Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-stories” provides both a definitive discussion of fairy-stories and their relationship to myth and fantasy and his most explicit analysis of his own art. In addition, in carefully laying out over the course of his essay what makes a true fairy-story, he also makes it possible to analyze other artists’ works to determine how successful they are as fairy-stories. Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell meets those standards on every point, and is thus shown to be a true modern fairy-story in the tradition that Tolkien documents so plainly.

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