Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies - 500 AD to the Present
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When Tinker Bell followed Peter Pan to Hollywood in the 1950s, fairies vanished into the realm of child-lore. Yet in 1923 30-yearold J.R.R. Tolkien's visit to his aunt's house Bag's End inspired a story about hedgerowfairies or 'Hobbits', and three years earlier Sherlock-Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle published the Cottingley fairy photographs. In Ireland, a generation before, family members had torched a woman to death thinking she was a fairy, while William Butler Yeats met a fairy queen in a coastal cave. Today British and Irish fairy-interest has recovered its old lustre, and gathered here is the latest learning from leading folklorists and historians. A tidal-wave of new fairy sightings has been uncovered by the digitisation of British and Irish newspapers and ephemera. There are fairy sightings in urbanised locations and remote rural areas; characters and means to ward off evil fairies vary radically from place to place. In Sussex, there is the helpful 'Master Dobbs' or Dobby, while in Ireland fairies may be the dead, and Scotland harbours the terrifying Whoopity Stoorie. In addition, Magical Folk includes findings from The Fairy Census, the first scholarly survey of modern fairy sightings in Britain and Ireland, demonstrating that the connection with the past continues unbroken. Another new discovery is that fairies travelled across the Atlantic well before Tinker Bell made it onto the silver screen. The most homesick fairies may have been the ones who dunked one Roderick repeatedly in the Atlantic Ocean as they dragged him to Ireland and back to his Canadian home!
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Simon Young is a Cambridge-educated British historian based in Italy, where he teaches in the University of Virginia Program in Siena. He has written several widely-reviewed books (including The Celtic Revolution) and published extensively on folk. From 2014 to 2017, he ran The Fairy Census, the first published scholarly survey of modern fairy sightings.