Aside from being one name for Eldamar in Tolkien Mythology, Faërie (or Faerie) is an archaic or scholarly term originating in 1590 A.D.[1] that can refer to "fairy-land" figuratively or in general, to fairies themselves from real-world folklore, or to a concept of fantastical storytelling.

In J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium, the term does not relate to Fays - instead, it has borne much association to the Elves.


As a location

Main article: Eldamar

In the folklore of the Hobbits, "Faerie" was the land of the Elves across the Sea. This reference can be seen in "Flies and Spiders", the eighth chapter of The Hobbit, and also in "Errantry" [2], a poem written by Bilbo Baggins.

In real-word mythology, "Faerie" had been the name of the realm of the fairy king in the Middle English tale Sir Orfeo.

As a concept

When discussing what today are referred to as "fairy-tales", J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote this explanation of his own use of the word:

"For the moment I will say only this: a “fairy-story” is one which touches on or uses Faerie, whatever its own main purpose may be: satire, adventure, morality, fantasy. 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. There is one proviso: if there is any satire present in the tale, one thing must not be made fun of, the magic itself. That must in that story be taken seriously, neither laughed at nor explained away. Of this seriousness the medieval Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an admirable example."
from "On Fairy-Stories", page 4

This usage of "Faerie" as a proper noun appears a total of forty times in "On Fairy-Stories".

Elsewhere, in the works of Tolkienian authors, this connotation of "Faerie" is not often touched on. In 1997 Tolkien-editor Verlyn Flieger wrote the scholarly book, A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien's Road to Faërie. Like Tolkien's essay, the book deals with the term's contexts and meaning.

When discussing Elves and their likeness to angels, Peter Kreeft cites Tolkien's statements that "Faërian Drama", which the Elves frequently presented to Men, "produce Fantasy with a realism and immediacy beyond the compass of any human mechanism", and that Fantasy "aspires" to the elvish craft, which is enchantment. Kreeft then makes an imaginative point about Faërian Drama:

"Here is the clue that solves the great Tolkien puzzle. The puzzle is why, of all humans who ever took pen to paper, Tolkien has produced by far the most convincing, desirable, [and] believable....Elves. And the answer is that he must have been an Elf. Or at least he had Elf blood somewhere in his ancestry. For if any work of literature in the history of the world is a "Faërian drama", it is The Lord of the Rings"."
from The Philosophy of Tolkien, chapter 3: "Angelology", page 79


  1. "Fairie" entry at Wiktionary
  2. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, 3. "Errantry"

External links

  • "Faerie": a site for Middle-earth fan-fiction