Troubador Fairies, Ghosts, King Arthur, and Hounds from Hell

Released: 28/07/2020

ISBN: 9781838594589

eISBN: 9781838595814

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book

Fairies, Ghosts, King Arthur, and Hounds from Hell

The Pagan and Medieval Origins of British Folklore


Britain has a rich folklore, and the most fascinating figures in it are undoubtedly the fairies. Many explanations have been given for British fairies, but the most popular is that they are the souls of the pre-Christian dead, living in pagan strongholds like Bronze Age barrows or Iron Age hillforts. 

This book first looks at burial practices and religious beliefs of Iron Age Britons. It then surveys the people, places, language and pagan religion of Roman Britain. After the Romans left the people of Wales, western England and most of Scotland lived much as they had before, and it is here that we find Celts and Celtic place-names and with this the best preserved fairy lore. The Anglo-Saxons eventually settled in most of England and from them came the fairy lore of East Anglia. 

The Vikings occupied large parts of northern England, and we probably owe the shape-shifting bogles and boggarts of the north to the paganism of these Norse settlers. Fairy lore first emerged in the Middle Ages and flourished in the 19th century, with the folklore of fairies and fairy-like creatures such as mermaids, ghosts in the landscape, hounds from Hell, and King Arthur and his knights.

As a reader I have always been fascinated by folklore and it’s origins so, when I came across this book, I was delighted. It is not a book to be read cover to cover at a sitting, it’s subtitle – The Pagan and Medieval Origins of British Folklore – indicates quite correctly, that this is a reference book...and WHAT a reference book. I absolutely love it, the author, Robin Melrose, is a retired lecturer in English and Linguistics and he writes beautifully. The book is laid out in sections which deal with either geographical areas or periods of time. For example the first section is Iron Age Britain and under the main heading you have entries relating to different types of burials during the Iron Age and beliefs in the afterlife at that time. The next section is Roman Britain 1 – People and places followed by Roman Britain 2 Burial Rites, Temples and Curse Tablets and so on. There are 13 sections in all which allows the reader to cherry pick the information they require. Being a huge fan of all things Welsh and all things Arthurian (something to do with my genes), I looked up these in their relative sections and was delighted with the amount of information available. So what we have here is a really well written book on British Folklore from the Iron Age to Medieval times which would be of great help to students and readers interested in our Folklore and the way that similar stories appear in various places throughout the land. It is a very accessible book, not at all dry and I highly recommend it.

by NetGalley review

This is a book to be consulted often, also a very interesting read on folklore, and the related topics of burial sites. It can be read once, but I am going to make the most of it and refer to it often, as a comprehensive guide. Where it is not known what the origin of a word is, the author says so, which also impresses me. I never knew so much about different areas, and I consider myself pretty clued up regarding folklore. Not just Glastonbury and Avebury, but Hampshire and East Yorkshire, are included, among others. I am very impressed by the research that must have gone into this book and I would recommend it for general reading, but also as a reference book, to return to again and again, for anyone who is interested in this topic.

by NetGalley review

A fascinating and in-depth history of Britain’s folkloric origins through the ages. Exhaustively researched and written in a formal, informative tone, the book ties British history to its many varied practices, beliefs, and superstitions.

by NetGalley review

Fabulous look at the history of faeries and other magical creatures in Britain. I love these tales and it's nice to see more research being done on them. I'm a big fan of Katharine Brigg's collection of faery tales and this one is right up there with hers! I'll be sure to recommend the book and even purchase it for my own collection. Lots of research went into the writing of this book. Kudos to Robin Melrose!

by NetGalley review

An amazing, meticulous, expansively researched and well-organized reference book that made me long to visit the UK again in pursuit of its folkloric roots.

by NetGalley review

This is an incredibly well-written reference book. It caters to readers who are getting into the subject for the first time without being patronising to readers who already have background knowledge. I liked the way the different sections were sorted, making it easy to scan through if you're just after information on a specific area, such as Wiltshire, but also helping to break the text into manageable chunks if you're reading it cover-to-cover.
I hadn't expected the sheer amount of detail involved in this book when I first selected it, but the amount of detail can only be a good thing. This is definitely a book I will keep referring back to, especially in my continuing Arthurian Legend research.

by NetGalley review

A well written and well researched reference book that fascinated me. I liked how it is organised and the style of writing.
Highly recommended.

by NetGalley review

Loved this book. As others have said, it's a really well researched reference book packed with evidence relating to beliefs around fairies, mermaids, water horses and other mythical or spiritual beings. I read this cover to cover in a few days, but it really is intended as a reference book to dip in and out of when needed. I love that the individual parts of Britain are dealt with separately and the tales told are reproduced here, some as late as the last years of the nineteenth century. A fascinating read. And really relevant to any study - whether you're studying subjects like the Dissolution of the Monasteries, saints, King Arthur, beliefs or even the social history of every day people, this is a really useful book.

by NetGalley review

Fairies, Ghosts, King Arthur, and Hounds from Hell was an excellent in depth look at folklore of the British Isles. The writing could be a bit dry at times, as can be found in academic texts, but the level of research was amazing, and I will definitely be purchasing this to consult for my own writing.

by NetGalley review

This is a non-fiction book looking at the burial practises and pagan beliefs of Britain, and then detailing some of the legends and fairy stories originating there. It splits the country into sections and begins by detailing the burial sites from each of several eras from Iron Age to post-Roman before moving on to the fairy tales. At first this feels like two contrasting subjects and styles but during reading it does come together coherently. It's very much an introductory text and although it can obviously be read from cover to cover, I think it's more likely that readers will dip into the era or area they are most interested in.

The list of sources at the end are a great place to go for anyone wishing to do their own further research and the way they have been sorted by chapter makes it very easy to find the reference you're looking for. I wish more books would sort their references this clearly.

I have actually purchased this book now as I found it interesting and a useful layout once I got used to how it had been split up. Well worth a look for any beginner or someone with a passing interest in the subject, although anyone with more in-depth requirements may only use the resource list.

by NetGalley review

As a lover of history and folklore I’ve completely fallen in love with this books. It’s full of interesting information, well written and with a good structure.
Would highly recommend.

by NetGalley review

Fairies, Ghosts, King Arthur, and Hounds from Hell is a clear and comprehensive reference book about folklore, a subject of perennial interest for many readers. This is definitely a reference book, not necessarily built for back to front reading. It's a valuable resource, however, and has some particularly interesting insights into the geography and history of the British Isles. I enjoyed how well researched this book is. It doesn't leave very many gaps, or unanswered questions. The writing goes into great detail, but is easy to follow. This would be a great reference for many people's bookshelves!

by NetGalley review

An exploration both into the folklore and mythology of Britain and an assessment of the archaeology of Britain from the Neolithic to the Anglo-Saxon Age, all in an attempt to ascertain associations between folklore and ancient pagan practice.

The author establishes these possibilities in the beginning. The author then explores the archaeological evidence of the Neolithic to the Roman periods, focusing on the presence of excarnation and exploring the possibility, perhaps plausibility, of the belief of reincarnation among at least the Iron Age British.

The author then goes through an assessment of Celtic Britain and how it survived in various ways, from the southwest sweeping around to Wales and the rest of England, particularly in terms of linguistic connections. In a similar way the author explores the story of Celtic saints, especially their connections with animals. The author then explores the legacy of Celtic folklore in southwest England, Wales, the Welsh borderlands, and the Scottish borderlands, primarily in terms of saints' tales, fairies, mermaids, Arthurian legends, and the like. The author does the same for the Anglo-Saxon legacy in the rest of England.

The author does well at drawing connections between the legendary stories and the ancient geography, showing how fairy hills were often Bronze Age burrows and the like. Understanding fairies as the recent dead was interesting in light of how fairies are presently seen in modern media. The stories are interesting and worth hearing; the connection with archaeological and historical understanding of more ancient periods helps to make some sense of the contours of the purported paranormal phenomena.

The work can be dry at times, full of detail of archaeological studies, but is especially engaging in the second half. The work could really use a conclusion to bring some coherence to all the evidence marshaled, even if the conclusions are speculative and provisional.

A fascinating look into the dark side of Britain.

by NetGalley review

Well researched and highly enlightening look into the numerous myths and legends that inhabit Britain's little isle. It was fascinating to see the large variety of tales that have come from these shores, as well as the many different types of inhabitants over time who have shaped the types of stories we know and love.

I do think that at times this goes slightly too far into the academic, with a dry writing style that makes the test feel very dense at times. This isn't a book you can read in one sitting, but rather one to read in small chunks that you can go away and digest. I do think that the title is a little misleading however, given that a large portion of the book is given over to the discussion of saints and religion - which I wasn't necessarily looking for going into this and could possibly even been omitted and still have a very robust book.

Interesting, undoubtedly informative, but a little on the heavy side.

by NetGalley review

I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

This is a very scholarly work, which shows. I have a passing interest in folklore and more of an interest in history, so I picked this up more for the historical aspect! I found it to be dense, but there were pieces that interested me. Mainly how the religions and beliefs and tales evolved over time, as well as changed with invasions and religious changes. This is definitely a book you want to read if you're highly interested in British folklore because it covers things from prehistory to, roughly, the 19th century. A whole lot of history and times, as well as across Britain, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

by NetGalley review

This is a really in depth interesting book on British folklore. It's a subject that interests me but I haven't explored much so I found it fascinating. You can really see how much love and research has gone into this. I learnt so much. A great book

by NetGalley review

I really enjoyed reading this book - although I would recommend taking your time and reading it with something lighter at the same time! It is quite academic, so quite heavy reading. I enjoyed the fact that it covered a lot of different eras and different folklore, as many books tend to be specialised. A very good book to read if you are after a moore or less exhaustive coverage of myths of the Britain.

by NetGalley review

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