Tolkien TV is a YouTube channel that works with my children.
I directed a first series on The Hobbit. I saw in the story a lesson about word and image that I wished to frame. But I spent all my energy working out this lesson and failed to express it.
We are now producing two related video series. Yotam is directing the first, me the second.
The two series encircle another of Tolkien’s classic and little understood texts, his essay On Fairy-stories (1947).
I suppose one or other of these two series might spark your interest depending on your approach to the world. The first seeks the magic of enchantment in reality, telling the story of a drawing found by a young man on an adventure – Nicholas Cresswell, an Englishman on holiday in revolutionary America, whose mind was blown by the native Indians he met and who on his travels recorded a drawing on a tree that appears to speak of a known historical event, namely the siege of Fort Pitt in 1763. We try to unravel this encounter in history, tracing how the hole in Nicholas’ memory invited an English fabrication that did not add up and bequeathed a scientific legacy to the 19th century a large part of which was a badly crafted fairy story.
The story of Nicholas Cresswell illuminates the other side of the border that Tolkien explores. Where the author of a story wishes to capture the mind of a listener with images of imagined wonder, Nicholas was quite capable of allowing real life to perform the same escapes, and – infuriatingly – fell into a daydream a couple of steps into the on hand explanation of the tree-drawing he was granted by Mr. Anderson, the Indian trader, and Chief White Eyes, in whose town the party that included Nancy were guests. This daydream obscures the meaning of the bottom right hand side of the square drawing, creating a space that Cresswell and his antiquarian friend, William Bray, would subsequently make up, a fairy story reading of the drawing bequeathed to the scientific enlightenment as a genuine native report.
The story of the real war frames the third and final question that Tolkien asked of a fairy story in his essay, On Fairy-stories (1947), which question I take him as asking himself as he composed his story between Moria and Isengard in 1941 and 1942, the darkest days of the war: what is the use of a fairy story?