TOLKIEN'S BOOKSHELF #4: THE RED FAIRY BOOK 'I have been a lover of fairy stories since I learned to read, ' J.R.R. Tolkien once stated. The Red Fairy Book was one of Tolkien's favourites. Fantasy and medieval literature specialist Douglas A. Anderson asserted, 'As a child Tolkien found delight in the variously coloured fairy tale books of Andrew Lang. Especially he enjoyed The Red Fairy Book, for it contained Lang's retelling of one of the greatest dragon stories in northern literature, that of Fafnir from the Volsung Saga.' In a 1965 interview Tolkien said, 'Dragons always attracted me as a mythological element. They seemed to be able to comprise human malice and bestiality together so extraordinarily well, and also a sort of malicious wisdom and shrewdness - terrifying creatures!' The Red Fairy Book was illustrated by H.J. Ford and Lancelot Speed. As a child, and later as an adult, Tolkien was exposed to these pictures as he leafed through the pages of the fairytales. Consciously or unconsciously, he came under their spell. The gorgeously illustrated Red Fairy Book was a source of immense joy to Tolkien as he was growing up, and no doubt it contributed to his creation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
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