I love folktales. Well, who doesn't? They are such windows to the minds and hearts of people who lived long ago, in parts of the world one might not be familiar with. A good collection of folktales is a perfect mixture of the myths, the men and the legends and James Riordan's Folktales of the British Isles is right up my alley.
The book looks beautiful, it is a nice chocolate brown hardbound with yellow lettering. It belonged to mom but she gave it to me last month and that in itself makes the book special. It is more than thirty years old. Maybe because of the gesture behind it, opening the book was like opening a musty old treasure chest, a little rickety but good enough and sound enough to preserve all those stories within its covers. I ran my hand over the pages, breathed in deeply, that particular smell that only old books have and settled down to devour it.
The book contains a collection of tales from The west country, The south east, Wales, The midlands, East Anglia, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, The north east, Scotland, Isle of Man, Ireland and a couple of Gypsy tales. The tales range from whimsy to superstitious to cute to horrific. The collection of stories from each region resonates with the voices and lives of its people in that obscure yet insightful way that only folktales can.
So you read about demons and dragons, elves and pixies and fairies, boggarts and banshees. Some of the stories warm your heart, some make you laugh and some might make the hairs on the back of your neck stand stiff. But they are all immensely entertaining and you are swept along effortlessly till there is no barrier between you and these people who profess to have experienced or witnessed or heard of these things.
Perhaps to really like it, you need to have a taste for such stories but it is that very thing, the incredulity quotient that folktales have that make them so beguiling. So read away. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
One last thing - The one jarring note was perhaps how elves, fairies and pixies were considered to be dangerous and not to be trifled with, rather than cute and fun and so on. It went against how I have considered these magical creatures to be and that worries me. I love to believe. In Santa, in fairies, in angel food, in elves, in Rudolph. And I want them to be the good guys so if I ever come across a teeny tiny leprechaun, all green and beard I will be sure to ask him :)
I could not find the image for this book anywhere, but if anyone is able to get hold of it I shall be grateful.