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At the Bottom of the Garden is a history of fairies from the ancient world to the present. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, it is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society. The pretty pastel world of gauzy-winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true--as brought to you by Disney's fairies flitting ac At the Bottom of the Garden is a history of fairies from the ancient world to the present. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, it is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society. The pretty pastel world of gauzy-winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true--as brought to you by Disney's fairies flitting across a woodland glade, or Tinkerbell's magic wand--is predated by a darker, denser world of gorgons, goblins, and gellos; the ancient antecedents of Shakespeare's mischievous Puck or J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. For, as Diane Purkiss explains in this engrossing history, ancient fairies were born of fear: fear of the dark, of death, and of other great rites of passage, birth and sex. To understand the importance of these early fairies to pre-industrial peoples, we need to recover that sense of dread. This book begins with the earliest manifestations of fairies in ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean. The child-killing demons and nymphs of these cultures are the joint ancestors of the medieval fairies of northern Europe, when fairy figures provided a bridge between the secular and the sacred. Fairies abducted babies and virgins, spirited away young men who were seduced by fairy queens and remained suspended in liminal states. Tamed by Shakespeare's view of the spirit world, Victorian fairies fluttered across the theater stage and the pages of children's books to reappear a century later as detergent trade marks and alien abductors. In learning about these often strange and mysterious creatures, we learn something about ourselves--our fears and our desires.


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At the Bottom of the Garden is a history of fairies from the ancient world to the present. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, it is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society. The pretty pastel world of gauzy-winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true--as brought to you by Disney's fairies flitting ac At the Bottom of the Garden is a history of fairies from the ancient world to the present. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, it is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society. The pretty pastel world of gauzy-winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true--as brought to you by Disney's fairies flitting across a woodland glade, or Tinkerbell's magic wand--is predated by a darker, denser world of gorgons, goblins, and gellos; the ancient antecedents of Shakespeare's mischievous Puck or J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. For, as Diane Purkiss explains in this engrossing history, ancient fairies were born of fear: fear of the dark, of death, and of other great rites of passage, birth and sex. To understand the importance of these early fairies to pre-industrial peoples, we need to recover that sense of dread. This book begins with the earliest manifestations of fairies in ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean. The child-killing demons and nymphs of these cultures are the joint ancestors of the medieval fairies of northern Europe, when fairy figures provided a bridge between the secular and the sacred. Fairies abducted babies and virgins, spirited away young men who were seduced by fairy queens and remained suspended in liminal states. Tamed by Shakespeare's view of the spirit world, Victorian fairies fluttered across the theater stage and the pages of children's books to reappear a century later as detergent trade marks and alien abductors. In learning about these often strange and mysterious creatures, we learn something about ourselves--our fears and our desires.

30 review for At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things

  1. 5 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    Purportedly a history of fairy tales, this book serves neither as a history nor a particularly good resource about legends. I had to give up on this after this passage, "In later stories, Peter [Pan:] is joined by boys who have fallen out of their perambulators, their suspiciously womblike perambulators (is this a mere bowlderization of miscarriage--miscarriage--or stillbirth?)." What. WHAT? I started skimming after that. It's not a very well organized book, and Purkiss's logic is all over the pla Purportedly a history of fairy tales, this book serves neither as a history nor a particularly good resource about legends. I had to give up on this after this passage, "In later stories, Peter [Pan:] is joined by boys who have fallen out of their perambulators, their suspiciously womblike perambulators (is this a mere bowlderization of miscarriage--miscarriage--or stillbirth?)." What. WHAT? I started skimming after that. It's not a very well organized book, and Purkiss's logic is all over the place. Her conclusions are alternately disappointingly obvious and amusingly crazy-eyed. Near the end, I discovered an entire sub-chapter about X-Files fanfic. Oh dear.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Madly Jane

    My favorite book on fairies. Not for those who want to see happy cuty little beings! A re-read for notes. Love this book. What are fairies really, but the dead, the ancestor, the nameless thing we all fear in the dark. The Other. I absolutely adore this book. It changed my life. That's a great book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    (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 (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

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    I have to admit I only got half way through this. I found it very disappointing. It felt like as a history it was all over the place. She seemed to have no real structure or thesis behind her arguments, what she was choosing as her sources seemed odd and in the end gave a very odd and distorted view. There was totally no sense of change over time in this book, rather she seemed to be doing almost the opposite, looking for things that were the same and saying becuase they were the same they must I have to admit I only got half way through this. I found it very disappointing. It felt like as a history it was all over the place. She seemed to have no real structure or thesis behind her arguments, what she was choosing as her sources seemed odd and in the end gave a very odd and distorted view. There was totally no sense of change over time in this book, rather she seemed to be doing almost the opposite, looking for things that were the same and saying becuase they were the same they must be the same thing. Rather than looking at how folklore grows and changes and the position that it holds and how it relates to society. Her thesis to start with was that European, or in particular British fairies, came from mesopotamia, greek and roman culture. Her argument for this was when she was reading about demons in those cultures she noticed that they did exactly what the fairies she had been studying did, and fulfilled similar roles. Most of her examples were Greek, but then she says people in Britian got these greek ideas through the Roman invasion (The same way that modern British culture is influenced by French culture she said?) But then she skips 1000 years and talks about a rite that's designed to find out if your child is a changeling or not. 1000 years is a huge length of time for beliefs not to grow or change or develop, she then skips another 500 years and starts talking about Elizabethan times. 1500 years have past without any development or explanation. Then to look at beliefs then she picks confessions made in witch trials as her main sources for fairy belief (sources made under torture that often talk about the devil as much as fairies). She dismisses Reginal Scott as a source as "he's primarily a demonologist". In relation to the witch trials she starts talking about recovered memory syndrome and memories of abuse which made no sense at all and it was shortly after this that I decided to give up and read a different book. (Before she started talking about literary fairies and Victorian fairies). I must admit I was quite disappointed in this and quite surprised that it had been written by a fellow of Oxford! (Though she was an English professor not a history professor). I'm afraid this book did nothing for me and I didn't even learn anything. There were instances where I knew she was wrong and her aruguments were very questionable. One thing that did strike me while reading this is that fairy beliefs seem to be entirely linked to Christian cultures and it would be interesting to read a book that linked the relationship between the two. Not really one I can recommend I'm afraid.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    Having spent several years of my life entrenched in academia, I feel a great joy when I find an intelligent, in-depth book that is beautifully readable. This book is so easy to read that a non-specialist can not only understand it, but be interested in it. It was a pleasure to read and I look forward to re-reading it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jami

    I just wanted to post a small correction to the book. The model for Tinkerbell was not Marilyn Monroe but Margaret Kelly. Though Diane Purkiss isn't wrong about Tinkerbell being based on a sex symbol. Miss Kelly had been voted Best Legs In Hollywood at the time she modeled for Tink and voiced one of the mermaids.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay ⭐ [TrulyBooked]

    It started out so well, but started to drag later on in the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Oznasia

    The perception exists with some who attend my storytelling workshops that fairies are always tiny, female and mostly nice. I doubt that many storytellers would hold to this view. We have all heard and sometimes tell stories of baby stealing and other nasty activities of the fairy folk. Diane Purkiss goes further with her study of fairy lore and literature. She sees the roots of fairies in some of the horrific characters of Greek and Roman myths. They didn’t call them fairies in those days but Pur The perception exists with some who attend my storytelling workshops that fairies are always tiny, female and mostly nice. I doubt that many storytellers would hold to this view. We have all heard and sometimes tell stories of baby stealing and other nasty activities of the fairy folk. Diane Purkiss goes further with her study of fairy lore and literature. She sees the roots of fairies in some of the horrific characters of Greek and Roman myths. They didn’t call them fairies in those days but Purkiss points out the similarities shared by gorgons, Lamia, nymphs and Celtic fairies. She says: Fairies come from outside, from outside the community, civilisation, even when they seem to share its values. Fairies were either once people or are like people who have become trapped at a certain indeterminate phase of life. Fairies have links with the dead, and some are the dead. Young men, women in childbirth, and babies and children are particularly vulnerable to fairies. Fairies are compelled to repeat their own circumstances in the lives of others; if they die prematurely, they cause the premature deaths of others; if they are trapped in eternal, storyless youth, they try to trap others in it too. Fairies have bodies which reflect their anomalousness, subtly or directly. Fairies are also particularised to the local situation, as the changing role of nymphs indicates. Fairies are common to peasant cultures, cultures where the centre of life is the village and the space around it. Why do fairies arise in the culture of diverse societies? Purkiss offers three possible explanations: Firstly, common humanity: these are universal cultural archetypes produced by common psychic pressures in every culture. Secondly, common structures: in societies with similar social structures, similar social solutions will be produced; so, for instance, all village societies will produce taciturnity as a norm, and will therefore develop a corpus of folk-beliefs about the disastrous results of loquacity. Thirdly, direct transmission: the Celts learned these stories from their contacts with the Mediterranean peoples, just as the Mediterranean peoples learned these stories from each other. The first explanation is questioned by Purkiss on the grounds that if it were so we would still all look to fairies as an explanation for the unexplainable. While I am sure some do, in the modern world most don’t. Purkiss acknowledges some credibility in the second explanation but expresses a preference for the third: ... the ceaseless reshaping of old stories to fit new contexts. Sometimes this involves simple changes of geography, sometimes changes in point of view, sometimes more drastic changes in narrative. But in every case, the result is a blend of continuity and change. But she goes on to say that she doesn’t really know. ‘As with all else in fairyland, this theory may be a glittering deception.’ While some good fairies existed in folklore they were not common. They belong more to literary tales and were perhaps popularised by Shakespeare. Still, Shakespeare’s fairies were often male and not necessarily small. The sweet female fairies came into their own in literature and on the stage of Victorian times and developed into the popular fairies of today mostly in the twentieth century. The design of this book leaves a little to be desired. There is no longer a reason with modern technology to print illustrations in a section separate from the text. To present the illustrations next to the relevant part of the text would not turn this academic tome into a coffee table book. It would merely have made it easier for the reader to refer to them. Many storytellers will consider this a welcome addition to their libraries. It’s main shortcoming is perhaps its strong bias to Europe. Fairy-like creatures from other cultures are barely touched on. © copyright John Shield. First published on the John Shield storytelling website 2003.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vivienne

    Despite publicity material that describes it as "a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society and the Introduction by the author that gave the impression that she quite enjoys fairies, fairy stories and folklore, throughout the book there is no real sense of Purkiss'connection with her subject matter. She stretches the boundaries of what constitutes a fairy to include all kinds of beings from ancient mythology and yet is also reductioni Despite publicity material that describes it as "a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society and the Introduction by the author that gave the impression that she quite enjoys fairies, fairy stories and folklore, throughout the book there is no real sense of Purkiss'connection with her subject matter. She stretches the boundaries of what constitutes a fairy to include all kinds of beings from ancient mythology and yet is also reductionist in her classifications of more modern tales. There was certainly none of the passion for the subject expressed by folklorist Katherine Briggs or Maureen Duffy, whose work, The Erotic World of Faerie, had its flaws but conveyed its author's enthusiasm for art and literature linked to Faerie. This coolness may stem from Purkiss' academic background as a social historian but I asked myself quite a few times as I was reading it as to why she was bothering to write on this subject at all. She actually makes faeries and fairy stories boring and that takes some kind of weird negative talent. She also expresses quite openly her contempt for those who view fairies as anything other than imaginary and is extremely dismissive of contemporary fantasy. Given her limited references to works of fantasy, she obviously had scant exposure to the genre as well as little feeling for it. For example, in mentioning a link between stories of alien abduction and encounters with fairy folk, she acknowledges she is not the first to suggest this. She later mentions the writings of alien abductee Whitley Strieber but gives no acknowledgement to his fantasy novel Catmagic, in which he considered alien encounters in terms of fairy lore. It just underlined for me that despite the academic credentials of the author, that the book as a whole lacked both the objectivity and kind of scope that I had hoped for in a work that described itself as 'a history'. I had been prepared for Purkiss' bitterness and prejudices due to a couple of on-line reviews that had mentioned it. For this reason I elected to borrow the book rather than buy a copy even though its subject matter is one I'd normally want on my shelves. Still I had thought the book might at least prove informative. It really wasn't. If it had been my property rather than the library's I would have been very tempted to throw it across the room more than once in response to her superior tone and condescending attitudes. A huge disappointment and I certainly would not recommend.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Happydog

    It starts out well but after a while her insistence on applying Freudian and feminist literary criticism even where it doesn't seem appropriate is tiresome. She can be witty, but halfway through the book her wit begins to sound bitter and snarky. And strange as it may seem to say, the book seems mean. Originally I ended this with "I may not finish it," but that turned into "I didn't finish it." The amount of Freudian literary criticism mounted to an intolerable level, and as the book progressed It starts out well but after a while her insistence on applying Freudian and feminist literary criticism even where it doesn't seem appropriate is tiresome. She can be witty, but halfway through the book her wit begins to sound bitter and snarky. And strange as it may seem to say, the book seems mean. Originally I ended this with "I may not finish it," but that turned into "I didn't finish it." The amount of Freudian literary criticism mounted to an intolerable level, and as the book progressed witty turned to snarky and then unaccountably mean-spirited. I understand being a skeptic and being analytical, but I do not agree with being swinish about it. And Freudianism works no better as literary criticism than it does as psychology. As somebody who works as a mental health counselor I can tell you that very few people take note of Freud's theories or even take them seriously; he has been proven so wrong so many times that it is hard to count. The recent application of Freudianism to literary criticism is bizarre to say the least, and equally unworkable. In the end Purkiss' skepticism turned to a bitter cynicism and her Freud worship became intolerable. It was hard to discern what her reason for writing the book was, since what seemed to be the primary point of the book - e.g., literary fairies are reflections of ourselves - is hardly a revelation.

  11. 4 out of 5

    XPHAIEA.

    I approached this with enthusiasm, but Purkiss is so damning of her topic that it left a bitter taste in my mouth. The book deals with different periods of history, but skirts around and glosses over subjects at whim, often not really providing the back story to the individuals or examples she discusses and the result is an unsatisfying read. Purkiss seems to be so busy sneering and being cynical at just about everything it clouded my judgement on her prose completely. The book is executed in a ra I approached this with enthusiasm, but Purkiss is so damning of her topic that it left a bitter taste in my mouth. The book deals with different periods of history, but skirts around and glosses over subjects at whim, often not really providing the back story to the individuals or examples she discusses and the result is an unsatisfying read. Purkiss seems to be so busy sneering and being cynical at just about everything it clouded my judgement on her prose completely. The book is executed in a rather rambling fashion - in the section on the Victorians, Purkiss goes off at a tangent rambling about Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Similarly a rather rushed feeling chapter (mainly gabbling on about X-Files fans) is tacked on the end. It feels patchy and incomplete. Several notable authors to adopt the fairy trope in their writing - Mary Norton and Lord Dunsany are notably absent. Purkiss' attitude towards homosexuality also seemed rather hostile and full of distaste. She sneers at Oscar Wilde's effeminacy and is condemning of pink 'girly' toys - stating that only gay men could be drawn to their depetiction of hyper-femininity. Ironic since she mentions several times that her own son attends ballet lessons and cried when he was refused a magic wand... I think I prefer Marina Warner.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    I've read quite a bit of this in Katharine Brigg's books, but enjoyed revisiting the Fair Folks in this one, too. Folks who want to learn more about the Gentry need to read this! So many different creatures, so interesting to learn about them!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Martin Shone

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Fairy or Fairy history. The Victorian and Edwardian chapters held my attentions the most, whereas I got bogged down a bit with the Shakespearean period as it was a tad heavy for me but then I'm not a scholar or intellectual enough to read it with ease but saying that, I took my time and came through it knowing the book would be incomplete without it. The chapters on the ancient and medieval history were v I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Fairy or Fairy history. The Victorian and Edwardian chapters held my attentions the most, whereas I got bogged down a bit with the Shakespearean period as it was a tad heavy for me but then I'm not a scholar or intellectual enough to read it with ease but saying that, I took my time and came through it knowing the book would be incomplete without it. The chapters on the ancient and medieval history were very interesting along with the witch trials etc. So from Ancient Worlds to Alien Abductions, this book, in my opinion, is an excellent read and I shall most surely read it again!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Purkiss' book is a very good and easily accessible look at how society views fairies and other little folk. She starts, mostly, in the Middle Ages and works her way up to the present day, including a quick look at how fan fiction uses fairy folk. She also mixes in history, dealing with Scottish witch trials among other historical events.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Neile

    I agree with other reviewers that this is all over the place and feels disorganized. I also agree that the introduction is the most interesting part. I was surprised at the lack of evidence for most of her assertions in a scholarly book--they seem more speculations presented as fact. So many Interesting parts and ideas, but ultimately I felt unconvinced.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katarina Dass

    I'd hardly call this a work of research but I must admit there were some interesting connections made particularly in reference to Lilith and feminism or witches and hallucinogenic drugs on broom stick handles.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Story

    3.5 stars. A very enjoyable exploration of fairy world and how our beliefs have evolved over time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jbondandrews

    Well while the book was well written up to a point, it didn't really feature Hobgoblins, Nymphs or other Troublesome things to any extent. Nor really did the fairies. I also did not think her comments about Oscar Wilde were at all necessary either.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    A volume I picked up on whim whilst grazing through the local used bookshops, this was the first scholarly work on folklore I ever read. Purkiss's research into fairy lore, running the gamut from its ancient origins through Early Modern treatises and witch trial depositions to contemporary incarnations, is delivered with a loving skepticism and trademark snark--an approach I found instantly charming. Though Purkiss's frequent reiteration that "fairies are the dead" could, I suppose, grow tiresome A volume I picked up on whim whilst grazing through the local used bookshops, this was the first scholarly work on folklore I ever read. Purkiss's research into fairy lore, running the gamut from its ancient origins through Early Modern treatises and witch trial depositions to contemporary incarnations, is delivered with a loving skepticism and trademark snark--an approach I found instantly charming. Though Purkiss's frequent reiteration that "fairies are the dead" could, I suppose, grow tiresome for some, it is key to the purpose of the book--to rescue fairies from the tiny winged stuff of Disney and the Victorians and place them in their full historical context, tracing their evolution through the human psychological need to fill gaps in our knowledge. And, while the critique is fascinating, it is the author's style and genuine interest in the subject matter that enables the book to stand up to multiple readings.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Katharine

    She's straightforwardly right about Peter Pan IMO. I appreciate that. Not sure I buy her theory about the origin of Celtic fairies (in Mesopotamia, Greece etc.) It reminds me of the argument I learned from fundamentalists, that all flood myths around the world must all stem from the Great Flood. Uneven but worthwhile if you're at all interested in folklore. Also suggested for any fantasy/genre fan as a solid grounding in mythos helps in appreciating and understanding complex material.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Claire S

    Sounds potentially fascinating. Especially if it has any Gaelic.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    Really great research and interesting insights... the random personal opinion style comments that popped up every so often were strange and distracting though.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate Carpenter

    A little slow at times, but full of interesting information and good for research.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Trinity

    Solidly written. Very opinionated, and the prose does not flow freely at times.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kimi

    I didn't appreciate all the digs at Disney movies, but aside from that, this was pretty good. Kind of dry at times, but it was a good overview of things.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I found this book fascinating. Read this a few years ago, and I would like to read it again!!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie T

    The subject is really interesting but i found the author’s style confusing. I would read another book in the same field but i would not read this again.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Juli Anna

    This is a dense book, and it was unfortunately not the game-changer I had hoped for. While Purkiss does make a few unique observations about fairy lore, and enjoyed her in-depth exploration of fae creatures as dead creatures, there is plenty here to take issue with. The most glaring thing for me was that she occasionally touched on how race/ethnicity/colonialism influenced people's fairy beliefs, but never analyzed in any real way the effects or cultural implications. These observations were mad This is a dense book, and it was unfortunately not the game-changer I had hoped for. While Purkiss does make a few unique observations about fairy lore, and enjoyed her in-depth exploration of fae creatures as dead creatures, there is plenty here to take issue with. The most glaring thing for me was that she occasionally touched on how race/ethnicity/colonialism influenced people's fairy beliefs, but never analyzed in any real way the effects or cultural implications. These observations were made from a white, Eurocentric perspective with no attempts at understanding the harm implicated. It would have been more ethical (and way more interesting) to give more context in these situations. Second, Purkiss's tone, especially during the latter chapters, is startlingly judgmental, in a way that felt unprofessional in a pop-academic book. Finally, this book was too long, too convoluted, and never made an overarching point. Major sections of it were difficult to follow, and she often referred in the text to other sections of the book with a labyrinthine result. I thought about putting it down multiple times.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Min

    A lyrical narrative, spoken as told by firelight, the mysteries of the Other People in the early portion. The author deftly follows the trails in ancient Greece, to Pagan, and Christian thought meeting during the Medieval period for manifestations of those liminal beings that can both gift, and curse. The author tackles the amorphous realms with scholastic, yet comfortable ease to bring the average reader along the ride of history, and folklore. She confronts the urge to classify them all as bar A lyrical narrative, spoken as told by firelight, the mysteries of the Other People in the early portion. The author deftly follows the trails in ancient Greece, to Pagan, and Christian thought meeting during the Medieval period for manifestations of those liminal beings that can both gift, and curse. The author tackles the amorphous realms with scholastic, yet comfortable ease to bring the average reader along the ride of history, and folklore. She confronts the urge to classify them all as barely remembered gods, or descriptions of land spirits. Her broad classifications, and descriptions reminding us that their actions follow, in a manner, our own human social expectations, with their hierarchy, and emphasis on deal-making. Tossing familiar beings in a new light is a point I enjoyed. Conceiving of the Gorgon as a manifestation of the fear of death because of the rictus grin, or Peter Pan as the embodiment of a baby snatcher. Shifting from the Dark Fears, the Purkiss moves into the beings that capture us harmlessly- usually, such as the nymphs and the Fairy women that are so beautiful, and tempting. When possible, Purkiss liberally quotes from primary sources to best grasp the historical development, particularly as the post-Enlightenment Era arrives and elite culture becomes obsessed with Faery. Occasionally her interpretation of the events, and the times feels forced, and over-analyzed. The shift from the mischief-maker in the Medieval era, to the small, waif creature of Nature by the Victorian is interesting, and discovering Romanticism's role in it. Following the fate of the fairies in story progresses to the modern day and their current representation in literature, and film.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brittney

    An ambitious volume that seeks to trace the history of fairies in folklore and popular culture from the ancient world to the turn of the Millennium, which of course is the subject of libraries of books. While Purkiss by necessity treats portions of her subject briefly—with increasing brevity as the centuries roll onward—she does so with clarity and manages to pack a great amount of analysis into a relatively small space. There are ideas here that I hadn’t considered in my years of interest in fa An ambitious volume that seeks to trace the history of fairies in folklore and popular culture from the ancient world to the turn of the Millennium, which of course is the subject of libraries of books. While Purkiss by necessity treats portions of her subject briefly—with increasing brevity as the centuries roll onward—she does so with clarity and manages to pack a great amount of analysis into a relatively small space. There are ideas here that I hadn’t considered in my years of interest in fairies, and these new perspectives made this book highly enjoyable for me. I do find the exclusion of Brian Froud and Labyrinth from the final chapter suspect, but their inclusion would have thrown a wrench into the author’s assertion that fairies are dead in pop culture (an assertion that is impossible to make 19 years after this book’s publication, much to my joy).

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