StoryGraph Saturday: Fairies: A Dangerous History

StoryGraph Saturday is a weekly thing where I randomly choose a book from my To Read pile on StoryGraph and show it off to both remind myself that it’s there and to show it to you in case you might find it interesting, too.

Fairies: A Dangerous History
Richard Sugg
280 pages
Published in 2018

From The StoryGraph:

Don’t be fooled by Tinkerbell and her pixie dust–the real fairies were dangerous. In the late seventeenth century, they could still scare people to death. Little wonder, as they were thought to be descended from the Fallen Angels and to have the power to destroy the world itself. Despite their modern image as gauzy playmates, fairies caused ordinary people to flee their homes out of fear, to revere fairy trees and paths, and to abuse or even kill infants or adults held to be fairy changelings. Such beliefs, along with some remarkably detailed sightings, lingered on in places well into the twentieth century. Often associated with witchcraft and black magic, fairies were also closely involved with reports of ghosts and poltergeists.

In literature and art, the fairies still retained this edge of danger. From the wild magic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, through the dark glamour of Keats, Christina Rosetti’s improbably erotic poem “Goblin Market,” or the paintings inspired by opium dreams, the amoral otherness of the fairies ran side-by-side with the newly delicate or feminized creations of the Victorian world. In the past thirty years, the enduring link between fairies and nature has been robustly exploited by eco-warriors and conservationists, from Ireland to Iceland. As changeable as changelings themselves, fairies have transformed over time like no other supernatural beings. And in this book, Richard Sugg tells the story of how the fairies went from terror to Tink.

Who isn’t interested in the fae these days? Personally, I’ve always been interested in them, but not in the sexy male fae image that seems to be popular. The faeries I know from northern European lore are rarely sexy and are far more terrifying than the creatures that show up in young adult fantasy. I’ve been growing more interested in the history of faerie stories, and this book looks like it will provide a lot of the information I’m looking for. Thankfully, I was able to buy it through the University of Chicago press during a recent sale when they had a bunch of books available for 20% off. Score! Now it’s just a matter of getting to it.

2 thoughts on “StoryGraph Saturday: Fairies: A Dangerous History

  1. Sounds a bit like the difference between some of our fairy tales, especially those from the kingdom of the mouse, compared to what I’ve heard of the original Grimm tales. I’ve always wanted to read Grimm’s versions for this reason, and I’d be interested to read about the more terrifying versions of fae. I look forward to reading your thoughts on this one.

  2. Yes, it’s a wee bit of a difference from the mouse’s stories… Personally, I prefer the darker ones. Grimm’s are so much grimmer (ha) and darker than most people think. I often wonder if they were meant for children, or if adults were telling them to each other.

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