Aside from being another term in Tolkien Mythology for the land of Eldamar, Faërie (or simplified Faerie) is an archaic or scholarly term originating in 1590 A.D. that has referred to "fairy-land" figuratively or in general, to fairies themselves from folklore, or to a concept of fantastical storytelling.
In Middle-earth context and literature, the term does not relate to the Fays (Sprites) that appear in early writings of the legendarium. Instead, it has borne much association to J.R.R. Tolkien's 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" , a poem written by Bilbo Baggins.
Prior to this, "Faerie" was the name in English Mythology 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 for 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 40 times in "On Fairy-Stories".
Elsewhere, in the works of Tolkienian authors, this connotation of "Faerie" is not commonly touched on. In 1997, Tolkien-editor Verlyn Flieger wrote the scholarly book, A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien's Road to Faërie. As with 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 a point, imaginatively, 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
- "Faerie": a site for Middle-earth fan-fiction