Aside from being a name for Eldamar in Tolkien Mythology, Faërie (or Faery) is an archaic and scholarly term originating in 1590 A.D. that can refer to "fairy-land", figuratively or in general, to fairies themselves from real-world folklore, or to a concept of fantastical storytelling.
As a location
Main article: Eldamar
In the folklore of the Hobbits, "Faerie" was the land of the Elves across the Sea. This reference can be seen in "Flies and Spiders", the eighth chapter of The Hobbit, and also in "Errantry", a poem written by Bilbo Baggins.
In real-word mythology, "Faerie" had been the name of the realm of the fairy king in the Middle English tale Sir Orfeo.
As a concept
When discussing what are referred to as "fairy-tales", Tolkien wrote this explanation of his own use of the word:
- "For the moment I will say only this: a “fairy-story” is one which touches on or uses Faerie, whatever its own main purpose may be: satire, adventure, morality, fantasy. Faerie itself may perhaps most nearly be translated by Magic—but it is magic of a peculiar mood and power, at the furthest pole from the vulgar devices of the laborious, scientific, magician. There is one proviso: if there is any satire present in the tale, one thing must not be made fun of, the magic itself. That must in that story be taken seriously, neither laughed at nor explained away. Of this seriousness the medieval Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an admirable example."
- —from "On Fairy-Stories", page 4
This usage of "Faerie" as a proper noun appears forty times in "On Fairy-Stories".
In later literature of Tolkien scholarship, this connotation of "Faerie" is often examined. In 1997, Tolkien-editor Verlyn Flieger wrote the scholarly book A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien's Road to Faërie. Like Tolkien's essay, it deals with the term's contexts and meaning. Later, Flieger also authored Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien. In 2017, Jonathan S. McIntosh wrote The Flame Imperishable: Tolkien, St. Thomas, and the Metaphysics of Faërie, which studies the relations between Tolkien's philosophical views and his literary achievement.
Throughout Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth, John Garth uses the term Faërie very frequently, mostly in broad conclusions drawn about the relation between Tolkien's experiences and his legendarium.
When discussing Elves and their likeness to angels, Peter Kreeft in The Philosophy of Tolkien cites Tolkien's statements that "Faërian Drama...", which the Elves frequently presented to Men, "...produces Fantasy with a realism and immediacy beyond the compass of any human mechanism", and that fantasy "aspires" to the Elvish craft of enchantment. Kreeft then makes an imaginative point about "Faërian Drama":
- "Here is the clue that solves the great Tolkien puzzle. The puzzle is why, of all humans who ever took pen to paper, Tolkien has produced by far the most convincing, desirable, [and] believable....Elves. And the answer is that he must have been an Elf. Or at least he had Elf blood somewhere in his ancestry. For if any work of literature in the history of the world is a "Faërian drama", it is The Lord of the Rings."
- —The Philosophy of Tolkien, ch. 3: "Angelology", pg. 79