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Troublesome Things - A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories (sort of)

Troublesome Things - A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories (sort of)

(This is snipped from the comment I sent to the author Tad Williams about this book on Facebook - I had asked if he'd read it, he said he did not. I asked if he wanted to know what I thought about it and he said sure; here is what follows:)

I'm first going to say that I am glad I held my reserve. Unfortunately while a lot of what she aims for is some really good and new thinking, she doesn't go as deep into the evidence for her theories as I'd like. She is a lazy scholar and will ramble on about references without context and then just stick a footnote at the end. While I understand this can be common practice, it tends to be common practice amongst the less rigorous. She starts strong - the introduction is fantastic. I was so excited reading it because I thought she'd create a better case for it all -- the case being that Fairies are dangerous truly and not what they've become. It really does start out well, she aligns them with Greek stories of Lamia, Lamashta and Medea. This actually makes a lot of sense but I'm afraid that her thinking, while interesting, doesn't have enough imagination. She basically follows the idea that everything of interest comes OUT of Greece and classical "civilization" in the Mediterranean. And while she flat out explains that the ancient British and Northern Europeans did indeed have plenty of contact with this world -- it seems beyond her scope to perhaps believe that the stories went BOTH ways. In her mind, the stories just came right out of Greece and then evolved on the British Isles. In my opinion that just means she wanted to leave it at that and not think on it further. It would be too difficult to anyway - since we have no proof of that oral culture in any event! Alas.

So, fundamentally she's on the right track, but I'm afraid it devolves into basically a paraphrase of this: "This is what I think the Fairies are. Here is some scant evidence for what I think, in footnote form. Now let me tell you stories - and while I'm telling you one, I'll interrupt with another and another and another before never finishing the first story." <--- That is basically it.

She does go over how the fairies became less threatening over the years -- she spends way way too much time worried about why or how they are sexual. So much focus in fact it's a bit creepy. And at the very end, I was gutted at the final chapter, where it is laid out about Fairies now evolved into the Alien Abduction stories and while I've actually read in Folklore (the published journal) papers on just this subject - she instead goes on and on about X-Files fan-fiction and talks so much about it and with such familiarity I can only think that's almost only what she really wanted to talk about - in that very last chapter. It was kind of sad and disappointing.

This was published in 2001 (or 2005, I cannot recall off the top of my head) and her pop culture references are obviously dated. I think it was a mistake to make them in a book that is trying to be scholastic and ends up failing. All that being said, I'd be more than happy to transcribe the introduction for you to read. It actually was quite good. TLDR; You understand Fairies better than this Oxford professor does. Go on about your business Mr. Williams

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