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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #75

        I was introduced to zoology and paleontology (“for children”) quite as early as to Faërie. I saw pictures of living beasts and of true (so I was told) prehistoric animals. I liked the “prehistoric” animals best: they had at least lived long ago, and hypothesis (based on somewhat slender  evidence) cannot avoid a gleam of fantasy.  But I did not like being told that these creatures were “dragons.”  I can still re-feel the irritation I felt in childhood at assertions of instructive relatives (or their gift-books) such as these: “snowflakes are fairy jewels,” or “are more beautiful than fairy  jewels”; “the marvels of the ocean depths are more wonderful than fairyland.”  Children expect the differences they feel but cannot analyse to be explained by their elders, or at least recognized, not to be ignored or denied.  I was keenly alive to the beauty of “Real things,” but it seemed to me quibbling to confuse this with the wonder of “Other things.”  I was eager to study Nature, actually more eager than I was to read most fairy-stories; but I did not want to be quibbled into Science and cheated out of Faërie by people who seemed to assume that by some kind of original sin I should prefer fairy-tales, but according to some kind of new religion I ought to be induced to like science.  Nature is no doubt a life-study, or a study for eternity (for those so gifted); but there is a part of man which is not “Nature,” and which therefore is  not obliged to study it, and is, in fact, wholly unsatisfied by it.        -J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” footnote D, in Tree and Leaf (1964), pp. 94-95

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