Green Suns and Faerie: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien Paperback – 29 Feb 2012
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The title comes from Tolkien's famous essay "On Fairy Stories" in which he laid out his theories on fantasy writing and its effects on readers. To quote Flieger's condensation of Tolkien's statement: "Anyone ...can say *the green sun*...But ... to make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will...certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft." Flieger goes on to detail several kinds of "green suns" - I.e., characters, objects, or events that are impossible in the real world but which give flavor and definition to Tolkien's created world of Middle Earth - and to show how Tolkien makes them credible. She also writes in great detail about a subject I never considered at all - how Tolkien set up his world so that the Elves are limited by Fate but humans have Free Will. Tolkien emphasized in his letters that this was NOT a religious argument or statement of how he sees the "real" world but was a literary choice.
One very enjoyable essay concerned Bilbo's riddle game with Gollum in *The Hobbit*; which some writers have felt ended unfairly with Bilbo asking an unanswerable question instead of a real riddle. However, Flieger points out that Bilbo's question is classified as a "neck riddle" - i.e., one that "saves your neck" - and was taken from several Norse traditional tales where something similar was done. She also writes about influences between the film of *The Wizard of Oz*, the book of *The Lord of the Rings*, George Lucas's *Star Wars* films, and Peter Jackson's film versions of *The Lord of the Rings*. And there are a dozen more perceptive pieces.
Highly recommended if you want to dig deeper into Middle Earth.
Elliott Tepper, Madrid, Spain
As always when reading Flieger I found so much that was new to me. I was dazzled by her explanation of the "neck" riddle in The Hobbit and enthralled by her discussions of such disparate topics as reincarnation, the contrast (or connection) between fate and free will, and especially by her written "debate" with Tom Shippey over Smith of Wootton Major. One essay, on Tolkien and the Matter of Britain, was especially resonant now that his unfinished poem The Fall of Arthur has been published. But the article I most enjoyed dealt with a topic that was especially personal to Tolkien: his friendship with Rob Gilson and Geoffrey Bache Smith, both of whom were killed in World War I.
Reading Flieger is like having a long and pleasant conversation with a highly knowledgeable friend about an author whose works we both dearly love.