Tree and Leaf is a book published by Tolkien containing several of his shorter works, chief of which is his essay On Fairy Stories, which as Dr. Corey Olsen (The Tolkien Professor) describes is the closest thing Tolkien had to a manifesto on fairy stories and all matters pertaining to Faërie–i.e. what is and is not a fairy story. It bashes any and all negative connotations of “fairy stories/tales” and “myths”, stating they are NOT synonymous with lies. It also delves into the purpose of the fairy story and subsequently escapism–what it is and is not–and why and how it’s good. If you want to get inside the head of the author and look at the philosophy behind almost everything he’s ever written, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, you’ll find no better source than this essay. It can be read in PDF form here on the internet. I highly recommend it. For more insight on the essay–or if you’d rather listen about said essay–Dr. Olsen has an excellent podcast.
Tree and Leaf also contains the poem Mythopoeia–a word Tolkien coined himself which basically means “the making of Myth”. As a person who is not a fan of poetry, this is my favorite poem. Ever. Philomythus (the Myth-lover) addresses Misomythus (the Myth-hater) on the importance of Myth. All things have their source in Myth. Not only is it important to society and how it was shaped, but all Myth has its source in truth–the Truth–in one form or another. This can be related back to the “Cauldron of Story” or the “Tree of Tales” idea in the On Fairy Stories essay. There’s more to it, of course. It’s a very deep poem and a bit of a heavy read, but it is worth it and I can’t recommend it enough. Another good way to get a look at the philosophy behind the stories of the author. You can also read it free online, but it unfortunately has a few typos. If you need help getting through it, want more insight, or would rather listen than read, Dr. Olsen has another great podcast on the poem. (Fun fact: this was the poem that convinced CS Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia and other works, to become a Christian.)
Both of these works influence a healthy chunk of my thoughts on the matter of stories, fairy stories, Myth, and so forth. In discussions, and articles on this blog for example, I will often be referring back to these. I contemplated writing posts about these two works, but with everything else I want (and still have) to do, it’s easier for me to throw up a page as a reference or a source–free for all who visit to read–and to be considered a given on just about anything here.