Actually, I enjoy the "Narrator Asides" as much as you, Odo
. That's part of what I love about The Hobbit and Lewis's Narnia books, and that is what Daniel Handler so brilliantly satirizes in his Lemony Snicket books.
Having said that, it is that "safety" which indeed conveys what some erroneously
consider to be condescension. Though in British children's authors that is hardly the case. British authors, including folk such as Dahl, Rowling and Joan Aiken, know that children are made of much sterner stuff than many American Authors--who condescend by bowdlerizing their stories to the point of Vapidity (a notable exception being Maurice Sendak). Much like the French did to the Grisly German Folk Tales collected by the aptly named Grimm Brothers. Thus British authors use various techniques, including the Intrusive Narrator and Biting Satire, to soften the Darker Material.
So I'm not certain that Tolkien believed THAT aspect was condescending. I have never read that he thought so. As memory serves, I am fairly certain it was mainly the "Twee" characterization of Elves in particular that he always regretted. And 'twould seem that Petty and I are largely in agreement on that score
Though I think Tolkien more than ably retconned the problem in two ways. One, by making Bilbo the "Author" of There and Back Again, specifically in the manner of a tale for Hobbit children (in which Bilbo no doubt changed more Etheric Elf Lyrics into silly songs). And Two; by later building up a back-story for the Mirkwood Elves that set them apart from other Elves, as being more "fun-loving" and "less wise". Yes, he describes the Elves of Rivendell in The Hobbit as being "light of heart", but he didn't mean that in the "Twee" sense, rather that they wore the burdens of the World lightly.GB