Welcome to my new blog. British Fairies is a celebration and exploration of the fairies and faery lore of the British Isles- most especially England, Cornwall and Wales.
On these pages I plan to discuss various themes of fairy folklore, to talk about and review the work of experts in the field and (from time to time) promote a few of my own humble contributions to fairy lore (!).
In the weeks and months to come I would like to examine the lineage and behaviours of the ‘Good Neighbours,’ the ‘Fair Folk’ and the ‘Vanishing People.’ But from the start, let’s be clear about one thing: my view of the realm of faery is that it is a place of danger and risk. The fairy nation demands respect and caution; they are a proud and dangerous people. I counsel against the idea of pretty, fluttery little creatures; my perception of fairyland is of a land inhabited largely by people resembling us- except that they are magical, powerful and not to be taken advantage of or taken for granted. Fairies are, to my mind, more Galadriel than Tinkerbell- more Tolkien than Disney. That said, the images of Arthur Rackham and of contemporary artist Brian Froud (see illustration above and see too his personal website http://www.worldoffroud.com/ ) appeal greatly to me, as they bridge the dividing line between pretty/ girly and nysterious and deadly.
Last year I visited Powis Castle near Welshpool and for the first time personally encountered ‘fairy doors’ in a wood there. These twee fancies doubtless appeal to small children, but I think they give them and their parents a distorted view of British fairies. The Welsh ellyllon, it is true, are diminutive and generally friendly, but more typical of the race are the gwyllion, the dangerous female mountain spirits who lead travellers astray and can transform into goats, and the Tylwyth Teg/ Bendith y Mamau, the Fair Folk or Mother’s Blessing, who steal children from their cradles or marry humans. All of these are well described in Wirt Sikes’ British Goblins, published in 1880 but widely available online in cheap reprints.
Like Sikes and the respected author Katharine Briggs, I am interested in the complexities of fairy belief. How did such a highly structured alternative universe come to be imagined by previous generations? What forces drove our ancestors to fill the countryside (and their homes) with so many different forms of fairy being? What is the ongoing inpact of those beliefs?
With those words of warning- enjoy the posts that follow!
PS: I operate two other blogs on WordPress; these are broadcastbarnsley.wordpress.com which discusses music and fashions of the 1970s through the perspective of one South Yorkshire mining town and johnkruseblog.wordpress.com which is a forum for my wider interests in the arts, history and the like.