlook, and sharpens our senses. While the spell lasts, we do not see, touch, smell, hear, or taste things in the same way we did before. If we are lucky, the magic does not fade after we must return to the Primary World, but it is incorporated into our everyday life to enliven and enrich it.
What effects does have on you?