What is a myth – and what is a fairy story?

Matthew Wright

It seems to me that mythology and fairy stories go together pretty much hand in hand.

Wright_Flowers2One of the twentieth century masters of the art of writing them was J R R Tolkien, whose Middle Earth imaginarium spanned the whole lot. The Silmarillion, the foundation of his mythos, was deliberate mythology. He drew inspiration from the Norse and Germanic traditions, primarily, intentionally writing something that could be a mythology for England, which he felt lacked such stories.

Tolkien’s mythology was also very much a modern mythology – something for the twentieth century. He drew on the literary-fantasy traditions of the early twentieth century, which were also being explored by people such as Lord Dunsany and Tolkien’s good friend C. S. Lewis. His mythology was also literally founded in the First World War trenches, where he began writing it, and the themes and ideas spoke to the demands of the…

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