Faeries, described and illustrated by Brian Froud and Alan Lee
My thoughts on this book are deeply mixed. On the one hand, the paintings and drawing included here are immensely beautiful and often whimsical and imaginative, and that is something to be greatly appreciated. That said, there are a lot of other hands to deal with, including the fact that the authors take the legends and debunked aspects of faerie all too seriously . It is unclear exactly who this book is aimed at, as its analysis and discussion of fey creatures is both too detailed for the casual reader and far too lacking in grounding in reality to appeal to those who have no belief in the legitimacy of the world discussed here or its mere existence. The authors of this book have clearly done their research into the fey world, and their research into the myths of the Celts and Norse as well as classical Greco-Roman mythology concerning these creatures is of the kind that clearly enriches the writing of fantasy writers like J.K. Rowling as well as those who create role playing games after the fashion of Dungeons & Dragons. Those who feel less positive about may view these achievements of research as ungodly study into the forbidden realms of demonology and spiritualism, though, and those are definitely some criticisms that I share regarding this book.
The contents of this book are organized in a somewhat unusual way. The author begins, as might be expected, with an introduction and a note on his use of the word faerie. The author then goes an extended discussion of the use of the myths and legends and figures of faerie in the writings of serious authors ranging from Shakespeare (most notably in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to Doyle. These pages provide discussion of the fascinating and complicating cauldron from which writers have taken their representation of places of ambiguity and magic. After this comes descriptions of various magical creatures, roughly organized by the location of myths, along with magical plants. Those who read this book will be able to see how these fairy creatures have been used in other fictional portrayals, although for whatever reason the authors do not draw attention to the close connection between their writing and research and the world of Harry Potter, possibly because of concerns about lawsuits or a disbelief that the HP fanbase would be interested in a more extensive examination of obscure myths.
It should be noted that while I was impressed at the research of the authors and the depths they were willing to go in order to uncover information about various obscure as well as more familiar creatures of the fey world, there was much I found disturbing about this work that many potential readers would do well to note. For one, as has already been discussed, this book has a positive view of the myths of the Celts and Norse and considers these myths to be real. This is clearly a book written by people who find heathen religion to be appealing and attractive. Specifically, the authors endorse a worldview in which there is space between good and evil, a space where mischief can be celebrated that is not under the rule and control of God, where there is autonomy for creatures who wish not to be labeled as belonging to the greater contrast between good and evil. It should also be noted that many of the drawings show the influence of the artists drawing from male and especially female nudes. Many of the fey creatures shown have the appearance of underclothed girls and young women, and that is something that may disturb many people as well. Consider yourself therefore warned.
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