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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 Seven: Therapy through catharsis – eucatastrophic consolation of Faërie


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Chapter Seven

Therapy through catharsis – eucatastrophic Consolation of Faërie

In the previous chapter I have based my argument stipulating psychotherapeutic properties of fantasy literature on the Greek theory of ethos, by ascribing specific generic qualities to Faërie, as manifested in the works of the Inklings and of Le Guin. The idea of projecting the theory of ethos governing modes of music onto the ground of literature also comes from ancient Greek thought, which introduces such parallels, as mentioned in Chapter Six of this book, and reflected, for instance, in Aristotle’s definition of Tragedy and Comedy, each of which appears to have its own ethos, which I understand as moral character and disposition:1 Now, in the last chapter, I attempt to address the last but not the least of the unique qualities of fairy-stories as identified by Tolkien, that is Consolation achieved through Eucatastrophe, which, as I wish to argue, draws on the notion and effect of catharsis, and thus reaches back to Aristotle’s thought. In The Poetics, chapter VI, Aristotle defines Tragedy as follows:

Tragedy (…) is an imitation of a worthy or illustrious and perfect action, possessing magnitude, in pleasing language, using separately the several species of imitation in its parts, by men acting, and not through narration, through pity and fear effecting a purification from such like passions. (…) By pleasing language I mean language possessing rhythm, harmony and melody.2

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