Studying Fiction is not about whether it is real; it is about whether it tells the truth

“Go not to the elves for advice, for they will say both yes and no”. Elves don’t exist. They aren’t real. Then why on (middle) earth should anyone study The Lord of The Rings (which is the source of the above quote) if it isn’t real (if one follows the logic of the proposition here)?

Let us revisit the title “Fiction”. Can fiction be real? Well, the circumstances may be so; but the plot has to be of the author’s creation for the work to be accorded with that title. So a work of fiction is not – and by definition, can not – be 100 percent realistic. There will be non-real elements, situations, and whatever else floats the author’s boat. So the “real” aspect of the proposition’s argument is null and void.

Does fiction tell the truth, then? Let’s reconsider Frodo’s statement. Okay, so elves don’t exist. Which other creature behaves that way? Well, humans do so. Taking this into consideration, we observe one thing: both humans and elves advise in the same manner, but for totally different reasons: elves do so for the abundance of knowledge that they possess, and humans advise in a conflicting manner for lack of the same. Tolkien has, in one line attributed to elves, effectively demonstrated how little humans really know. So he is telling the truth; and that is what really matters.

Now the third (and pretty insignificant) part: do we really need to study fiction? Aren’t we just supposed to sit back and live through whatever world the author has created for us? As the previous example shows – yes. Many authors have this (mildly annoying) habit of not explicitly specifying what they really want to say, choosing instead to hide their opinion in a maze of ciphers and symbols (which are often deciphered to “yield” a story that the author had absolutely no intention of expressing, but that’s art for you). So yes, as long as these authors continue with their symbols and non-cryptographic ciphers, it is necessary to study fiction to understand what the author wanted to (or did not want to) say.

As Wadsworth said “Life is real…”. Now, however beautiful a fictional world may be, it is not life. Therefore, it is not real. I do know of many who would love to get the “One ring to rule them all” for its magical invisibility properties, but they’re the ones who don’t see the truth – that with great power comes (the) great responsibility (of going all the way to Mordor and casting the ring into the fire).

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