It is usually assumed that children are the natural or the specially appropriate audience for fairy stories. In describing a fairy story which they think adults might possibly read for their own entertainment, reviewers frequently indulge in such waggeries as: ‘this book is for children from the ages of six to sixty.’ But I have never yet seen the puff of a new motor-model that began thus: ‘this toy will amuse infants from seventeen to seventy’; though that to my mind would be much more appropriate. Is there any essential connection between children and fairy stories? Is there any call for comment, if an adult reads them for himself? Reads them as tales, that is, not studies them as curios.
If fairy story as a kind is worth reading at all it is worthy to be written for and read by adults. They will, of course, put more in and get more out than children can. Then, as a branch of a genuine art, children may hope to get fairy stories fit for them to read and yet within their measure; as they may hope to get suitable introductions to poetry, history, and the sciences. Though it may be better for them to read some things, especially fairy stories, that are beyond their measure rather than short of it. Their books like their clothes should allow for growth, and their books at any rate should encourage it.
From J.R.R. Tolkien, “Children and Fairy Stories” (1964); reprinted in Sheila Egoff, G.T. Stubbs, and L.F. Ashley, eds., Only Connect: Readings on Children’s Literature (1980).