A justification of the Faërie world
In his essay On Fairy-Stories, Tolkien uses several terms to capture the idea of attraction to a world different from the real one. Tolkien says there is a hunger, a desire, a yearning for mystery and for adventure; there is an open curiosity toward the unknown (an appetite for marvel, longing, desire, wish). In fact, all these terms are conducive to a state of grace, a frenzy, a fantasy excitement, a taste for the knowledge and experience of enchantment, against the disenchantment of the world; a joy, or state of enthusiasm close to the ancient Greek enthusiasmos, the only difference being that here the tone is no longer Dionysian. The notion of enthusiasm has been secularized by modern society, but Tolkien envisages it as a rediscovery of its archaic meaning (through the term joy), circumscribed to the fantasy field, relating to enthusiastic energy and enchantment at the character (and at the reader) who shows fascination with parallel and other worlds. These creatures are frenetic in their enchanted, charmed stasis, when they can access a world different from reality. This appetite is not present within everyone; it is contained only by some children and adults. In Tolkien’s most important books (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) mostly the adults are those who share this state of grace; this is an essential aspect, because these are adult witnesses of the fantasy system; they will defend, credit and, most of all, disseminate accounts of this world.
Tolkien criticises the fantasy world’s inaccurate, exclusive assignment to childhood. Fantasy and Faërie do not necessarily depend on the child world; on the contrary, they can grow even more vigorously in the adult world (even if not all the adults are included). Because the important aspect of this development is the configuration of a Secondary World, Faërie, organized as such (in a way similar to the Primary World, but as its reverse or parallel version), stirring amazement and enchantment, has in our view, a cathartic outcome. An equally intense importance is attached, of course, to the appetite, the taste, the yearning, the curiosity, the penchant, the frenzy, the excitement, the enchantment that make the state of grace necessary in order to enter Faërie and understand this realm. Tolkien specifies a defining equivalence for Faërie, going against the ordinary direction: “Faerie itself may perhaps most nearly be translated by Magic – but it is magic of a peculiar mood and power, at the furthest pole from the vulgar devices of the laborious, scientific, magician.” The linking mechanism between the primary (real) world and the secondary one (Faërie) is the taste for the unknown and a curiosity that, throughout the process of understanding Faërie, will become and ontological and cognitive state of enchantment. The Faërie world generates different forms of recovery, escape and spiritual healing or consolation also because, at systemic level, Faërie is the opposite of Tragedy, as speculated by Tolkien; this is, in fact, why I have proposed before the cathartic effect the amazement, the charm, the enchantment have on the characters that enter the secondary world; in this world they are active and they later become its testifiers, when they return to the primary matrix.
(my full essay is here – http://phantasma.lett.ubbcluj.ro/?p=4933)