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

Released: 28/07/2020

ISBN: 9781838594589

eISBN: 9781838595814

Format: Paperback/eBook

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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

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