This essay proposes the idea of incarnation as a key to unlocking Tolkien’s conception of fantasy as set out in the 'Origins' section of On Fairy Stories. Tolkien's intellectual context is explored and his conception of mythology as a blending of imagination and history examined. The essay also establishes the differences between mortal and Elvish fantasy and argues that Tolkien's Elves engage in a different kind of incarnational art than do mortals. In conclusion it is claimed that in ‘Origins’ Tolkien reworked the speculations of mid-Victorian comparative philology into an aesthetic theory of artistic creation grounded upon the notion of incarnation.



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