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Therapy Through Faёrie

Therapeutic Properties of Fantasy Literature by the Inklings and by U. K. Le Guin

Anna Cholewa-Purgal

This book argues that the fantasy fiction rooted in J. R. R. Tolkien’s concept of Faёrie, as represented by the fantasy works of the Inklings and of U. K. Le Guin, has certain psychotherapeutic properties. Faёrie’s generic ‘ethos’ seems to draw on ‘moral imagination’ and on logos (meaning and word), which informs its secondary worlds and encourages a search for an unconditional sense of life, against the postmodern neo-nihilistic aporia. The book postulates an applicability of logotherapy (‘therapy through meaning’, developed after WW2 by Victor Frankl,) to the workings of Faёrie, whose bibliotherapeutic potential rests on its generic marks, identified by Tolkien as Fantasy, Recovery, Escape (breaking free from incarcerating meaninglessness), Consolation, and (cathartic) Eucatastrophe.

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Chapter Four: (Logo)therapy through narrative


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Chapter Four

(Logo)therapy through narrative

How can therapy, and, more precisely, Frankl’s logotherapy, be carried out through narrative? This chapter is meant as an introduction to an analysis of therapeutic properties of high fantasy narrative exemplified by the works of the Inklings and of U. K. Le Guin, which, as I would like to argue, lend themselves to a (logo)therapeutic use within a universal context of therapia pauperum, available to all readers and listeners outside the clinical context, and based on its two inherently therapeutic pillars: fantasy and narrative. Before examining how art therapy may work in the realm of Faërie, which is the subject matter of Chapter Five, then how logotherapy might apply to high fantasy, as discussed in Chapter Six, and, finally, what cathartic potential Tolkien’s concept of Eucatastrophe may reveal, as considered in Chapter Seven, I address now some fundamental properties of Faërie that appear therapeutic and result from its narrative nature, a quality fantasy stories share with other literary works of art, and from its singular reliance on visual and musical arts, which do not only construct a narrative world, but mediate its otherworldliness and ‘arresting strangeness’.1

Narrative therapy

In its broadest senses narrative encompasses 1.’something that is narrated, a story or an account; 2. the art or practice of narration, and 3. the representation in art of an event or story; also an example of such a representation.’2 According to...

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